We sit down with the Godfather of Whisky and talk the Mad Men drink of choice – because if you can’t be Don Draper, you can at least drink like him.
It’s no secret that we’re fans of both Mad Men and whisky. Hell, the two go hand in hand together. If you haven’t yet enjoyed the series with a drink in hand, you haven’t yet enjoyed the series. It doesn’t take an eagle eye to read the labels behind Don Draper when he’s handing out a tongue lashing either, so seasons ago we picked up a bottle of what he was drinking: Canadian Club.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t impressed. Then along came an opportunity to revisit the brand, albeit the brand’s more refined, mature, and older sibling: Canadian Club Reserve, a 10 year old Canadian whisky. If that wasn’t enough (it was), we were also given the chance to shoot a few questions over to Don Tullio, Canadian Club’s Brand Ambassador and a man who has been called the Godfather of Whisky. Unlike myself, his title was given to him by others – I just make up my own nicknames. Safe to assume then, this guy knew what he was talking about.
Before getting to his answers (and Old Fashioned recipe), I’d like to say that my opinion of the Canadian Club Reserve is very favorable. Luckily we managed to take some photos before polishing off the bottle Don Draper style – that is, quickly. The Reserve is very drinkable – a light and mellow taste. I prefer my whisky neat, or with a drip of water, and the Reserve went down (and down) without much of a fight. If you’ve not sampled it, or you’ve only had the six year, definitely give the Reserve a shot. It’s affordable ($19.99 most places) and delicious.
Now, on to the man himself and his whisky wisdom.
What differentiates a Canadian whisky from other whiskies?
Canadian whiskies like Canadian Club are typically lighter and smoother than other whiskies, mainly because they are multi-grain liquors containing a large percentage of rye. However, their flavor profile can differ from brand to brand. This means that not all Canadian whiskies are created equal, even though they are all are required by law to be distilled and aged for at least three years in a wooden barrel. Canadian Club is aged for six years, which is twice as long as Canadian Government standards.
Unlike other Canadian whiskies, Canadian Club is blended prior to barreling so the flavors can “marry” throughout the aging process. Think of it like a stew: Canadian Club puts all the ingredients in the pot to cook together (like potatoes, meat, carrots, onions, etc), as opposed to cooking each ingredient separately. As you can imagine, mixing the various blenders (corn, rye, rye malt & barley malt) together prior to aging, rather than separately, enhances the superior smoothness of the final product.
What’s the “proper” or best way to enjoy whisky – on the rocks, with a dash of water, neat?
While there is no one “proper” way to best enjoy Canadian whisky, most people enjoy Canadian Club according to their preference. On the rocks is very common and personally my favorite way. To really appreciate all the flavors, give it a splash of water to release the flavor of the whisky. The water will also dilute the concentrated spirit somewhat, allowing you to taste and identify the complex flavors more clearly. Ice is also a very important and integral part of enjoying Canadian Club. I always mention that “clean Ice” is an important component part of making a great cocktail. Using ice that has been in the freezer for less than 24 hours is always best.
What’s the best whisky based cocktail, or mixed drink, to use to introduce someone to whisky?
Our Master Mixologist, “Bobby G.” Gleason, loves working with the various marquees within the CC portfolio. He’s indicated that the smooth, mellow and versatile character of Canadian Club permits it to be interchangeable with cocktails that typically use a premium Vodka-based spirit and really “amps up” the whole flavor profile of the cocktail.
A great way to introduce someone new to Canadian whiskies, such as Canadian Club, is to stick with the basics and classics. Adding soda really allows a whisky first-timer to taste all the bold and smooth flavors – try 1 part CC, 2 parts soda water or 1 part CC and 2 parts ginger ale for a sweeter touch.
For a classic try an Old Fashioned:
Old Fashioned Cocktail
- 1½ parts Canadian Club 10 Year Reserve
- 1/2 part sweet Vermouth
- Dash Angostura bitters
- Orange slice
- Maraschino Cherry
Mix sugar, water and bitters in a rocks glass. Drop in a cherry and an orange slice. Muddle ingredients (using a muddler or the back end of a spoon). Add Canadian Club 10 Year Reserve and Vermouth. Fill with ice cubes and stir.
As an Ad Man yourself, what do you think of Mad Men and the prominence of Canadian Club Whisky?
As an Ad Man myself, it’s great to see Mad Men staying authentic to the time period, and Don clearly has great taste. We’re very proud to be a part of this series to date. CC was definitely an inherent part of that era and it’s wonderful that the writers and directors have considered to use our brand, bringing the classy CC whisky image across to our mutual consumers.
What role did American Prohibition have in the emergence of Canadian Club in America?
Because of the location of Canadian Club’s distillery – directly across the Detroit River in Windsor, Canada – it was a breeze for bootleggers to smuggle the spirit into the country. As Canadian Club continued legally producing whisky throughout the 20s, it circulated throughout various speakeasies and eventually became known as the unofficial supplier of alcohol during prohibition. It is rumored CC quickly became a favorite of Al Capone who operated a lucrative business smuggling the spirit across the Detroit River and is the whisky behind the expression “The Real McCoy.”
What are some key words used in describing the taste of whisky? Personally I’m not sure what oak tastes like, but I think I like it.
The various marquees within the Canadian Club portfolio can described as “light, smooth, mellow in oak and versatile.”
- LIGHT in whiskey taste because CC is double distilled, removing fusel oils.
- SMOOTH in texture on your palette because CC is a pre-barrel blended whisky, allowing the various distillates from corn, rye, rye malt & barley malt to “marry” together in the barrel for 6, 10 and 12 years respectfully.
- MELLOW in OAK results from aging in ‘once-used-white-oak-American Barrels,’ which delivers a less woody taste compared to bourbon.
- VERSATILE because it mixes well with fruit juices, mixers & other spirit brands.