Last weekend I went to Windsor, spent some time with friends drinking bourbon and scotch, visiting the Hiram Walker Distillery and Wolfhead Distillery, and also stopped in to the Canadian Club Brand Centre, which shut down public tours as of March 31st. The property is actually owned by Pernod-Ricard, and I guess Beam Suntory decided to stop paying money to its competitor, despite the historical value of the place. There have been some efforts to prevent this shut-down, both by the Mayor of Windsor, and the Member of Provincial Parliament, who is trying to enable Beam Suntory to sell whisky on premise to make it more profitable.
If those efforts don’t work, hopefully Pernod-Ricard decide to do something of value with the building, as it really is gorgeous, and a very interesting site of Canadian whisky history. Hiram Walker built a cottage on the Canadian side of the border to stay at while he was working. This was expanded to include office spaces and a speakeasy in the basement, and these areas are what the public tours focus on. The tour guide regales you with tales of prohibition and rum-runners, and tells you where the wood and marble in the fireplace comes from, but doesn’t say much about whisky, and unfortunately what he did say included some blatantly erroneous statements including:
- “this whisky gets all of its colour from the wood, and you know it’s high quality because it’s so dark” … as we know there is e150 in the finished product
- “alcohol can’t be distilled higher than 78% or it makes you sick” … funny, because most of what goes into your bottles was distilled to >94%
- “only bourbon ever uses new barrels” … ok, now you’re just making shit up
- “at our pike creek warehouse, you can’t use phones or cameras because it could explode, they can’t use forklifts or it’ll explode and we lose 8% angels share per year which makes it taste older than it is” … that afternoon at the pike creek warehouse we were told by Dr. Don that the annual loss is 3%, we saw pictures of forklifts being used, took many pictures…
- In response to a question about age statements being marketing speak and not corresponding with the age of the liquid “there are ways to make the whisky older, like using smaller barrels and increasing angel’s share, so the whisky isn’t necessarily as old as the number on the bottle” … this one I had to step in and correct, setting the record straight about age statement regulations.
- and my personal favourite: “during prohibition, the Detroit river didn’t have a current at all” … OH COME ON!
Overall, it’s sad that the public won’t have access to the building anymore, but even if it does re-open, hopefully they’ll get some more knowledgeable tour guides, because it was just bad.
I didn’t get many pictures from the tour as I was spending more time texting those hilariously wrong statements to some buddies. Below are a couple reviews of the drams we tried at the end of the tour.
Canadian Club Sherry Cask – 40% ABV
- Nose: wood, ethanol, sugar, caramel, grain
- Palate: sherry fruit, caramel, some woodiness, alcohol bite
- Finish: short with some bitter wood and sweetness
- Score: 69/100
scores a bit better than the standard CC offering, but is still young tasting and dominated by ethanol. forgot to take a picture of this one.
Canadian Club 20 – 40%
- Nose: smells exactly as I remember Canadian club premium… lots of ethanol and maple syrup with a bit more oak. maybe some extra spice too.
- Palate: maple, alcohol, some oak spices and caramel. Super thin
- Finish: short and light
- Score: 68/100
this is quite a weak offering. Really wish they’d bottle it higher than 40% as it might actually carry some flavour with it. unfortunate that this languished in a cask for two decades just to end up tasting like this.