Whisky Profile – Dan Tullio, Canadian Club

September 30, 2015
By Alana House

Following on from Beam Suntory’s Great Whisk(e)y Rumble, drinks bulletin caught up with the characters behind the whiskies.

Dan Tullio – Canadian Club:

Did you always know you wanted to be in the whisky business? What inspired that start?

As one of the major companies in our city, I was always excited to drive by the distillery because I enjoyed the wonderful aroma in the air. Today the aroma from the spent grains which are being dried continues to fill the air. I never thought I would be employed by the company and become involved in assisting to create this mystical and wonderful aroma!

Describe your growth within the whisky industry. How did it lead you to your current position as the leader of a globally loved whisky?

Being a member of several trade organisations over the years, I have been able to visit various distilleries around the world and become fully aware of their manufacturing processes. In meeting key individuals at the numerous distilleries, they imparted valuable information to me, which I was able to bring back home.

What do you see in the future for your whisky brand?
The development of craft style variants of CC is the only way to go forward.

What are you most proud about in relation to your distillery and brand?
We profess to be the industry leader since 1858. Our manufacturing operation is continually being used as a benchmark for other distillers, not only Canadian. The process is definitely the same as when our Founding Father Hiram Walker began, but technologically we have advanced.

What makes your whisky/s unique? What is it within the production, the team and the flavour that sets it apart from competitors?

Pre-barrel blending before aging. We produce distillate from corn, rye, rye malt and barely malt separately. Prior to barrel fill we blend these four distillates together according to recipe. All other distillers age the distillates separately and blend after ageing. Doing it our way allows the various distillates to marry during that long period in the barrels.

What is it about the whisky/s that you produce that you think appeals to drinkers?
It is a stylish brand, internationally renowned, and easy to drink.

What is it about the craft of distilling whisky that is the most “romantic” or “appealing” to you?

To be able to tweak/modify the process, we end up with a completely different tasting liquid. It is all about the science that makes it interesting.

Your brand has significant history, how has the style changed over the years?

Initially it was sold in the finer gentlemen’s bars, which were extremely upscale. During USA prohibition, it was highly sought after. Today the line extensions greatly help to elevate the profile of the mother brand.

Given its style, what drinking occasion is it best suited to?

Before dinner as a highball, after dinner in a Manhattan or classic Sazerac.

As Australian whisky palates develop, what is your brand doing to take advantage of this?

Mixability and versatility.

Have you seen a recent cocktail creation around the globe that really showed off your whisky?

In Japan, a CC highball prepared in an elegant narrow glass with three large ice cubes with different mixers such as, ginger beer, tea, cranberry juice, ginger ale, tonic.

What is your favourite whisky? And how do you like it served?

CC CLASSIC 12 YR – on the rocks, served in an elegant lowball glass with a zest of orange rind.

What is your favourite mixed drink?
CC and Italian Amaro liqueur. Two to one ratio. Two big ice cubes. Gently stirred.

What is your ideal back-bar positioning? What brand do you see it sitting next to, to best position your brand?

Middle shelf next to Crown Royal.

What has been a career highlight for you?
Being indoctrinated as a five time winner of CC Society, a very prestigious elite group of top performers, who have had significant influence in the development and sale of CC line-up.

What was one of the most difficult challenges in your career in relation to your whisky brand?

Getting a listing on-board Delta and keeping the brand relevant to emerging younger consumers in USA who bounce around not only from brand to brand, but category to category.

What one fact would you like to impart on Australians about your business?
This brand is an iconic Canadian brand, the “leader in its own category in its own country”.

What are your predictions about the next five years in whisky globally?
Bourbon is on a bubble right now and has been for the past five years and will continue with its explosive expansion for the next five years. Canadian and Irish will soon follow because of their unique taste profiles and differentiating country images. B: What is your advice to Aussie drinkers on how best to enjoy whisky?

What is your advice to Aussie drinkers on how best to enjoy whisky?
However you enjoy it. Neat. Over rocks. With mixer. We are all different.

Why do you think Aussies love your whisky?
Canadians and Aussies are similar yet different; we go back in history together. Aussies can identify with the product because our country name is on our brand; it is easy to drink, unpretentious in attitude and fun.

What are some of the quintessential Canadian Club stories that stand out most to you?
In the 1850s, when CC was created, if you wanted whisky, you took your own jug or bottle to the local store and filled it from a generic barrel. Canadian Club’s founder didn’t like that idea – his whisky was light, smooth & mellow, and he wanted folks to know who made it, so he branded barrels with his name on it. Canadians considered it their own. Americans considered it special as it was sold exclusively in the finer Gentlemen’s Clubs of the era, and hence, the whisky took on the name “Club Whisky.”

How did you get the name “Godfather of Whisky,” and do you mind it?
Shut up and get in the trunk! Just kidding!!

Well this is the story…

During USA Prohibition, our best customer (smuggler) was Uncle Alfonso Capone.
I have been with the CC brand all of my working career, 34yrs at the distillery, in the field, across the ocean to many countries, exploiting the Goodness of CC to many.
I am first generation Canadian. Both my parents are from Lazio Italia and were married there. My last name ends in a vowel. During my time in sales/ marketing, I always wanted to make a deal, to get the job done. When working the accounts with the guys out in the field, references about me as the Godfather started showing up…IT GOT CUSTOMERS & CONSUMERS ATTENTION.

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