Canadian Club 41 Year Old - The Most Celebrated Canadian Whisky of 2018 (and it's still available!)

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Canadian Club 41 Year Old is undoubtably the most celebrated whisky of the 2018 season. It’s also readily (as of this posting) available at the LCBO. This is, at least in part, a controversial whisky in price-point, the way it’s made, and value. Where you fall on this will largely depend on your philosophy as a consumer. Either way, this is a terrific compliment to last year’s 40 year old release.

If you’re a romantic, be prepared to be outraged. If you’re practical, be prepared to enjoy a terrific whisky aged 41 years that’ll set you back (only?) $300. Should you buy it? Shouldn’t you? What’s with all the rumours swirling around this whisky? Whether you buy it or not will largely depend on how you view whisky. So let’s begin with the obvious...

Yes, this is a 41 year old barrel aged Canadian whisky, and yes that doesn’t always mean 100% of this whisky has been aged for forty-one years (more on that later). Yes, there’s a story floating around that Tish Harcus (CC Brand Ambassador) found these barrels somewhere in the warehouse. Yes, it’s probably true that Canadian Club will release a 42 year old next year, and age it up one additional year after that until fifty, making this a (potentially) collectors edition. Yes, it’s true that there were 11k bottles of this whisky available compared to last year’s 7k barrels of the Canadian Club 40 Year Old. And yes, this is the same whisky that Jim Murray named the best Canadian whisky of 2019 with a score of 97. It almost won best overall whisky! Canadian Club, like Crown Royal before it, is putting Canadian Whisky on the global map.

So where do we begin? First, let’s address Canada’s 9.09 rule. This is the rule that allows Canadian whisky producers to add up to 9.09% of wine, sherry, cognac, and/or any whisky spirit that’s been matured for at least two years. There’s always a lot of surprise around this rule. People debate it. Whisky drinkers also debate about how much actual sherry gets into your expensive single malt scotches finished in wet sherry oak barrels. At any rate, single malt purists are romanticizing a process by talking about barrels soaked with sherry, rather than containing actual sherry.

Canadian whisky producers can choose to bypass the romance of finishing casks of sherry by simply pouring some amount of sherry into the whisky during the blending process. In the case of Canadian Club 41 Year Old, it has the additive of sherry, cognac, and a young rye whisky. Based on the colour, I doubt they added much cognac and sherry. Based on the tasting notes, I’d say the young rye takes on a terrific note within this older whisky.

The barrels used, I’m told, are saturated rye barrels. This means, that while the whisky spent forty-one years in those barrels, the oak itself added little flavour. It did, though, give the whisky a unique chance to oxidize over time. On its own, it was probably not terrific whisky, but would have served as an excellent base for a whisky maker willing to get creative. One can’t underestimate the craft that went into this whisky. It was blended triumphantly.

So yes, some of you will be outraged, others will be ready to sit down and enjoy a delicious whisky. At $300 Canadian, there are plenty of whiskies to buy, but this is likely the only one that carries a forty-one year old age statement.

Side-note: Cheers to whomever designed this packaging. It’s terrific, and by far the best whisky I’ve had the pleasure of opening up all year. If Apple designed a whisky package, this would be it.

Canadian Club 41 Year Old
Hiram-Walker Distillery
Category: Canadian whisky blend
Score: 94

Nose: Brown sugar sweetness, malted barley, hard lemon candy, brief charred notes. Not overpowering, but caramel sweet, obvious sherry-like notes, and nicely balanced. The intensity and complexity of a terrific whisky is there.

Palate: Really funky, lemony zest, tart, and buttery. The black pepper spice is terrific. The sweetness is present. It’s a little oily and buttery, but in that typical profile for a whisky this old. Peppery spice is terrific through the middle and finish of the palate. The buttery notes are wonderful.

★ ★ ★ ★ Extraordinary, memorable, and original in any category
This is a terrific whisky that I don’t think anyone will be disappointed in opening. It has lots of great elements, like the peppery spice, cinnamon, zest, and brown sugar notes. It reminds me more of an old single malt scotch than an old Canadian whisky, and truly a winner for those that love the whisky without the debate of how it was made.

Disclaimer: I was given a small sample by the PR company supporting Canadian Club, and also own a bottle that was given to me as a gift (thanks mom!).

*Rating Explained:
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆  Not recommended
★ ☆ ☆ ☆  Good whisky, but not a ‘must-have’
★ ★ ☆ ☆  Your great regular rotation whisky that'll come and go
★ ★ ★ ☆  Excellent, a near must-have
★ ★ ★ ★  Extraordinary, memorable, and original