Once upon a time, a bottle of Crown Royal was a go-to gift to take over to a buddy’s place for rye and cokes on a birthday, or some other more-special-than-usual occasion. That’s what “Crown” meant to me back in the day… a mostly unspectacular whisky mixer that still managed to carry enough recognizable caché to justify a price nearly double that of the mixers I’d usually choose.
… that was before I really discovered whisky, however.
Once scotch whiskies drew me out on a dramming journey that eventually came back around to the whiskies of my own continent, my opinion of Crown Royal did change slightly, even if my appreciation of it was still lacking. See, it’s damned near impossible to truly dislike Crown Royal. It’s smooth and carries a decent flavour profile and, as I eventually discovered it wasn’t half bad on the rocks or even neat, in a pinch. But, whereas I once found it too expensive to replace my usual buzz-inducing mixers, I now feel like I can find more interesting and complex whiskies for the same price (or a little less). Whether it’s the CR Black, maple or apple flavoured offerings or some of the ultra-premium/ultra-pricey releases, some are good and a couple are very good, but I’ve just never quite found enough value in what Crown Royal has offered.
But, with this week’s announcement that a 90% rye-grain expression from Crown Royal had been named the World’s #1 Whisky by Jim Murray, that prodigious guru of all things whisky, well I figured it’s time that I gave it another chance. I mean, when the first ever Canadian Whisky to rank tops in The Whisky Bible also receives Jim Murray’s highest-ever score (97.5/100), a Canadian whisky blogger should feel obligated to review it, right?!
This rye-forward Canadian whisky certainly looks the part – golden honey/straw. A swirl of my glencairn produces a thick oily coating that eventually releases moderate, extremely stubborn legs.
In the Nose
The first sniff, after letting my dram breath a bit, is full of sweet fruits, and sour taffy candy. The next reveals the dusty rye that I was expecting, along with some clove and a hint of toasted marshmallow. The aroma is not not as spicy as I expect a rye whisky to be, and an unmistakable herbal-floral note lingers in the breezes, which reminds me more of a heathery scotch than a prairie rye. It’s definitely interesting.
On the Tongue
Pow! There’s that spicy, punchy rye! White pepper and baking spices flood my mouth, along with a citrus zest that never really gets pithy. Dry, grainy rye is nicely balanced with some cocoa and a hint of that floral character revealed in the aroma. Creamy toffee. The finish is surprisingly long, with the cocoa softening to milk chocolate along with lingering Honeycomb cereal and rose petals(?), it’s still clean and crisp at the same time.
After sampling this whisky, I remain a little perplexed. I really like it but is it the best whisky I’ve had this year? No, I don’t think so… it’s not even the best Canadian whisky I’ve had this year. (Here’s to you Ninety 20 Yr Old and Gibsons Finest Rare 18 Yr Old)
However, Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye is an incredibly unique and interesting dram. Both the nose and the palate reveal nuances that I don’t normally associate with rye/Canadian whiskies. This is unquestionably a very good drop that will be appreciated by many. At the very least, I think I’ve finally found a Crown Royal that I will happily buy again!