Craft distilling here in Texas is really starting to take off, and I’m enjoying every second of it. New distilleries seem to be sprouting up all over the place — all with interesting takes on the theme of a Texas whiskey, all adding something to the conversation and striving to make a name for themselves. But along with that success comes the hangers-on: the brands that slap the name “Texas” on the label just to try and sell their spirits that have no connection whatsoever to the Great State of Texas. And Texas Select Club Grand Reserve is one such example.
The earliest record I can find for this is a 2013 entry in the TTB records, which is around when it seems that a ton of “Select Club” spirits started popping up — one for most major geographic areas (Texas, South Carolina, Las Vegas, etc). It looks like MexCor, a Texas based spirits distributor, started importing Canadian whiskey around that time and bottling it under the label “Select Club” for wider distribution.
I cannot find any records of “Select Club” being a distinct brand, but the “club” designation on a whiskey is an older tradition, followed by more famous brands like Canadian Club and Banker’s Club, which reference that turn of the last century period in history when gentleman’s clubs were in vogue as meeting places (and were not strip clubs).
MexCor was founded in 1989 by Celia Villanueva and remains a family run business in Houston, Texas.
There’s not really a whole lot to go on here. We’re at least three layers of abstraction away from the actual producer of the spirit, and even getting to the first layer required some snooping through legal records. Finding who actually distilled this would take a Watergate-level exercise, let alone the arm-twisting probably required to get them to divulge the actual contents of the bottle.
We can glean a couple things from the bottle, though. It’s an imported Canadian whiskey for a start, which generally follows the same construct as Scottish whiskey only with a few new world twists. First, instead of using malted barley, corn is typically the main ingredient in the mash bill. (And often the only ingredient.) Canadian whiskies tend to use rye as their main flavoring though, often adding some to the grain bill.
Whiskey in Canada comes off the still at a maximum of 95% ABV, and are then typically placed into wood barrels 700 litres or less in volume to age for a minimum of three years.
Interestingly, once this gets to the States, in order to be labeled a Canadian whiskey it pretty much needs to stay as-is. Canadian whiskey laws allow for some funky additives for “export” whiskey, but here in the US we require the same laws to be followed as if they were going to drink it locally (and not pawn off some hybrid monstrosity on their poor southern neighbor). So there’s none of that ~9% of extra flavoring blended in that you’ll see in other export spirits. I don’t think this is blended either, as if it were a blend they would have to let us know on the bottle.
That’s my read, anyway… with 0% actual verified knowledge of any shenanigans going on here.
There’s just something about this that looks unfortunately cheap. It’s giving me 1980’s or 90’s kitchen vibes — that oversized polished wood for the stopper, the faceted angles, even the label that looks like it was printed on a home printer and where i can almost see the colors bleeding into each other. This is not a good look at all.
The bottle could be interesting, with this curvy waist concept going on, but it’s all in service of the massive label — which is massive for no good reason, by the way. It’s just taking up a ton of real estate without conveying any information, and has a big clip art picture of a single pot and worm tub condenser still setup.
I appreciate that they tried. But this bottle doesn’t fit on any shelf after 1997.
Right off the bat, there should be some warning signs that this isn’t American: specifically that the color is a bit off. This is a little light for an American whiskey, and definitely a bit light for a traditional Texas whiskey. Those are usually bolder and darker, which this definitely ain’t. It isn’t even really amber — it’s more like a deep gold color instead.
Taking a whiff of the glass smells like a pretty standard whiskey aroma, if a bit on the sweet side: vanilla and caramel are the big components here, along with some apple and banana fruit, but there’s also a bit of raw alcohol or solvent in the background that is adding some character. I wouldn’t classify it as bad at this point, it’s more of an aromatic lift that seems like a conscious choice from the distiller.
What you’ll notice right away is that this is a pretty watery whiskey with barely any mouthfeel to it. The flavors are similarly pretty weak, almost tasting more like an Irish whiskey — there’s some apple and banana fruit in there, a touch of vanilla, and some caramel or brown sugar for sweetness. The finish is pretty short and simple, with just a hair of bitterness at the end.
Richer, darker spirits tend to hold up better when you add a couple cubes of ice to the glass. Lighter spirits don’t fare so well with their lighter and more delicate flavors kicked out of the running pretty quickly. And that’s what we are seeing here: a lighter spirit losing the battle against ice.
All we’re left with here is the apple flavor along with some of that vanilla and brown sugar, but a very light and poorly saturated version of each. There’s a little bit more bitterness on the end actually, which is a surprise since usually the added ice tends to remove bitterness instead of compounding it.
In any case, it’s not very complex or interesting.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
So the ice basically washed out all the flavors of this whiskey. Which is unfortunate, since in order to make a good old fashioned you need some flavors from the whiskey itself to balance out and fight with the bitters. Otherwise, you end up with a cold watery glass of bitters… which is pretty much what you have here.
I really can’t taste anything beyond the herbal and fruity notes in the bitters. There’s just zero complexity or interesting things happening. It’s as bland as plain toast.
What I’m looking for here with the mule is for some of the flavors of the whiskey to shine through. I want some balance to the components and something interesting to result from the combination of this whiskey with the lime and ginger… but that’s not really what you get here.
The best thing I can say is that there’s just a sliver of apple that shines through and makes itself known among all of the mixers in the glass, but that’s it. There aren’t any other flavors that come out to play, and there are no interesting textures or other interactions. It’s pretty darn close to a Moscow Mule, which is the opposite of what we want from a Kentucky Mule.
The worst thing that a whiskey can be is boring, and this is a boring whiskey. There’s nothing interesting going on here, and it doesn’t really make for a very good cocktail in any of the formats we tried it.
What I think is the most galling is that this is marketed using the Texas name, but nothing about it is Texan. From the production process to the flavor profile, in no way shape or form would I ever consider this to be something Texan. It’s a pretty blatant attempt to capitalize on the name of the state, which is consistent in that they appear to do the exact same thing to other regions around the country and I can’t tell if there’s a lick of difference between any of the labels. And that just feels icky to me.
The best thing I can say about this whiskey is that it isn’t unpleasant, but there are better blended Canadian whiskies out there. And I will be the first to recommend that you go try Crown Royal instead of this.
|Select Club Grand Reserve Texas
Produced By: Select ClubProduction Location: Canada
Classification: Blended Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $26.49 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 1/5
There is nothing grand about this whiskey. Nor is there anything Texas about this whiskey. And in no instance would I ever reserve it.