Hiram Walker, a successful grain merchant, founded what would become Canadian Club® in 1858. Our first distillery was established in Walkerville, Ontario because of the exceptional quality of the local grains there. In those early days, if you wanted whisky, you took your own jug or bottle to the local store and filled it from a generic barrel. We didn’t care for that idea.
Our whisky was different—smooth and easy to drink and we wanted people to know who made it. So we branded our barrels with our name on it, as a signature of confidence and assurance of quality.
Canadians soon took a liking to our whisky, and came to love it as one of their own. In America, it was considered special, because it was sold exclusively in the finer gentlemen’s clubs of the era. Soon, the whisky came to be known by the name “Club Whisky.”
It wasn’t long before Club Whisky began to cultivate popularity around the world. Eventually, its popularity began to affect the sale of American Bourbon in the United States. This forced the U.S. Government to require all Canadian distillers to put the country of origin on their label. And so Club Whisky became Canadian Club® and a legacy was launched.
On January 16, 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution took effect, prohibiting the production, transport and sale of alcohol in the United States. Most Canadian provinces went dry at the same time.
The Liquor Control Act in Ontario forbade public or hotel drinking, but did not prohibit the manufacture and export of liquor. For border cities like Windsor, Ontario, this loophole would set the course for a wild decade never seen before or since.
Prohibition led to the rise of bootleggers and gangsters like Al Capone. Soon, the waterways between the United States and Canada became a smuggler’s paradise, carrying 75% of the liquor supplied to the U.S. during Prohibition. Before long, Canadian Club® became the #1 smuggled whisky in the U.S.
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, but during Prohibition, knockoff distillers, using names similar to Canadian Club®, tried to peddle low-grade alcohols to the unsuspecting. Canadian Club® distributors helped protect the brand by urging patrons to request Canadian Club® by name at the bar so they were sure to get the real thing.
Canadian Club’s success and longevity can be attributed not only to the style associated with it, but also the quality of the product inside the bottle. We have always prided ourselves on making a superior whisky accessible to everyone who wished to enjoy it.
This is what has allowed our easy-drinking auburn magic to endure the test of time, through trials of history and changing trends and tastes. Today’s Canadian Club® continues to be the choice of savvy drinkers who are looking for a refreshing alternative to beer, a classic cocktail, or simply a great tasting whisky served neat.