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Canadian Club Small Batch Classic (12 year old) Whisky

Review: Canadian Club Small Batch Classic (12 Year Old)    88/100
a Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted July 02, 2013

Canadian Club Whisky is the oldest (and arguably also the most influential) Canadian Whisky brand in the world. It is sold in over 150 countries world-wide, and sales in Canada are unmatched by any other whisky brand. The company has been granted numerous Royal Warrants from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II, and it has been reported that Canadian Club was the whisky of choice when Al Capone smuggled thousands of cases of Canadian Whisky into the USA during prohibition.

Recently there have been some changes in the Canadian Club family. One of the brands which has undergone a revamping is the Canadian Club Classic (12 Years Old) which has been replaced by the Canadian Club Classic Small Batch (also 12 Years Old). The newer version of the whisky has a new bottle (shown below) and the two words, “Small Batch” have been added to the label. My understanding is the whisky is now constructed from a smaller selection of aged whisky (oak barrels) in an effort to bring a fuller flavour and more smoothness to the blend.

The Alberta Beam Global team recently gave me a sample bottle to examine, and I have decided to share the resulting review.

canadian-club-classic-sam_2655In the Bottle 4.5/5

The bottle for the Small Batch Classic Whisky has a new design. The former bottle seemed to provide a bit of a masculine presence on my bar shelf, whereas the newer bottle implies a sleek sexiness which is new for the Canadian Club brand. The flask shape is attractive and the fonts and colours of the label look very professional.

In the Glass 8.5/10

When poured into my glass, the Small Batch CC whisky has a rich amber/copper colour resembling a shiny new penny. The initial breezes above the glass bring forward scents of caramel and oak which are melded nicely with dabs of light tobacco and spicy orange peel.

As the glass breathes, I notice some rye spices and some sweet corn pushing though. The oak and tobacco scents have deepened bringing me impressions of fresh-cut cedar and honeycomb. The caramel and wood spice come together as toffee, and the orange peel has softened into marmalade. After my glass has been emptied I notice a few light baking spices which I had missed earlier. All in all this is a very nice nose.

In the Mouth  53/60

The flavour in the mouth is even better than the nose implied. I taste firm oak and cedar flavours which have melded into the sweeter caramel, and this gives me a mouth-watering impression of caramel-oak syrup (yumm!). Honeycomb and tobacco adds to the richness of the whisky, and deeper inside I taste dark fruit (plums, raisins and dates), orange marmalade, and some nutty almond turning into marzipan. Corn and rye grain are both apparent. On some days I seem to notice the sweet dank corn making the whisky seem vaguely bourbon-like; but on most days, I seem to taste stronger impressions of sour fruit and ripened grain in particular barley and rye. Irregardless of which day it is, I find the whisky tastes quite nice neat, and even better with a small dab of water or ice.

In the Throat 13/15

The finish carries strong indications of the oak-caramel-syrup which I mentioned earlier. There is a moderate amount of peppery spice, and hints of chocolate and marzipan. Despite the peppery spice in the finale, I found the exit was easy on throat as the spice lingers, but does not burn. The exit is particularly enjoyable when the whiskey is served in an Old-Fashioned Cocktail.

The Afterburn 9/10

The Canadian Club Small Batch Classic (12-year-old) seems to me to be a different whisky than it was before. I taste more oak and cedar in the taste profile, and the result is a richer-fuller taste experience than what I remember from the previous Classic 12 Year Old. Rather than mixing tall soda filled bar drinks as I did previously, I found myself mixing classic recipes like the Old-Fashioned, and of course sipping it slowly over ice enjoying how the flavour profile changed as the ice melted.

I believe that a few of the other Canadian Club whiskies are undergoing a similar revamping. Hopefully I will be able to report improvements with those blends as well.

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


Suggested Recipe:

The Old Fashioned Cocktail

1 1/2 oz Canadian Club Small Batch Classic
1 tsp simple syrup
1 dash bitters
2 large ice cubes
1 twist of lemon or orange peel

Add the first three ingredients to a rocks glass over the ice cubes
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)
Drop the peel into the cocktail if desired.

Please Enjoy Responsibly!


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)


4 Responses to “Canadian Club Small Batch Classic (12 year old) Whisky”

  1. I loved the former CC-12. Can’t wait to try this AND the new 9-Year Old. I saw your better reviews of both! I’ve developed an affinity for Canadian whisky, and LOVE the Reserve (longer aged) whiskies from CC. I’ve been wondering how the new batches taste, but thanks to your reviews, I’ll definitely try them both. If you’d like an interesting candidate for a review, I suggest the Rich & Rare Reserve. It’s become my new fave. Here in Ohio, it’s HALF the price of that “Royal” Canadian whisky, and it tastes BETTER!!

  2. jfpilon said

    I talked extensively about the changes last fall with Tish, the manager at CC in Windsor. And she was adamant that it was the exact same liquid. And that cc 12 was always a small batch product, they simply added the mention on the label.

    Now, small batch for CC is probably a fairly large number of barrels. But it might still means slightly different bottling from batch to batch.

    • Thanks JP

      When I first tasted the new blend, it was in a blind format when I was acting on the jury for the Canadian Whisky Awards. (The old and the new CC 12 were both in the tasting flight) I made the comment then (to Davin de Kergommeaux) that the new Canadian Club Classic was different than it was before. (It turned out Davin agreed with me which was why he placed the old CC12 in the flights.)

      You could be correct, that the differences we noted were just due to batch variation. After all when you are producing any whisky, the number of barrels you are blending from is limited and we cannot expect the exact same taste each time. However, I tasted what I feel is more than just a minor batch variation. The character of the whisky has changed with more oak and cedar pushing forward and less of that trademark Canadian Club “punky corn”.

      As indicated in the review, the information given to me was that the barrel selection process for the whisky had changed.

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