Category Archives: Crown Royal

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Review

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye125

45% abv

Score:  83.5/100


Let’s be timely for once.  I feel dirty just stooping to this, but we’ll do it anyway.  Lots of you out there are wondering about this one, so here goes…

A few days back some now largely irrelevant and virtually obsolete ‘prophet’ announced this whisky as his ‘world whisky of the year’.  If you were grabbing a few beer in a local pub and overheard some young ‘Crown and ginger’ types at an adjacent table make a comment like this you’d think ‘hyperbole’; a non-whisky geek who is simply enamoured with a new flavour.  No harm, no foul.  But let’s put this in context a little more.  This self-proclaimed expert – with nearly unlimited access to ridiculous numbers of old and rare, sexy and special malts – has bypassed all of the heirs apparent and coronated this generic Canadian expression above all others.  Really?  Really?  We’re to believe there weren’t dozens – or even hundreds – of better single malts…unique single casks…fabulous expression from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s…tropical fruit-rich bourbon barrel matured malts…stunning old sherry bombs…atrociously huge peat monsters…that crossed those lecherous old lips this year?  No repeat winners from past logic-defying selections?  What happened to the rise of Japanese whisky?  Where’s the Ardbeg or Pulteney love?  How ’bout taking the piss with another Ballantine’s award?  But Crown Royal?  Please.  Now you’re just insulting us.

In the event you’re wondering if I shouldn’t just be pleased to see a dram from my home and native land scoring accolades and bringing attention to the Canadian whisky industry the simplest answer is: no.  Ridiculous is ridiculous, irrespective of provenance.  This is an ‘ok’ whisky.  But unfortunately the reality is that Canadian whisky as a category is so far behind the world whisky movement that even the best examples are sort of like being the smartest idiot.  Crown Royal is simply not on par with the best of Scotland, Japan, the US, India or even Ireland.  This is like replacing the Stones with a local bar band and thinking people will still fill the stadium.

I hate to make this seem as though I’m ragging on Crown here.  That’s not really the point.  It’s a situational observation.  Unless, of course, as has been speculated, some Benjamins traded hands in order to ratchet this one up a few points, in which case we certainly will rag on all involved.  But we’ll assume not.  Benefit of the doubt.  It’s more likely the biblical blowhard simply needed a controversy to help propel sales of his book, which in recent times is about as relevant as VHS and cassette tapes.

At $35 (or thereabouts, if you can find it anymore) not a bad deal.  Having said that…I’ve tried it.  I can move on now.

Nose:  Very soft nose.  Rich in spices and smells like fresh-baked cinnamon buns.  A little ginger.  Much more refined than the standard Crown Royal.  Toffee.  Apple.  More cinnamon.  A touch of eucalyptus.  Creme brulee.  Wood is loud here.  Dark jams.  I like this nose quite a lot.  I really wanted to reject it at first sniff, but I’ve gotta be honest.  Fruitier and more down-home appeal than I expected.

Palate:  Yep…it’s Canadian whisky.  Huge letdown after the comfortable familiarity of the nose.  Thicken this up a bit into a syrup and it would be great over ice cream, where the cream would temper the sharper woody notes.  Too much wood spice (no, not just the typical rye spice, though there is that too).  Some apple.  Some orange oil.  Far too biting and zippy for something that smells this soft.  Thin and short on finish.  I do think, though, that with another ten years in a very dead barrel this could be a stunner…if at cask strength.

Thoughts:  So…what more should we say?  Hmmm.  Not bad, to be fair, but WWOTY?  You have got to be kidding me.  I think we’ll stop now.  We’re just feeding the troll.  He’s fat enough, I’d say.  At least his fedora-hatted head, anyway.


– Images & Words:  Curt

Crown Royal Review

Crown Royal

40% abv

Score:  75.5/100


Interesting to re-visit this one after so many years. Crown and ginger was one of the earliest drinks I ever cut my teeth on. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to say the ginger ale was to mask the whisky, I will concede I never drank Crown neat. Why would I? It went down quite nicely with that ginger to bitter out a little of the sweetness.

Several years (and hundreds of whiskies) later, I find myself returning to Crown Royal. This time however, as a whisky lover and not simply a snot-nosed kid looking for a means to inebriation. So when one takes the ginger ale (or any other mix) out of the equation, how does Crown Royal hold up? Well…let’s just say I still can’t imagine sitting down to a glass of this served neat. It simply isn’t that kind of drink.

Crown Royal is a blended Canadian whisky produced in Gimli, Manitoba (as unlikely as that may seem) from corn, rye and barley distillate. The spirit is then aged in new white oak and what they refer to as ‘seasoned’ barrels. The whisky is sold with no age statement, and no amount of searching provided anything conclusive as to length of maturation. Apparently at one point it was sold as a 12 year old.

Enough of the history and detail. On to the glass…

First things first. If this is your first foray into Canadian whisky…do note…Crown Royal is absolutely atypical of the region. Both on the nose and palate you’ll find grains and bucketloads of corn vying for attention. The corn is loud and brash, almost bourbon-like in its intense sweetness. The big fruits are as loud as crashing cymbals and nearly drown out the more subdued rye notes in the background. There is a breath of sharp freshly cut wood and tart berry as well. A little spice and perhaps a touch of vanilla.

On arrival…waves of tongue-tingling sweet grains. Far too sweet. Not bad in terms of flavor, but a little too much sugar intensity. Surprisingly, the finish is a lot milder than one would expect from such a bold nose and palate. It fades to a pleasant fruity hum that has a slightly floral tail.

This is a quirky one, friends. Globally recognized, oft-revered and well-marketing by the team at Diageo, it is the best selling Canadian whisky in the world. Can’t help but wonder if that isn’t because of just how different it is from the rest of the field. Is it a whisky to drink neat? Hard to say, I suppose. For this guy…absolutely not.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt