Whiskey Review: Canadian Club 1858 Original Blended Canadian Whiskey

There’s a ton of good whiskey on the shelves these days, but that wasn’t always the case. Following prohibition in the United States, the whiskey supply took some time to recover and quality sometimes took a back seat to quantity. To get a better idea of what whiskey was like during this mid-century period, we’re going to be taking a look at four whiskies that were popular in the 1960s. And where better to start than with the favorite of Don Draper himself: Canadian Club 1858 Original Blended Canadian Whiskey.



Hiram Walker was born in Massachusetts in 1816, the son of a schoolteacher. He moved to Detroit in 1838, where he worked his way up from being a grocery clerk to owning his own grocery store by 1846. He invested in a number of business ventures over the course of his life and, in 1849, decided to start producing vinegar. His product was known for it’s high quality and low cost and he sold that successful business for a tidy profit.

Using the profits from his grocery and vinegar businesses, he decided to get into the whiskey business. He produced whiskey in Detroit for five years despite the local prohibition laws. Seeing an opportunity with the relaxed laws in Canada, he purchased some land across the river in Windsor, Ontario and in 1857 began construction of a dedicated distillery which opened the summer of the following year. Hiram’s original whiskey process used grains from his grain business in the United States to create the mash, and ran his finished whiskey through a charcoal filter much like the Lincoln County process.

The distillery was a success, and with the outbreak of the American Civil War, demand for Canadian whiskey skyrocketed. This demand included the smuggled variety in the “dry” Michigan, and there are apocryphal rumors that Hiram actually built a pipeline across the river from his Canadian distillery to the United States to surreptitiously sell his booze.

Walker’s whiskey became particularly popular in gentleman’s clubs of the late 19th century and in 1889 this fact, combined with the country of origin, created the “Canadian Club” brand that remains to this day.

Walker died in 1899 and the distillery passed to his son, who continued to build and expand production. At one point the facility was so large and employed so many people that they built housing on-site for the workers that was dubbed “Walkerville” and even sported police and fire stations.

During prohibition the distillery remained open thanks to its location in Canada, and its best customer became the famous gangster Al Capone who smuggled thousands of cases into the United States.

After the end of prohibition, Canadian Club remained a popular spirit. At some point in the mid-20th century, the company was sold to the Japanese spirits company Beam Sutory. Canadian Club remains in production to this day, and was most recently featured as the favorite whiskey of Mad Men character Don Draper.


Canadian whiskey is typically rye based, and reports indicate that this is no different. There’s no official statement on the grain bill, but sources say that this is a mixture of rye, malted rye, barley, and corn. That grain is fermented and distilled into raw spirits.

As a blend, this whiskey is a combination of different runs of spirit — but instead of waiting until the end of the aging process, in this case blending happens immediately. The blended whiskey is then placed into barrels to improve the flavor, aged for an undisclosed period of time, and bottled to be shipped across the river (and around the world).


This might possibly be the most boring label I’ve seen in a long time.

The bottle itself is a boring standard shape, with a round body, sharply tapering shoulder, and medium length neck. The glass is tinted a dark brown color, which obscures both the color of the spirit inside as well as the volume of spirit left in the bottle. Around that glass bottle is a plain white label with black cursive lettering for the brand information and some minor gold accents.

The whole thing is capped off with a plastic screw-on top.



All I get coming off the glass is nail polish remover. It’s straight acetone, with a tiny hint of malty cereal in the background. There might be some slight tones of citrus as well… but really, to call the acetone dominant would be an understatement.

As for the flavor, thankfully it’s less acetone and more like a standard rye. There’s some brown sugar and orange flavors that appear at first, and that telltale peppery spice starts building and lasts well into the aftertaste. There’s just a touch of bitterness on the finish, but it’s not significant.

On Ice

As usual, a touch of ice seems to improve the situation greatly.

The acetone smell is gone, thank goodness. And I think I can actually sniff some flavors in this glass with that 800-pound gorilla out of the way. I get some vanilla and cherry on the glass, which I didn’t smell before and it’s actually quite nice.

As for the flavor, it’s all still there. You’ve got the brown sugar and citrus flavors followed by the peppery spice, but what’s missing is the bitterness on the finish. Now it’s nothing but smooth sailing.

Cocktail (Old Fashioned)

You know, there’s something to this whiskey. Normally when I get that much acetone on the nose, it’s a sure-fire indication that nothing good will follow… but in this case I’m proven wrong with both the on-the-rocks and cocktail formats of the spirit.

Especially in this old fashioned, there’s a lot going on. The bitters are interacting well with the brown sugar and citrus flavors, and the peppery spice is adding a bit of complexity to the drink that’s much appreciated. It does need a bit of sugar to bring the whole thing together, but on the whole it works as a traditional cocktail.

Fizz (Mule)

Usually what I’m looking for here is for the ginger beer to balance out with the flavors of the whiskey and for something more complex to come through (like a peppery spice). In this case, it meets the expectations of the exercise in every category.

The only thing I’d say is that it’s a little light on the flavors. Some of the more powerful bourbons add a significant depth and complexity to the flavor profile that’s quite enjoyable, and while there’s some added depth here, it’s like the difference between the reflecting pool in Washington, D.C. versus the Potomac River… technically, they both have water, but one just is so much deeper than the other.


Overall Rating

As long as you use it as a mixer, things are pretty good — it’s only when you try to drink it straight that you run into a nose full of acetone. In it’s price bracket, it’s definitely not as good as Evan Williams Black Label — but it’s still a versatile and inexpensive tool for the whiskey shelf.

Canadian Club 1858 Original Blended Canadian Whiskey
Produced By: Canadian Club
Owned By: Beam Suntory
Production Location: Canada
Classification: Blended Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $9.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating:
All reviews are evaluated within the context of their specific spirit classification as specified above. Click here to check out similar spirits we have reviewed.

Overall Rating: 4/5
Don Draper may be a fictional philandering con man, but he ain’t wrong about this whiskey.



  1. Nice review on this whisky. I recently tried this and have to say it is much better than I remembered for a $12 whisky. But that was 17 years ago and I was mostly a bourbon guy back then. CC 1858 has a bolder flavor than many other Canadian whiskies in this price but is still nicely balanced and tasty. The bottle and label haven’t changed much over the years (dropped the 6 year age statement and display 1858 in larger font), so it has that cool retro look. The 12 year is much better but $10 more. Rich & Rare Reserve is a good match at about $9 with a more rye forward flavor.

  2. Having drank CC for many years, I now find the product a weak and watered down. . Not sure what has happened to such an iconic brand. It is not the CC of the past, and only someone that does not have a refined taste for whisky, would drink this. Is this made in China or something?

    1. No it’s still distilled and bottled in Canada.
      The mixture may have changed. I noticed “Sailor Jerry’s” is sweet and disgusting now.

  3. Plastic is a great option. Because it’s a plastic made for such a purpose. Besides if you try to carry a lot of bottles. it makes for a better experience. Especially if you have to carry them a long distance because you live a half mile from the liquor store and you feel like walking. If you are like me. The booze isn’t going to last long anyway. CC is great in water and very refreshing drank that way. Enjoy safely

    1. I walk to the Liquor store with a back-pack. Load it up with 40 Lbs of Booze.
      Then hike home. Stay fit. The military lugs 40-60Lbs of gear, for 10 Clicks.
      (With water?!… On Ice maybe… What are you doing?! Watering down 40%?)
      I’m kidding. About the water part. You drink what you want.

      1. I live 1.5 Miles from the nearest store. Up-hill, both ways!
        Ha-ha. But no it’s actually a hike for me to get there.
        Last time I drove a shopping-cart of death, down the hill. Saved me 20 mins but I dinged my knee on the cross-walk curb.

  4. I seriously would like to know the worth of a 1960’s Canadian Club Original Blended Whisky (fifth size) if it has never been opened and it is in the original gift packaging. Please, serious replies ONLY!

  5. I have to disagree with you’re Acetone comment.
    I use acetone as a cleaning solvent a lot…
    CC 1856 doesn’t taste like acetone neat.
    Drank it 2 seconds ago. It’s oaky, with some spice. Grainy aftertaste with a mild sweetness. Burps like rye.
    Have you ever smelled acetone? Maybe compare it to Ammonia or Chlorine… Acetone is wretched.

  6. Very nice review, well written, and I appreciate a low price-point venerable brand getting a serious assessment. I mostly drink this brand on airplanes from wee bottles, but I have always thought it was pretty good in that context! Surprised to learn how inexpensive it is. Never really considered it as a mixer, but will now.

  7. Canadian club is smooth with a subtle aftertaste, but I prefer a much bolder taste, will stay with scotch, ( johnny Walker black).

  8. Canadian Club and Seagrams V. O. were mid century icons. Primarily because they are so light and are basically the vodka of whiskies. They are practically made to be in a Summer highball. I prefer club soda but ginger ale is another classic option. I love the old ads for them both

  9. My Canadian whisky of choice is Windsor, which, like CC, is sold in cheapo plastic bottles.
    My solution to that was to buy a nice glass decanter. Makes the whisky taste better, at least to me.
    Ah, the power of suggestion…

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