Canadian Club Chairman’s Select – 100% Rye
Review: Canadian Club Chairman’s Select – 100% Rye (90.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted November 16, 2014
Hiram Walker was an American entrepreneur (born in New England), who immigrated north to Ontario, Canada and created the distinctive brand of Canadian Whisky which became known as Canadian Club. Although he began his distilling days in Michigan, he honed his craft north of the American border in what would become Walkerville, Ontario. The whisky which Hiram Walker created was unique using methods of production which were not just unusual, but actual contrary to common whisky practices of the day. And even today, his Canadian Club is made in that contrary fashion being the only major whisky brand in the world to be blended before being aged in oak barrels, (Blended at Birth).
Canadian Club Whisky is now the oldest (and probably the most influential) Canadian Whisky brand in the world. It is found in over 150 countries, with sales in Canada that are unmatched by any other premium whisky brand. Recently Canadian Club (owned by Beam Suntory) launched a new 100% rye grain whisky, Canadian Club Chairman’s Select – 100% Rye. It is of course produced exclusively from rye grain, distilled (and almost certainly aged) in Calgary by Alberta Distillers Ltd (who are also owned by Beam Suntory). The Chairman’s Select is aged in American Oak (bourbon barrels), cut to bottling strength (40 % abv) and then bottled in Walkerville Ontario, the home of Canadian Club.
* Incidentally, Alberta Distillers also produce Canada’s other major 100 % Rye grain Whisky brand, Alberta Premium (see review here).
In the Bottle 4/5
The CC Chairman’s Select 100% Rye arrives in the tall long-necked bottle shown to the left. This is the same bottle which houses their Canadian Club Premium (6 year Old). I am not sure why this bottle configuration was chosen over the newer style tall rectangular bottle which houses the older Canadian Club Reserve (9 Year Old) (or the even better squat rectangular bottle which houses the upper end of the Canadian Club line-up), although I suspect this is because the producers of the Chairman’s Select see the brand as being a small step up from the Canadian Club Premium, but not quite on par with the Canadian Club Reserve. As this spirit does not have an age statement, the whisky buying public will probably (like me), take visual cues from the bottle presentation and assume an age of about 6 years or maybe slightly older (or younger).
As far as it goes, the bottle and label are both fine, and the presentation would not entice me nor dissuade me from trying this whisky. (The 100 % rye statement on the other hand has me extremely excited and certainly would entice me to purchase the whisky.)
In the Glass 9/10
When I pour the spirit into my glencairn glass, I see the whisky has a luscious bronze colour which indicates to me that perhaps my assumptions regarding age might be incorrect. Although when I tilt and twirl my glass I see slender legs forming which amble rather quickly back down the inside of the glass, and this perhaps tells me that those previous assumptions regarding age may well be right. Perhaps caramel (and not age) is responsible for the luscious colour I see. For the record, I have no objection to the use of caramel to visually enhance a spirit, as long as its use does not as well detract from the spirit’s flavour. On that count, I will have to investigate further.
When I bring the glass to my nose I am delighted by the impressions I receive in the air above the glass. As it should be, the Chairman’s Select 100 % Rye whisky is very rye forward with lots of fine peppery wood spice dancing with that rye in the breezes. Melded into the spicy rye is a lovely light sweetness of butterscotch with a gentle sweep of vanilla and a few bits of almond. I also receive strong impressions of freshly harvested grain fields with dusty chaff blowing in the wind and lots of fresh straw lying in the windrows.
As I give the glass time to breathe, I notice an underlying sweet and sour fruitiness and a light earthiness which seems to weave throughout the overall aroma softening the previous intensity of the peppery rye and wood spice.
In the Glass 54.5/60
When I take my first sip from my glencairn glass, my favourable impression continues, as the rye remains fully on display swamping my mouth with all of the rich flavours of this prairie grain. There is of course the familiar peppery spiciness of rye; however, there is also a lightly bitter cereal undercurrent which carries flavours of creamy wheat porridge combined with the bitter white pith of a navel orange. Then there is a lovely sweetness that follows with yummy flavours of butterscotch and maple carrying light impressions of orange marmalade and lightly sweet marzipan along for the ride. Fine wood spices abound, and a firm impression of dusty grain fields continues to be brought forward. This is my kind of whisky, and I love how the rye grain is allowed to run free within it.
In the Throat 13.5/15
I am not going to try to deceive any of my readers into believing that this is a full-bodied whisky which features a long smooth exit. No, this is a medium to light bodied whisky and its exit from my palate is crisp and spicy as the peppery rye spice heats the taste buds and smacks the tonsils as it goes down. Behind the hot spice which leaves trails of heated cinnamon on the tongue is the lovely sweetness of maple followed by a long lingering bitterness which causes me to want another sip. Yumm!
The Afterburn 9.5/10
The Chairman’s Select 100 % Rye is a departure for Canadian Club, which historically has been a whisky which features three grain whiskies (corn, barley, and rye) blended together prior to barrel aging. As a single grain spirit, this whisky is much more reminiscent of its cousin, Alberta Premium than it is of its brethren Canadian Club whiskies. In fact the only trace of the Canadian Club profile I detected were a few telltale traces of sweet and sour fruit within its overall flavour.
Having said that, I want to make it clear that it is my sense that the Chairman’s Select 100 % Rye Whisky is not necessarily, a re-branded makeover of Alberta Premium made for the eastern market. There appears to be a real difference in style between the brands. Alberta Premium, although it is also a 100 % rye grain whisky seems to feature a more restrained version of the rye grain flavour profile. In contrast, Charimen’s Select appears to have been constructed with an emphasis on allowing the rye grain to run free within the spirit. It has a fuller, richer and much spicier and robust flavour which (as my score of 90.5/100 testifies) appeals to me very strongly.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
2 oz Canadian Club Chairman’s Select 100 % Rye
3/4 oz Sweet Red Vermouth
Dash of Angostura Bitters
3 Large Ice cubes
Twist of Orange Peel
Add the whiskey, the Vermouth, and the bitters with 3 large ice cubes in a Martini Shaker.
Shake gently to chill the mixture.
Spear a cherry with a long toothpick and place it in a chilled glen cairn glass.
Strain the mixed ingredients over the cherry but do not add the ice.
Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink. (This will release the oil from the orange zest into the drink) Discard the peel.
Garnish with orange, lemon, or lime slice if preferred.
Note: If you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!
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)