Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Whisky

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?!

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye is bottled at 45% abv, and cost me just south of $40 CDN. 
 
To the Eye

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. 

Final Thoughts

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!

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Just a Thought… World’s Best, Eh?

“To say this is a masterpiece is barely doing it justice.” Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible 2016

So this is Jim Murray’s 2016 World Whisky of the year… Kinda makes me proud to be Canadian! 

(A Blue Jay wins the American League MVP and now this, it has been quite a week for us!)  

I have long expressed my love for whiskies produced in the True North, Strong and Free, as well as my opinion that our best can hold their own against offerings from anywhere else. Nevertheless, it certainly is nice to see our whiskies getting a little love today, especially the rye-forward style Canadian drams are known for. Upon reading that Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye had been given top marks in the latest Whisky Bible, I set out get my hands on a bottle. In my fourth stop, I found what I was looking for, too. 

Traditionally, I have not been a huge Crown Royal fan. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty hard to genuinely dislike “Crown”; it’s worldwide popularity is no coincidence! For me personally, however, I have never really found enough value in Crown Royal – I know of less expensive whiskies for mixing and I prefer several other examples of Canadian whisky for sipping neat. (Visit some of my older postings for reviews of some really excellent Canadian drops, from 100% rye whiskies to 20 & 30 year expressions that cost about the same as a regular bottle of Crown Royal.)

In recent years, a wide variety of new expressions have been released by the Gimli, Manitoba distillery. From a “black” expression to maple and even apple flavoured versions, it seems that there has been an effort to develop a Crown Royal for every palate. I have not yet found mine but, with the new revelation of Northern Harvest Rye being crowned (Dammit, I couldn’t help myself!) the world champ for 2016, perhaps this will be the one.

Here’s what Jim Murray has to say about this whisky:

  

This year, doubtless there will be many more eyebrows raised because rarely is Canada mentioned when it comes  to the world’s top whiskies. But, again, I have no doubt people finding the bottling I tasted will be blown away with this whisky’s uncompromising and unique beauty. It certainly puts the rye into Canadian rye.

 Well, we shall see soon enough I suppose! I have my bottle and am excited to conduct my own review to find out whether I can agree with Mr. Murray on this one.

Jameson Irish Whiskey

Yeah, I’ve had a few Irish drams. Tullamore Dew, Jameson, Tyrconnell… most of the them were experienced on various March 17s, I think. Needless to say, I’m not nearly as familiar with the Irish style as I am with some of the others. What I do know, is that Irish whiskeys often combine grain and malt spirits and that they are often triple distilled. (Because of my affinity towards Auchentoshan, this fact could bode well for me!)

This particular bottle has me looking forward to renewing acquaintances. It was a gift from a colleague who thought I deserved a bit of a pick-me-up. I’ve always said, gifts are great but gifts of whisk(e)y are the best. Jameson Irish Whiskey is bottled at 40% abv. 

  
To the Eye

This whiskey displays as a bright golden drop, with flashes of lighter yellow. Stubborn, slender legs.

In the Nose

The first thing that jumps out at me is a salty, slightly smoky note, similar to some kind of smoked cheese.   The other dominant aroma is hard to explain, but I’m reminded of an overused pencil eraser. The are a couple of other smells that reveal themselves with effort, including baked biscuits and a hint of something soapy and perhaps a smidge of vanilla. Not at all complex. 

On the Tongue

This whiskey has a surprisingly thick mouthfeel that coats my tongue with woody flavours – I can’t shake the impression of cedar, even though that doesn’t seem to make much sense. That soapy character I noticed on the nose is once again present. There is a slight alcohol astringency present, which leaves my tongue tingling and, although I usually don’t care for that kind of experience, I kind of like it right now.  The finish is short, leaving subtle trails of oaky tannins and some spicy peppermint, along with a touch of citrus sweetness but it all fades away very quickly. 

On a whim, I added a couple drops of water but I didn’t find that it noticeably change the profile. 

Final Thoughts

This is one of my shorter reviews but, then again, this whiskey is pretty straight-forward. There’s really nothing wrong with this dram, and it actually came across as rather refreshing, but it lacks the depth of character that single malt drinkers become accustomed to. I have no doubt that I will again find myself with a Jameson in my hand…and probably a green-coloured Harp or Kilkenny in the other hand!