Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
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