Review: Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

90% Rye Blend
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

Crown Royal has a number of different whiskies which are produced – 5 in fact. There are two base corn whiskies, and three different flavoring whiskies, two of which are high rye recipes (from which this whisky is crafted), and another of which is a bourbon style whisky (the Hand Selected Single Barrel).

This whisky was Jim Murray's top whisky in the world in 2015. This created a lot of buzz, but many people don't even know where this award came from (or what it means) and consequently are very dissapointed with this whisky because they expect something else, drink this too quickly, or just don't like the profile.

There’s no best whisky in the world. Every palate is different, often surprisingly so. Jim Murray, expert and experienced though he is, is one man and his awards come from himself alone. If you are ever tasting a number of fabulous whiskies with friends, people often have different favorites – suprisingly so. If any of us were to taste all the whiskies Jim Murray did this year, the chance of any of us picking the same whisky as him to be our top is miniscule. So, yes, it’s an achievement, and shows that the whisky has the stamp of approval of a very experienced taster, but it doesn’t mean at all that you’ll love it. I know many who love the whisky (I do), and also know of many who have picked it up in a rush after the award and been dissapointed.

Also, this doesn't encapsulate Canadian whisky, so don't define Canadian Whiksy by one experience of this. While the publicity is probably good for Canadian whisky – some things haven’t been good. Jim Murray’s love for Alberta Premium has probably not been good for Canadian whisky – I have tasted over 5 different batches of Alberta Premium, and been indifferent to it. Many, excited for a whisky rated 96.5/100, flock to the whisky as their defining experience of Canadian whisky – to walk away disappointed. I can say, with many other laymen and experts, that Alberta Premium wouldn’t be in our top list of Canadian whiskies at all. If that’s your experience with Northern Harvest Rye, don’t give up on Canadian whisky – there’s lots of great whisky to discover.

Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L5240 N5 13:53

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Nose: Very fruity, with both a bit of a fruity rose wine and a bourbon profile. As I said, very fruity – fresh and dried blueberries, fresh and dried cherries, peaches, guavas, pineapple, dried apricot, and a bit of a candied fruit character as well like candied mango and candied pineapple, and hard tropical and berry candies, dried apricot….there are wisps of bourbon too, mint, oak, vanilla, honey, and light earthiness. And, as well, spices – cumin, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Yet, this is not a heavy winter rye! But rather a lighter spring one. Water brings out the nose even more, too, and more of a floral nature comes in.

Taste: Surprisingly tannic, and now the rye comes in full force with its herbal essence – arugula, tobacco, jasmine tea, all with a pretty bright berry-like fruitiness as you might find in a fruity cigar. After tasting, I picked up a lot more of these notes in the nose. The rye presentation is quite clean, and works well amidst the light fruit, surprisingly enough. It reminds me, in effect, of the trappist beer Chimay Extra Strong (the little blue bottle – a fabulous beer!) in its balance between heavy grain and bright fruit. The mouthfeel is medium – not super thick, but not watery. Very well done.

Finish: Dried apricot, black tea, jasmine, raw ground almonds, with a slightly sour profile and a bit of a peppery bite. The tannins take their toll, and the rye fades quickly – this is the weakest part of the whisky, but it’s still very good.

Conclusion: There you go folks – I’m very pleasantly surprised by this. I expected something better than the standard Crown Royal, but wasn’t expecting something this good. This whisky is now my top budget whisky, sitting alongside the likes of Forty Creek Copper Pot, Lot no. 40, and Gooderham & Worts – very good company. The match between the complex fruitiness (I rarely find a whisky with such complex fruit packed in it!) and the heavier herbal rye and spice is brilliant, and continues to impress upon subsequent tastings. Quite a bit different, and significantly better, than the standard Crown Royal – not nearly as dry or harsh. Highly recommended – and, also, $30.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high. Awesome whisky for a cheap price ($35).

Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Lots of floral and fruity notes, with a touch of spice on the nose. Lilacs, rose petals, bubblegum, menthol, clove, and rich, tangy dried fruit notes. The palate is easy, still dominated with fruit yet having a growing, spicy vegetal characteristic with black pepper, lilacs, and clove.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high. Awesome whisky for a cheap price ($35).