Fans of exceptionally old Scotch or Irish whiskey have lots of options in today’s booming hyper premium whisky market — that is as long as they have ungodly sums of money to exchange for the pleasure. Fans of Canadian whisky, on the other hand, have a hard time finding anything north of 18 years, if that. For the past five years, Canadian Club has attempted to pick up that slack with their Chronicles Series.
In 2017, to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday, Canadian Club launched a 40-year-old expression that I’m told was quite the whisky, but alas haven’t personally tasted. Not long after, the Chronicles releases arrived, built from the same 100% corn stock in that original 40-year expression. The series totaled five different expressions, each an additional year older than the last. We sampled the 42 year old, dubbed The Dock Man, after it was released in 2019, but the rest of the collection has evaded us. Until now.
We’ll begin at the beginning with Chronicles Edition 41 Years Old, the inaugural bottling released in 2018. The tagline for this release, Water of Windsor, is a tribute to the birthplace of Canadian Club whisky in Windsor, Ontario. The 100% corn recipe used for the 40-year reportedly makes up most of this whisky’s composition, but there are also unspecified amounts of Cognac, rye, and sherry in the mix (Canadian law allows up to 9.09% of other alcohol-containing liquids to be added to their whisky). When it launched in 2018, it was the oldest Canadian whisky ever. Let’s dive in.
The nose is as expressive and elegant as any Canadian whisky I’ve encountered. It kicks off with soft, silky notes of nectarine, vanilla custard, white chocolate, and caramel corn. A lovely cigar box note, fragrant and warm, builds as the whisky opens, alongside subtler, vinous elements of dark prune and berry compote. After 20 minutes in the glass, the aroma is saturated with toffee and butterscotch. A delight to nose. I’ve had a few single grain Scotches this old or older, and the nose here is superior.
With a lot of older Canadian whisky, I find that the palate sometimes has a hard time living up to the aroma, but that’s not the case here. Things are surprisingly vibrant and beautifully balanced after four long decades in a barrel. The mouthfeel is oily, almost creamy, with a mouth-coating simple syrup sweetness and bright notes of lemon oil and candied ginger. Undertones of fig, white grape, and rye spice offer some unique complexity atop less surprising elements of vanilla custard, cinnamon sugar, caramel, and oak. The finish is long and buttery with more dark vanilla bean and exotic notes of black tea and Chinese five spice. A knockout dram. I’m still nosing my glass, and it’s been empty for an hour.