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  1. #1
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    Smile Notes on Old and New Canadian Whisky

    Mrs. F. and I took recently inherited Canadian whiskies to share with friends Sandy and Bill: An old Crown Royal, 1980 Canadian Club, and a 1975 6YO Seagram's 83. Also a contemporary CR to use as a benchmark. Our friends had some contemporary CC so we added that to the list for a total of five whiskies. My usual practice is to limit tastings to no more than three because I tend to get confused--and then go to sleep. Tasted with some water on the side and crisp toast to clear the palate. Took both regular Glencairns and Canadian whisky Glencairns. Decided immediately that the regulars did a much better job of concentrating the nose so, ironically, we abandoned the Canadian glasses.

    Old Crown Royal
    Tax stamp has no date but it is pre-1985, when Dick died, and had resided unopened at the back of his bottom shelf because Annabelle refused to let anyone touch his stuff. He was not drinking any whisk(e)y the last two years of his life so the CR is probably early ’80s. There is, curiously, no indication of proof on the bottle so I assume it is 80.

    Color: Pale ochre to rich buckwheat honey
    Nose: Musty/earthy. Caramel. Toffee? Licorice or anise. (Mrs. F. claims she can tell them apart. I can‘t.) Sandalwood. Some old wood that you get when refinishing furniture. Otherwise, not nearly as much wood as I expected from a blend containing 9YO to 30YO whiskies. Fairly open immediately and became noticeably more so with a drop of water. The only one that elicited wide eyes and an mmm!
    Palate: Viscous, buttery corn sweetness that coats the tongue nicely. I was tempted to compare it to good old Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry but the sweetness was offset by something drier and tannic. Caramel. Honey. Cloves but no really intense spicy tingle. Citrus that seemed lemony (sweet rather than tart) at first but evolved into orange like the candies that come in orange-slice shapes. Almonds. The flavor profile is more complex and better integrated or well balanced than the other whiskies tasted. Difficult to find a dominant influence; i.e., no “Oh, wow. What a chocolaty-minty bomb!” Pleasant and well mannered. Nothing off-putting and a lot to savor. I would like to have spent more time with this one.
    Finish: Long by the standards of this tasting but moderate is probably closer if compared to bourbon. With water, it is the creamy-oily mouth feel that lingers rather than specific flavors.

    Contemporary Crown Royal

    Color: Pale gold
    Nose: Honey. Caramel--but barely detectable. Rather tight but opened up with a drop to reveal some butterscotch.
    Palate: Hints of rye spiciness. Corn. Much more subtle than the old CR--which was subtle enough in its own right. Easy sipping. Smooth--not in the pejorative sense of totally without character. Just don’t expect to get slapped up side the head.

    Finish: Rather short. A guest who does not overstay his welcome. Was nice enough while he was there but by the time he reached the end of your driveway you forgot he came over.

    1980 Canadian Club

    Color: Very pale old gold. Surprised to find it markedly lighter than the contemporary CC.
    Nose: Opened quickly. Honey. Vanilla. Caramel. Vaguely vegetal and mildly floral but not grassy.
    Palate: Butter. Chocolate. Honey. Ginger and a touch of rye spiciness. Like the color, it seems watered down.
    Finish: Short. Somewhat better with a drop of water.

    Contemporary Canadian Club

    Color: Vernor’s Ginger Ale yellow but noticeably deeper than its older brother.
    Nose: Honey. Caramel. Citrus. Vanilla. Hazelnut. Opens up nicely with a drop.
    Palate: There seemed to be more on the nose than on the palate. Honey. Caramel. Soft. Mild. No bite. Thin the way “lite” beer compares to real beer. Suppose a boxer tried the rope-a-dope and, after the other guy wore himself out, did nothing. Nobody gets really hurt by the flavor of CC.

    1975 6YO Seagram’s 83

    Evidently the name comes from “Since 1883.” Compare to Evan Williams 1783. In name only, of course.
    Color: Pale copper
    Nose: Closed tight. Did not open appreciably with water. Found it embarrassingly difficult to extract anything. Almost vodkaesque without the whiff of ethanol that vodka may be willing to share.

    Palate: Furniture polish--in the best possible way. (Like memories of Mom cleaning house.) Butterscotch. Dark chocolate. Faint acetone. A little crude around the edges with a suggestion that there might actually be some rye in the blend. Water made it more agreeable. This is the only whisky to which I added ice just to see the effects. Ice made it more pleasant for casual drinking and it would probably make a decent mixer. Truth in advertising: Lawsy, Miss Scarlett, I don’t know nothin’ about no mixers. I haven’t had a cocktail or mixed drink in 10 years or so. Gave up Manhattans when I decided that there was no point in spoiling a decent bourbon by polluting it with vermouth. So, your mileage may vary.
    Finish: A little on the rough side but blessedly short. Swallow and it’s gone. No lingering unpleasantness--or pleasantness for that matter.

    More truth in advertising: After the tasting, Sandy offered me a sip of CR Black. There is nothing wrong with a Canadian whisky that spends a little time is a charred oak barrel and has the good sense to get itself bottled at 90 proof. It still ain’t bourbon but….
    If God made anything better than bourbon he must have kept it for Hisself.

  2. #2
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    Re: Notes on Old and New Canadian Whisky

    Very good, to the point without leaving anything out review Flyfish.
    We're Bourbon Geeks, it's who we are, it's what we do.

  3. #3
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    Re: Notes on Old and New Canadian Whisky

    Very good, thanks for this. It looks like the older CR, which then used some 30 year old whisky, was deeper and had a longer finish to the current one (regular issue) while still showing the characteristics of the well-mannered blend. Interesting that the older CC seems lighter than the current one. Perhaps greater attention has been given in-house to this iconic brand in recent years. And Seagram '83 sounds like it had a decent dose of flavouring rye whisky, probably not very aged hence the acetone notes. Seagram '83 is still sold and I'll try to get one and post some notes against yours to complete the May-to-December comparison.

    Gary

  4. #4
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    Re: Notes on Old and New Canadian Whisky

    Quote Originally Posted by squire View Post
    Very good, to the point without leaving anything out review Flyfish.
    Thanks, Squire, but it seems I did leave out something. The old CC is BIB. If it were not for the label, I never would have guessed.
    If God made anything better than bourbon he must have kept it for Hisself.

  5. #5
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    Re: Notes on Old and New Canadian Whisky

    Stealth BIB eh, well, Hiram Walker set out originally to make a well mannered whisky and he succeeded.
    We're Bourbon Geeks, it's who we are, it's what we do.

  6. #6
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    Re: Notes on Old and New Canadian Whisky

    Interesting and well to recall that higher alcohol can often make a drink taste lighter. (Alcohol is lighter than water). This in part may explain the seeming lighter quality of CC then. Or, perhaps it really was lighter. I remember the late Tim Sousley used to bring old CCs to Gazebos and with those I didn't find them that different to today's. Older CRs though did have more character. Some people say the Special Edition CR (not Limited Edition, the other one) has more the old taste. Seagram would know the complete history of course but this kind of microdetail tends to stay in company archives..

    Gary

  7. #7
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    Re: Notes on Old and New Canadian Whisky

    Quote Originally Posted by Gillman View Post
    Interesting and well to recall that higher alcohol can often make a drink taste lighter. (Alcohol is lighter than water).
    Gary, I have no doubt that you know more about this than I do so further explanation would be appreciated. In my experience with bourbon, lower proof seems much lighter than barrel proof. See 4R YL vs 4R barrel proofers, for example. Or EC 12YO vs EC BP. I assumed that more alcohol carries more flavor so higher proof seems like bourbon concentrate for that reason. What's your take?
    If God made anything better than bourbon he must have kept it for Hisself.

  8. #8
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    Re: Notes on Old and New Canadian Whisky

    There's a lot of variables. If it is a heavy, oily whiskey, dilution with water will dilute that element and of course (always) the dissolved solids in the drink (sugars, etc.) so the higher proof one may taste heavier. But with whisky that is light bodied and not oily to start with, I think high proof makes it lighter because the predominant effect for purposes of the comparison is from the higher ethanol content. Take Booker's. It is a very light-bodied whiskey. Since Canadian whisky is very light and has almost no secondary (non-alcohol) constituents to begin with, I'd guess CC 100 proof (which is still sold, in duty free certainly) is lighter to drink than an 80 proof of ditto. If you dliute to 80 proof they would be the same in this respect. Also, alcohol on the tongue can mask flavor so it would have been better to dilute the old one to 80 proof. But still what you did is a valuable experience.

  9. #9
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    Re: Notes on Old and New Canadian Whisky

    Tasted the current XR Crown Royal, the one blended with the last stocks aging in the Lasalle, Quebec distillery (over 20 years old).

    Rich, creamy whisky, with the "CR" taste all Crown Royals have, dryish, oaky, a little neutral from the base whiskies. But this one had a distinctive back note, a "wet stone" taste which was probably the Lasalle pot still (or that character) stuff. Very nice, but not to write home about, IMO.

    Gary

  10. #10
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    Re: Notes on Old and New Canadian Whisky

    Thanks, FF. Your notes prompted a memory. My Dad's top shelf was CR, and his party whiskey was CC. When he was alone, he drank Old Crow. When we did drink together, it was CR. Your notes on the old CR were what I remember. Thanks, again.

 

 

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