Canadian Club Whisky is the second largest producer of Canadian Whisky in the world behind only Crown Royal and it is also the second oldest continuously operating distillery in Canada behind only J. P. Wiser, by one year. The Canadian Club distillery was founded before the Civil War and began distilling during 1858 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada on the banks of the Detroit River right across the water from that city. Canadian Club is sold in more places around the world than any other Canadian Whisky, now numbering over 160 countries.
Before Windsor, Ontario the predecessor to Canadian Club was actually founded by Hiram Walker in 1854 in the United States in Detroit, Michigan. Prior to that Walker tried and failed to set up a grocery store in Detroit several times. On his third attempt in 1938, he was successful, during that time he learned how to distill cider vinegar, instead of selling somebody else's vinegar to make a little more profit. In the forty's he became a very successful grain merchant and started distilling different types of grains. He began experimenting with recipes and made whiskies of all types in small quantities and then decided that he wanted to get into the spirits business.
As the temperance movement picked up steam in the United States, Walker made the decision to move his distillery to Canada just in time. The state of Michigan became one of the first states to ban alcohol production and. The Wolverine state passed their first round of prohibition between 1855-1875. In 1858 Walker invests $40,000 (a small fortune at that time) to builds a distillery, a flour mill and a hog farm just across the Detroit River in an area that became known as Walkerville.
In the 1860's Gentleman's Clubs throughout the mid-west began serving Walker's whisky. It became so popular in those clubs in about a dozen major cities that the distillery could not keep up with the demand. The brand became a scarce commodity as Walker continued his practice of aging the whisky at least five years. Clubs particularly in Detroit, Chicago and Cincinnati had their memberships swell just to be able to enjoy Walker's fine whisky. In 1865, Walker decides to change the name to "Club Whisky" to capitalize on its demand (since that was the only place you could get a hold of this hot brand). Walker becomes the first distiller ever to brand his whisky as "Club Whisky" is burned on to every barrel head. The popularity of his whisky continued to soar in the mid-west and made big strides in both the northeast and the mid-south. In 1870 Walker's combined companies as a conglomerate made it the second largest business in all of Canada behind only the railroad.
Distillers throughout the United States were upset that a Canadian whisky was eating up market share and stealing what they claimed was their business. The Americans turned up political pressure in Washington and convinced Congress to pass a law in 1880 requiring that all spirits produced outside the United States clearly state its country of origin on the label. Canadian Club first listed "Canadian" on a small neck ring label to comply with the new law. The law backfires on local distillers as the public believes that Walker's whisky will become even more scares because of the law. The demand for the "imported" whisky skyrockets and in 1889 Walker decided to move the word "Canadian" to the main label and positioned it right above the word Club Whisky. It catches on and people in the 40 states in which it was available at the time were now calling his whisky, "Canadian Club."
In 1891, Canadian Club received a Royal Warrant by the crown, as Queen Victoria declared that Canadian Club was one of the world's best whiskies. Since that time Canadian Club has received a total of seven Royal Warrants from other Head of State including King Edward VII, King George V, King George the VI and Queen Elizabeth II. In 1894 at a cost of $100,000, Hiram Walker erects a beautiful new main office and headquarters on the riverfront. It is modeled after the Pandolfini Palace in Florence, Italy. Hiram Walker died in 1899 and passed on the distillery to four of his five sons (Willis, Edward, Franklin, and James. Hiram Walker & Sons as the company was then known became the only North American distiller to ever have been granted a royal warrant by the King or Queen.
On January 16th, 1919 at 5:32 pm Utah becomes the 36th state to pass the Eighteenth Amendment giving it the three-quarters votes necessary to become law. The manufacture, sale, and transport of alcoholic beverages is prohibited by law as Prohibition hits the United States. During this fourteen year period, the rise of speakeasies, bootleggers, and organized crime hits epidemic proportions. Canadian Club becomes the most smuggled commodity on earth. Canadian Club makes millionaires out of bootleggers like William "The Real" McCoy, Enoch "Nucky" Johnson in Atlantic City, NJ, George Remus in Cincinnati, Johnny Torrio in New York City, George "Bugs" Moran, Jack “Legs” Diamond, Meyer Lansky of the Jewish Mafia, Bugsy Siegel, Joseph Kennedy of Boston, Charles “Lucky” Luciano and Al Capone. In the mid-1920's Canadian Club supplies as much as 75% of all smuggled whisky to the U.S.
In 1933 Prohibition comes to an end and Canadian Club sales skyrocket. In 1940 during World War II, Canadian Club becomes available in more than 90 countries across the world. In 1952 Canadian Club purchases and builds the largest sign on Times Square in New York City. Every other light on the square had to be shut off the first time it is lit, at the time it is registered as the largest neon sign in the world. Eventually, other signs could come back on, but the Canadian Club sign stayed lit every day for 21 consecutive years. In 1961 James Bond's drink of choice begins as CC and soda (before the switch to a Vodka martini) in Ian Fleming's movie "Dr. No."
In 1980, Dan Tullio takes a job at Canadian Club in the computer department as a junior programmer. In 1984 the company starts an aggressive research and development effort and it yields big dividends. The distillery introduces their first new expression and first super-premium brand in 130 years in "Canadian Club Classic," a small batch 12 year-old whisky. In 1992 Canadian Club comes out with "Canadian Club Reserve" a 9 year-old whisky with a higher rye and rye malt content. In 2005, Fortune Brands, Jim Beam's parent company buys Canadian Club. In 2009 Dan Tullio is promoted to the job of Master Ambassador of Canadian Club and all Canadian Whisky under the Beam Suntory umbrella since that time has earned the nickname of "The Godfather of Canadian Whisky."
In 2009 Canadian Club releases its first flavored whisky in "Dock No. 57 Blackberry." Dock No. 57 was inspired by the name given to the historic shipping dock used for smuggling. This is where Canadian Club exported its brand to gangsters like; Bill “The Real” McCoy, Al Capone and Bugs Moran that quenched the thirst of our American neighbors during Prohibition. In 2011, Canadian Club introduces a "Sherry Cask Finish" product. In 2012, CC releases "Dock No. 57 Spiced Whisky." In 2014 Canadian Club introduces it's 100% Rye. Canadian Club makes a big hit with "Pop Culture" from 2007 to 2015 on the series "Mad Men" and from 2010 to 2014 on the series "Boardwalk Empire."