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Canadian Club 20 Year Old Whisky

Review: Canadian Club 20 Year Old Whisky   90/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published March 27, 2011
(Revised December, 2013)

Canadian Club Whisky (C.C. Whisky) is blended before it is aged, and this process, which has been called  ‘Blended at Birth’, is the foundation for the entire portfolio of Canadian Club Whiskies. The particular whisky which is examined in this review is the Canadian Club 20 Year Old Whisky. It is a blend of rye, rye malt, corn, and barley malt spirits which were set down to age together 20 years ago. In fact, I believe that the actual blending formula of base spirits for the 20-year-old Whisky is the same as the blending formula used for Canadian Club’s flagship brand, Canadian Club Premium, which is of course the 6-year-old Whisky which anchors the Canadian Club brand.

Although the 20 Year Old was originally intended to be a specialty bottling when it was first introduced, the whisky became a standard bottling when Beam Global acquired the Canadian Club brand. It remains a Limited Edition whisky with each bottle individually numbered.

728935In the Bottle  4.5/5

As we move up the ladder in the Canadian Club line-up my standards for the presentation of the whisky become more stringent. It is my belief that a more expensive premium spirit should reflect its price and its higher quality in the bottle presentation. The Canadian Club 20 Year Old is pictured to the right in a tall clear bottle. When I first saw the whisky I was rather disappointed with the look of the bottle, hoping for something that would really set it apart from the rest of the CC line-up. Over time, however, the tall bottle with its classic look and feel has grown on me. So recently, when I revisited this review, I adjusted my scoring to reflect my new-found appreciation for the bottle design and presentation.

(Note: I should point out that I also have become aware of a sleek-looking black cardboard box which sometimes houses the whisky.)

In the Glass  9/10

On my first day of sampling, the temperature outside my house was minus 30 degrees Celsius and my furnace was struggling to keep up. The furnace in my house struggled to keep up, and I was afraid I would not be able to fairly judge the whisky. The cool temperature of my tasting room, (16 degrees instead of the normal 21 degrees), I thought would inhibit the aroma and cause me problems when assessing the whisky. Imagine my surprise when I poured my glass and was greeted with the full aroma of an assertive, wonderful spirit.

Toffee and caramel poured out of the glass with deep oaky accents and rich baking spices. Rye scents followed as did that full dank corn aroma which is so typical of the Canadian Club line-up. The cooler temperature was certainly not inhibiting this whisky.  It is when the glass is fully decanted that the aroma becomes sublime. Deep, dark brown sugars and a hint of charred marshmallow become evident as well as mildly sour citrus fruit. Although that final descriptor may not sound lovely, you will have to trust me that it is. (Of course, I also did a few sampling sessions when it was warmer and the nose was even more assertive and lovely.)

In The Mouth  54/60

The entry into the mouth offers a strong combination of dank Canadian Club corn flavour, heavy oak tannins, and rich baking spices. These are the main flavours, and they seem to battle for supremacy with that typically dank and punky Canadian Club corn flavour edging out the others in a well fought battle royal. The oak has not quite melted into the other flavours, and as a result a few mildly bitter tannins are evident beside the sweet baking spice and caramel. The whisky has a nice smoky quality at mid palate with some fruity flavours of half-dried raisins and moist prunes evolving which hold the whisky together beautifully. A peppery rye note bobs up to the surface and somewhere in the mix, and I taste dabs of cinnamon and a dash of Apricot Brandy. I also taste a little nibble of sourness kind of like baked apples wandering around the edges of the flavour.

In the Throat   13.5/15

The Canadian Club 20 Year Old finishes with a nice peppery swat at the tonsils as it goes down. I would not call the exit harsh as the heated finish is welcome, but the finish is not smooth and easy either. Things sit somewhere in between. The smokiness I noticed on the palate finds a home in the finish. As well I sense a few ghostly trails of dry fruit, cocoa, and tea leaves following the peppery heat. The finale includes fading flavours of oak spices and toasted brown sugars which leave my glass smelling wonderful and my throat sated.

The Afterburn 9/10

For myself, this whisky represents a huge step up from the flagship  Canadian Club Premium (6-year-old), and is much richer and fuller than the Canadian Club Classic (12-year-old). I enjoy the Canadian Club 20 Year Old immensely, and if you need a special gift for the Canadian Club aficionado this Christmas, this whisky certainly fits the bill.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


12 Responses to “Canadian Club 20 Year Old Whisky”

  1. Chris Brown said

    I’m not a CC fan but took a chance on the 20 and have never regretted it!
    This, at least by Alberta pricing, is great bang for the buck -especially when you see the large jump the 25 takes.
    I picked up a second bottle last time I was home so I’m good to go for the next while!

    • I find Canadian Club has a flavour profile which takes a little getting used to. However, once you become a fan, you are usually one for life. One thing I have noticed, about the CC line-up is that I always seem to score the CC whisky higher when I sample it blind, than when I score it knowing what it is. I suspect this means I am getting used to that dank, punky corn whisky flavour and will begin to cross over to the dark side.

  2. Mike said

    Chip, what impact do you think malted barley has on the profile of whiskies such as this? Corn and rye notes get lots of mentions but I seldom see any trace of malt in the reviews. I ask because I was drinking Canadian Club Classic tonight and it struck me that there was a rounded sweetness to it reminiscent of malt whisky.

    • I rarely notice any malted barley notes in any of the Canadian Whiskies I review. (The exception being the Canadian Mist which I felt had a very obvious barley influence.) I think the reason is that for the most part the rye flavour which is bold, fruity and spicy (and to a lessor extent the the corn which to me usually seems to carry a bit of honeycomb sweetness) are more aggressive in the flavour profile and they overshadow the malted barley. In single malts, the malted barley does carry a lot of sweetness forward, but in Canadian Whisky it is very difficult to separate the sweetness from the malted barley from the sweetness of the corn.

      In the Canadian Club Classic whisky I agree that there is a certain amount of sweetness carried forward into the flavour profile, but the more aggressive dank sour corn mash flavour makes it very difficult for me to associate that sweetness with malted barley.

      I am not saying that you are wrong, I am just trying to say that in my opinion the malted barley influence in Canadian Whisky is very subtle and as such it is very difficult to quantify in a definitive way.

  3. Robert Jordan said

    I also get that peppery/spicy taste. I hope this means that i am on the right track in learning whatever I can about whisky. Your reviews have prooved very useful to me lately. Thank you.

  4. J. Wheelock said

    Thanks Chip, this is superb. I did send this along to Dan Tullio, the CC Godfather and a gentleman in the highest order. He is incredibly passionate about his whiskies and I think he will find this a welcome testament to one of their finest offerings.

    • Thank you very much J.

      I must admit I am humbled by your commentary, and I guess I am left somewhat speechless and unable to reply in a satisfactory manner. Suffice it to say I appreciate that you felt this review should be passed on to Mr. Tullio.

      Kind Regards

  5. Mike said

    Mmm, this sounds tasty. I like your reviews because you use terms that agree with my experiences; therefore I can imagine the taste quite well. You don’t go overboard with your descriptors; nor are you vague about it.

    I regret not buying this while it was available at the LCBO. Maybe it will return.

    • Thank you very much for the great compliment Mike!

      Your description of why you like my reviews is extremely flattering. I do try to avoid long lists of descriptors which become meaningless and to place most of what I taste into a common vernacular accessible to all. It is very satisfying to me that (for your preferences at least) I seem to hit the nail on the head.


  6. I agree that upon swallowing, it is somewhat peppery or spiced/heated. Other than that (which is a minor criticism) it is a good example of Canadian whisky.

    • I think you and I see this the same way; I also noted a slight imbalance in the flavours which perhaps this peppery finish contributed to. The imbalance and the somewhat peppery finish did not substantially deter my enjoyment which is reflected in the final score.

      Cheers Jason 🙂

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