Back in 1858, most distillers sold their whiskey directly from the barrel to customers armed with their own jugs. But Hiram Walker was especially proud of his formulation, so he decided to sell it in labeled bottles. Walker's Club Whiskey - later rechristened Canadian Club in accordance with U.S. law - helped usher in a new era of liquor packaging practices.
Canadian Club is hoping to repeat its success with cans of whiskey-cola and whiskey-ginger ale. The distiller isn't the first to experiment with the format - Jack Daniel's already has a line of what the industry calls ready-to-drink beverages - but Canadian Club is looking to make a significant splash with its cans. The product was rolled out across Canada last month, and should soon be available in the U.S.
The release marks the second time that Canadian Club has toyed with ready-to-drinks. The first time, "they didn't sell very well," confided the leader of my recent tour through the Windsor, Ont. distillery. But the company's buoyed by the response of Australian drinkers, who report the product meshes well with their beach-going ways.
"They've really taken to these ready-to-drinks," our tour guide told us.
That's as much a testament to liquor laws as lifestyles down under. While ready-to-drinks have run into trouble in the U.S. because they can't be sold alongside beer in the many states where hard liquor isn't approved for grocery sales, Australian liquor laws are considerably more lax. In Australia, it's legal to sell whiskey drinks from vending machines.
While Walker had the foresight to bottle his whiskey - and his company had the good sense to redesign its signature bottle during Prohibition for easier smuggling - even Canadian Club's forefather didn't foresee the day when branded booze could be purchased in an office cafeteria.