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30-Year-Old Whiskey in Its Prime

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It isn't often that we New Timesers get a bottle of $200 whiskey in the mail. We did, not long ago, thanks to the folks at Canadian Club, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year with the release of a primo 30-year-old, 80-proof, white-oak-barrel-aged blended whiskey retailing for a cool two bills. That's priced well beyond the reach of even the most profligate New Times lushes; our admin assistant was obliged to hide the booze behind her desk, well beyond the reach of  sticky fingers, until we could get around to a proper tasting.

But at a recent staff meeting, we broke into the bottle, or at least Bob Norman did; Norman was so physically agitated by the sight of that black box with its fancy closure and the gold CC logo just sitting there that we had to wrestle it away from him just to snap the picture at left. In Norman's good opinion, whiskey is made to be drunk, not fondled and stared at. I guess old Hiram Walker would second that, and so would Don Draper, who drinks Canadian Club on the show Mad Men.

Norman and the rest of our high-macho crew also pooh-poohed the notion that a splash of H20 added to this fine old brew would "open it up." They poured liberal shots and drank it straight. Over on the femme-gay side of the table, we added a little water and found the instruction sound: Give your whiskey a splash and it evens out the last edges, so your drink gives up its perfumes and complexities.

But both girls and boys agreed: This was the best whiskey we'd  tasted since that bottle of 30-year-old single-malt McCallam we drank back in '85. It's excessively smooth, sweet, and buttery, with a finish that lasts and lasts: a bit of oak (but not too much), a hint of butterscotch, something floral, like violets. And it leaves a serious afterglow: Once we'd polished off 3/4 of the bottle, you could say our staff meeting got right lively.

I conducted a blind tasting at home with the bit of drink I had left, lining up the 30-year-old CC against a 10-year-old Canadian Club reserve (retail around $30)  and a glass of Glenfiddich 12-year-old single malt (retail around $25). The 30-year-old cleaned their clocks in taste, fragrance, and finish -- it tasted almost like a good cognac. The CC 10 was close in color -- a rich, deep amber -- but was slightly more bitter and ragged when sipped. Both CCs are definitively better with about 3 tablespoons of water added. Glenfiddich doesn't improve at all with water, and it's really a different animal: lighter in color and fruitier.

Final report: Only 3,000 bottles of the 30-year CC were produced, and it's hard to find at this point (try ordering it here.) It would definitely be worth both the search and the price as a gift for a whiskey connoisseur, but I wouldn't waste it on anybody else: In their cups, most people wouldn't have the patience to dig for esoteric flavors or even care much about how smooth it is. And as a side note, I totally dig CC's new advertising campaign: "Your Mom Wasn't Your Dad's First," and would only like to add that he wasn't hers either, you chump.

But I actually prefer this slightly altered version of the ad:


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