Canadian Club Whisky, made by Hiram Walker and Sons, Ltd., is a popular Canadian whisky. Like all Canadian whiskies, it is made primarily from rye, and is thus often called rye whisky, though this is not strictly correct. The whisky is blended with neutral spirits, creating a beverage that is at once smoother than bourbon and lighter than Scotch.
Hiram Walker originally distilled his Club Whisky in 1858; the beverage was later renamed to Canadian Club following changes in United States labelling regulations. The distillery was (and is) located in what is now Walkerville, Ontario, on the banks of the Detroit River. This location proved natural for exports to the US in the nineteenth century, and Canadian Club became popular there. It also recieved considerable attention in Britain; the bottle proudly asserts it was produced 'By Appointment' to Queen Victoria and Kings Edward VII, George V, and George VI, beginning in 1898.
A whole new era began when Prohibition was ratified in 1919. Walkerville's location on the border river, convenient for export, became ideal for smuggling. Numerous Canadian whisky producers originated or grew in the following fourteen years of Prohibition, with whisky overtaking rum as the most common distilled liquor made in Canada. For Americans getting a clandestine drink, whisky made properly was greatly preferable to rushed bathtub gin, if you were able to get it. This led to many Americans gaining a taste for Canadian whisky, which was much to the distillers' advantage following the 1933 repeal of Prohibition.
The packaging and marketing of Canadian Club frequently emphasises that it is "Barrel Blended". By this, they mean that the three component whiskies, each of which is distilled twice, are blended before aging, rather than afterwards which is the standard practice at most distilleries. The marketing literature claims that this enhances the smoothness of the whisky, but it's hard to tell if that's true. Canadian Club is aged for six years in used, charred oak barrels, of which there is a ready supply due to the requirement of bourbon production for new barrels. Used barrels are used because new barrels produce a stronger, harsher flavour than used barrels. Overall, the intent of all the production steps is to produce a smooth, light spirit that is easy to drink.
CC, as with all rye, is a component in a number of mixed drinks. The simplest of these are probably the classic rye and coke, and the more delicate rye and dry, mixing the rye with dry ginger ale. (For extra Canadian-ness, Canada Dry ginger ale could be used.) The most traditional rye cocktail is probably the Manhattan, closely related to the gin or vodka martini. Of course, as with any other whisky, it is often drunk neat, either by sipping or in shots.
In addition to the basic 6-year aged, 40% alcohol liquor, Canadian Club also comes in a 12-year-old variant "Classic 12", an overproof (50%) variant, and a small-batch "Reserve" variant. Canadian Club's main competitor is Seagram Crown Royal, which is perceived to be more upscale than CC, perhaps fueled by its somewhat higher price. There are also numerous 'generic' Canadian whiskies, which fill the natural range from good to undrinkable.
This writeup is copyright 2005 D.G. Roberge and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs-NonCommercial licence. Details can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd-nc/2.0/ .