Whisky Magazine Issue 116
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Our intrepid duo go in search of the source of the phenomenon
On April 21, 1986, 30 million Americans watched Geraldo Rivera crack open bootlegger, Al Capone's vault in Chicago's Lexington Hotel. Medical examiners and IRS agents circled, predator-like, as the erstwhile newsman smashed through a brick wall. But the heavily promoted TV spectacle revealed no skeletons or stacks of cash. Other than an empty gin bottle and a lot of dirt, the vault was bare. Geraldo, who had vowed to sing if the vault was empty, sauntered off warbling Frank Sinatra's “Chicago”, off-key.
A quarter of a century later and with no fanfare, Canadian Club manager, Tish Harcus, pried open a more likely depot of Capone relics: an indoor swimming pool, sealed in the basement of the Canadian Club Brand Centre. Working alone, Harcus unearthed real treasure: pristine old bottles of Canadian Club whisky. Why that pool was sealed with those bottles inside remains a mystery, Distillery focus Canadian Club Issue 116 | Whisky Magazine 27 though an urban legend involves an ingénue – a company clerk – who drowned when a Prohibition-era celebration got out of hand. That is quite possible. The subterranean speakeasy where Capone clinched many whisky deals was in an adjacent room and a bullet hole in the wall attests to his notoriously short temper and brutal negotiating tactics.
Back in 1858, Detroit whisky rectifier, Hiram Walker, founded this distillery across the Canadian border from his U. S. home. At the time, American distillers were not permitted to turn spirits...