Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary. In the next few months, we'll be hearing all about Corby's 150th anniversary whisky, but first let's review the whisky released for Canada's 100th birthday. This whisky, released in 1967, was distilled in 1952. At fifteen years matured in barrels, it's a rare old find from an era where Canadian whiskies were rarely bottled with a double-digit age statement.
Pouring this whisky fifty years after it was originally sold is an incredible treat, and a look into the past. This whisky has all the key elements to make for a great story: Gooderham's Centennial was distilled at a long-ago retired distillery, it celebrates a unique occasion, and it's extremely rare find. But unlike many of those rare American whiskies, it's not insanely priced in after-market sales.
In the mid-1800s Gooderham and Worts Distillery was the largest distillery in the world. The owners were originally millers that eventually pivoted their business when making whisky became more profitable. The distillery was ideally located downtown Toronto near the train tracks and shipping docks. By the 1990s this location was far more valuable as a condo and commercial development space. The distillery was shut down and its location is now a terrific tourist destination with that old distillery charm. Whisky making was centralized at Hiram-Walker Distillery in Windsor, Ontario.
Being released in 1967, Gooderham’s Centennial is definitely classified as a dusty. Dusties (old whiskies) are tough to recommend. Yours might be different than mine. It depends on how kind time was on the bottle. Sure, whisky doesn't mature in the bottle, but if the seal wasn't tight and there was 50 years of evaporation, it'll taste different compared to one that had little evaporation.
That's why, when receiving a dusty, the first thing you look for is how much evaporation has occurred from the neck of the bottle. This particular bottle that I've reviewed was given to me by a family friend. It was locked away in a dark chilled garage. It had little or no evaporation. It's well preserved.
When I first opened the bottle and poured myself a drink, I was overwhelmed by the maple syrup and pancake sweetness. I'm not a fan of sweet drinks. It deterred me from trying this whisky a second time. Sure, it's cliche to note maple syrup sweetness in a Canadian whisky, but that's the flavor profile Gooderham's Centennial primarily holds. It's not uncommon taste note with incredibly old whiskies from the 1950s and 60s.
After I shared Gooderham's a few more times, the whisky started to settle down. Beyond the sweetness, so much more started coming through. There's a richness and character there that takes time to appreciate. The more I had Gooderham's Centenial, the more I started to truly appreciate each sip.
Old Canadian whiskies are rarely expensive when sold on secondary markets, but they're worth the chase. Bourbon drinkers chasing down Old Grand Dads bottled in the eighties would be blown away by a sip of this. I've had both. Gooderham's Centennial is far better. It's probably a little easier to find.
Gooderham's Centennial - Distilled 1952, Bottled in 1967
Nose: Pancakes and maple syrup. Sweet, syrupy, yeasty, dusty. Richness to the extreme.
Palate: While the nose is sweet, the oak spice punches through the sweetness on the palate in beautiful ways. This is old oak. Lovely, complex, with hints of pepper and cinnamon and a beautiful buttery oiliness that's not found in today's 15 year old whiskies. Taking time with this whisky rewards your palate with added notes of cherry, dark chocolate, and some more of that beautiful cinnamon spice.
★ ★ ★ ★ Extraordinary, memorable, and original in any category
Chasing old whiskies no longer for sale is a tough game. A well preserved whisky will have little or no evaporation from the neck of the bottle. Still, even without evaporation, it's impossible to know how that whisky was stored. On the bright side, whisky isn't too fussy. Don't make it too hot, and avoid direct sunlight, and chances are it'll be fine. Gooderham's Centennial tastes nothing like the Canadian whisky you have today. That's true for many old whiskies. It belongs in the stars along with many of the old dusties from the fifties and sixties, to be sipped by those that have an appreciation for these old flavours.
*Whisky Cabinet 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