Recently a friend at work gave me this bottle, it was sheathed in the famous blue velvet bag and only latterly removed from its brown ("library"-style) carton.
The intent is to do a comparative tasting with other CRs. I also have the current regular CR; the current Special Reserve version; a 1963 CR; and XR (the new luxury version using whisky from the long defunct Waterloo, Ontario distillery). Only Limited Edition is lacking, and we may be able to find one for the comparative.
I did a preliminary tasting last night just of the new 50's/40's one. It is hard to date it exactly since its stamp and markings do not assist in this regard. Data from the family who owned it and the look of the bottle and carton suggest a late 40's/early 50's vintage.
The bottle was tightly closed with a purple plastic (bakelite?) cap. An Ontario Liquor Board stamp was pasted over which stretches to the bottom of each side of the short neck. The stamp seems to pre-date the ones which bore the distillation date of the youngest whisky in the bottle. E.g., "1963" is printed on the stamp of the 1963 bottling. Since the youngest whisky in CR (at the time anyway) was 10 years old, this means the whisky was put on the market in 1973.
The reverse label of the 40's/50's one states that whiskies as old as 30 years are included in the blend. The original CR bottlings contained this statement (as far as I know), but at some point it was abandoned, e.g., it is not found on the 1963 bottling.
Over the stamp and around the cap was placed tightly a clear plastic tape. It seems to have been put on after purchase, probably by the previous owner to prevent evaporation. I was told the owner had been collecting these to use in future family celebrations and the reason to hoard stocks was that whisky was scarce at the time, which might suggest a 1940's (wartime) origin. Since the whisky was kept throughout its storage in its bag which was tightly closed with a drawstring and the bag in turn was in a closed carton, the glass and labels are very clean and it is hard therefore to estimate the age from these elements alone.
After removing the plastic protector I twisted off the cap which took a bit of an effort: it was very tight, again the previous owner may have applied extra torque to assist in the preservation of the whisky; if so his strategy worked.
No alcohol volume level is indicated anywhere on the packaging. I would think it is 40% abv but maybe it was higher at the time.
The colour is very close to that of regular CR today. The nose also is very similar, i.e., is quite light with hints of caramel, oak and faint char notes.
The taste surprised me: I thought it would be full and rich but it wasn't. It was kind of sharp, quite neutral, and disclosed light oak and other elements of the nose. It was again quite close to the regular CR of today and possibly less flavourful.
There is the faintest hint of straight rye or some kind of batch rye whisky presence. Maybe a little U.S. or U.S.-type straight rye was added, or perhaps something akin to, say, Hotalings Potrero (i.e., a low-proof whisky aged in reused charred or any non-charred wood). Maybe some of the components were aged in ex-straight bourbon or rye barrels.
Anyhow, the predominant taste is quite neutral. There are no off flavours whatever, the whisky is remarkably well preserved.
I have tasted other CRs from the 1950s which had (seemingly) more flavour and in particular more sweetness and both flowery and metallic notes, but probably the bottlings would have varied somewhat (as no doubt today).
The 1963 CR is sweeter and rather more lush than its older sibling but when I got it it contained only a few ounces. I am wondering if prolonged exposure to air in the bottle may have imparted (in some way) additional flavours. Alternatively, maybe by the 1960's it was decided to give more taste to CR, I just don't know.
Anyway, it is a fascinating time capsule since it contains some whisky distilled as early as the 1920's, however, as I say it is quite mild in taste. The Canadian style clearly from early days was to go for a fairly neutral palate. The main tastes I get are neutral-type alcohol and oak-related flavours (reused charred or fresh oak although some "fresh" char notes are present especially in the glass after emptied).
Maybe it will open up a bit now that the bottle has been opened for the first time in 50 or 60 years but frankly I think this unlikely.
I plan to do a semi-blind tasting with the other bottles mentioned and will report the results here.