By Richard Thomas
Canadian Club’s Classic 12 Year Old is the line’s first step up the ladder, and in terms of aging, it is quite a step up. Normal Canadian Club is aged for six years, and this whiskey doubles that. With many whiskey lines, the 10, 12 or 15 year old entry is often quite a break from the core, entry-level whiskey, usually because very different whiskeys are used to create the blend.
Canadian Club 12 Year Old, on the other hand, comes across as an older, mellower and more mature version of the basic whiskey. Fans of Canadian Club (and this is a small, but growing set of whiskey lovers thanks to the popularity of Boardwalk Empire) should therefore find a lot to like about the 12 Year Old, past sheer brand interest and loyalty.
The 12 Year Old comes in a rectangular bottle that would not look out of place in an art deco-period movie set; I’ve often commented it looks like it belongs on Hercule Poirot’s liquor shelf. In the glass, the whiskey is lighter than the entry-level Canadian Club, and has a middle amber coloring. It is bottled at 40% alcohol (80 proof).
The mashbill for Canadian Club 12 Year Old is based on corn and rye, with helpings of rye malt and barley malt. It is then aged in re-charred oak barrels. Reading that off goes a long way to explaining the sweet-yet-spicy-yet-mellow character of the whiskey.
On the nose, the whiskey is soft and smells of caramel and brown sugar, with just a hint of salty crispness. That subdued sweetness continues onto the palate, where the main flavors are those of a toffee and caramel sweetness, with just a late hint of rye spice. The wood, such as it is, comes across mostly in the vanilla, and is quite subdued. The finish is long, somewhat dry and only slightly warm.
I recognize that not everyone with an interest in whiskey likes their spirits with a strong, woody character, or care for the spice that a hefty share of rye on the mashbill brings with it. With that in mind, Canadian Club 12 Year Old is a pleasant, moderately sophisticated whiskey that emphasizes the sweet side of the grains, and the aging mellowed the whiskey without imparting strong wood flavors. It’s nice, and for some it will prove near perfect.
One of the best things about Canadian Club 12 Year Old is the price, because you really get a nice bottle of whiskey for the money. In the United States, this should run for between $25 and $30 a bottle, depending on your local taxes.