Q&A With Don Tullio, Canadian Club Ambassador


By Kurt Maitland

Don Tullio, Ambassador for Canadian Club Whisky

Don Tullio of Canadian Club
(Credit: Canadian Club)

When you think Canadian whisky, I dare you not to think of Canadian Club. For almost 30 years, Dan Tullio has been the Canadian Club Brand Ambassador. His official title is Director of Canadian Club, so who better to ask about what’s going on with this iconic brand?

KM –   What makes Canadian whisky in general, and Canadian Club in particular, different from their American and Scottish counterparts?

DT – Canadian whisky is a bit lighter than a scotch and a bit smoother than a bourbon.  This is attributed to the grains used, type of barrel it is aged in and location for maturation.  Bourbon is more oaky & sweet due to aging in new white American oak barrels.  Scotch is smoky & peaty due to the manner in which the malting barley is dried, using peat.

The Canadian Club portfolio of brands are quite “smooth”, which is a resultant of the ‘Pre-Barrel Blending Process’.  This process became part of the brands manufacturing process, right from the beginning with our founding father Hiram Walker.  At the distillery, we produce distillate from corn, rye, rye-malt & barley malt separately.  Then before putting the liquid into barrels, we blend these four distillates according to recipe, and then fill barrels.  During the aging period, the four liquids ‘marry’ together, contributing to the ‘smoothness, creaminess & velvetiness’ of these brands.

KM –   What effect, if any, has the slew of new releases from small distillers had on Canadian Club?

DT – We have been experiencing a nice steady growth across all marquees of the CC portfolio.  These small distillers have assisted in creating additional excitement for the whole whiskey category…thank you!!

KM –   Where do you see the proper place for Canadian Club?  A quality staple of a good bar, vital component of a whiskey cocktail, an after work drink?

DT: CC should be in every bar & restaurant.  The brand is extremely versatile with many types of mixers, neat or on the rocks!!  I’m often asked how to enjoy CC…I say…”CC+1”. By this, I mean a measure of CC plus their favorite mixer. It’s so refreshing with a good quality ginger ale garnished with a lemon, or CC & Iced Tea, or CC & Cranberry juice, or CC Manhattan, or CC on the rocks….see what I mean?

KM – How has Canadian Club being featured on shows like “Mad Men” affected the brand? Has it is caused a change in who is now your core customer?

DT – Absolutely.  Having Don Draper and his team enjoy CC over and over again on the series has increased awareness with new consumers.  It is such a great whisky with rich heritage, superior quality….”Rich Auburn Magic!”*

KM –   What inspired the creation of your recent releases such as your Canadian Club Reserve and your Small Batch Series? Should we expect more releases like these in the future?

DT – We have been good & in line with our consumers drinking-wants. Today new innovative spirit brands are the sincere cause of attention amongst mixologists, bartenders, whisky aficionados, consumers, etc.  Therefore by staying within the standards of identity for Canadian whisky, we have created a couple of new expressions of CC that are getting a lot of attention & positive feedback from folks. The inspiration to come out with these is from the highly successful new brand roll-outs our sister brand Jim Beam has experienced.  We basically have followed their template & it has put us on the radar!!!  Simply beautiful.  We haven’t stopped…there are a couple more coming out from select barrels from our warehouses… simply… Liquid Gold!

* Editor’s Note: Bottles of Canadian Club also washed onto the New Jersey beaches and Nucky Thompson’s feet at the start of every episode of Boardwalk Empire!

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One comment

  1. hope you remember me i won for the columbia region when there was the find the case contest in dont remember the year.
    my wife had relatives that worked for hiram walker
    what I am looking to get is 2 bottles of 20 year old my stock has been depleted
    and I now live in charleston south carolina in the us
    how can I obtain a 2 bottles??
    really appreciate some some carol says hello

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