Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Canadian Club 6-Year Whisky

Drinking the Bottom Shelf

Will Gordon drinks his way through the bottom shelf of the liquor store...so you don’t have to.


Last summer was great and this one's going to be even better. Bottom Shelf research coordinator Emily finally had the decency to finish grad school. The Red Sox spent the solstice in first place. And if I can somehow overcome deficiencies of ambition and direct sunlight, I'm going to grow tomatoes on my balcony. Best of all, unlike last summer, I won't have to spend a month trying to trick myself into liking soccer.

It's not that I actively dislike soccer. I bet it's fun to play, and I certainly admire the quadriceps and Ferraris and groupies of the foreign men who do so for a living. But I didn't grow up around the game, so I don't really understand it. There only seems to be one rule: You can't go offsides, which, to my reckoning, boils down to "It is impermissible to score by any means other than dumb luck or referee incompetence." And the players love to fall down and writhe in agony, and hey, who doesn't? But I can't figure out how points are awarded for this falling and writhing—I know it's related to how luxurious the victim's hair is, and there is often a geopolitical element as well, but the specifics escape me—so it's just too frustrating to try to follow.

But last summer a soccer thing called the World Cup happened, and all the people in my office who pretended to care snuck out to bars at 10:00 a.m., and thus was born my brief and deceitful love affair with soccer. This summer finds me self-employed in a fascist city where most of the bars don't even open until nearly noon, so I have no need of or use for the soccer excuse, plus Emily works at an actual job in an actual office so that she can pay our actual rent, so it seems unsporting to start drinking too many hours before her lunch break. And I guess there isn't a World Cup until next election or something anyway.

All of this freed me up to spend the dying days of spring pretending to like hockey. Man, you ever watch hockey? It's pretty awesome. It's like soccer, except it's on ice and sometimes they try to score, and usually when a hockey player falls and writhes, it's because someone punched him in the back of the head, which is sometimes legal and sometimes not, but always plenty exciting, so I'm OK with not understanding the particulars.

So naturally all of this got me loving Canada even more than I already did. They seem to take their hockey a little too seriously, which makes them a bit defensive and obnoxious about it, and also makes them burn cop cars when they lose, but it's hard to criticize such a decent and humble country for the occasional emotional excess and/or riot. Plus they have the Trailer Park Boys and all sorts of other delightful things, such as seals and special bacon.

High on hockey and looking to help rebuild the Canadian economy after the tragic events of 6/15, when the Vancouver Canucks were vanquished in the Stanley Cup finals by a bunch of Canadians who happen to live in Boston, I bought a bottle of Canadian Club 6-Year Whisky. I'd never had it, but how wrong can you go with a reasonably priced ($14) bottle of brown booze produced by a country that places such high value on honesty and diligence and alcohol?

Pretty wrong, it turns out. This particular Canadian Club is light and a little bit greasy, which I'm told is typical of Canadian whiskies, but it lacks the smoothness I'd been promised. It smells like burnt paper and tastes like that plus a bit of cherry, which I admit is kinda cool, but coolness isn't always the straightest path to success. Remember that for all his style, Fonzie was still a high-school dropout who lived above the Cunninghams' garage.

Canadian Club proved adequate when smartened up with all sorts of citrus, but I can't recommend drinking it neat, over ice, or in a country full of good $12 bourbon.