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….