Crown Royal

Review: Crown Royal Noble Collection Rye aged 16 Years by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
16 Years
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

There isn’t much that’s officially released about this whisky, beyond that it is 16 years old and made from a 90% rye mash (does this mean it’s 90% rye? pretty vague!). Sadly, this was not released in Canada - which stirs up genuine anger in me. Between this one, and the 13 year old “Blender’s Mash” - two of my all-time favourite Canadian whiskies - were released by Canada’s biggest whisky brand for the states, and not even for the country where it has its heritage. It does seem, sometimes, that Canada gets Crown Royal’s leftovers.

Well, we don’t have much else to go on, so why not give it a taste?


Review (2021)

  • Batch: 16 Year Rye (Fifth Release of the Noble Collection)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

What a nose! Rich oak, bright rye, dried fruit, cedar,  coconut, white grape, baking spice…what incredible spiciness! The age, the spice, and the fruitiness remind me here of well aged Armagnac – a great thing in my book – although the spiciness is on another level. There is some sharp spice, dried apricot, dill seed, and an incredible oaky richness that I only see in whiskies aged a long time in active casks. Some licorice and a light touch of spinach, and oaky vanilla – you can really go hunting with this one! What a beauty. I can dwell on the spices for some significant time.

The palate is spicy, rich, and full of dried fruit and some intense baking spice. Loads of cedar, too. The balance of spice, dried fruit, oaky notes, nutty notes (almond here), touch of coconut, and herbs are absolutely stunning. It even has some dried persian lime. Wow. The finish is lightly tannic, with lots of dried apricot and spice.

A wow whisky. Not too many of those. I was only given a sample but I am extremely disappointed that Crown didn’t release these in Canada. Two of the top three (or arguably 2 of the top 2) noble collection releases were destined for the US, only.

One of my all-time favourite Canadian whiskies, and one of the best whiskies I’ve ever tasted.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation). Complexity, balance, length, movement - it’s all there.

Value: Very High. This is a great whisky for the price. Even at $100, it’s hard to find a whisky of this quality at that price.


Review: Crown Royal Winter Wheat Blended Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
51% wheat, 39% corn, 10% Malted Barley
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This limited release - the sixth expression of the noble collection - draws inspiration from the buttery quality of winter wheat. Beyond that, there isn’t a lot to say about this whisky other than that this mashbill (focused on wheat) isn’t any of Crown Royal’s standard spirit streams - so it really is unique. Most wheat whiskies lack a few things, can be a bit soft, and leave some others to be desired. Not this one:


Review (2021)

  • Batch: Winter Wheat (Sixth Release of the Noble Collection)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2021

What terrific complexity! At the first nose, you know this is gonna be good. Sweet, old oak, dried apricot, prunes, banana bread, sweet wheat, stewed peaches, white grape, and an incredible spicy richness. A candied nut character, too. The grain is there too – terrific – clean, foundational, and rich – and yet, there is a really bright, elegant corn character that comes out in some of crown royal’s batch base light corn whiskies. A lot more oak than you usually see in a Crown Royal. Just marvelous – bright fruity notes and spices on top, an incredible richness of dry fruit and oak in the middle, and a really nice grain foundation.

The palate doesn’t disappoint. Bright fruit, toffee, rich dried fruit, spice, and oak. You have the nose, but it’s textured terrifically with a good force of flavour and light threads of oak tannin. There is a good sense of umami. Big, long finish – dried stone fruit, sweet grain, tobacco, vanilla, and oak.

Often, wheat whiskies often leave the drinker desiring something more. This isn’t that - this has been the most excited I’ve been about a whisky in some time.

Also, it’s incredible sumptuous beyond the view of just a critic. It not only slows you down with all its complexity, but it leaves you with a craving for a bit more every time you finish a dram. I love it. One of my top Canadian whiskies, ever (in my top 12!).

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation). Complexity, balance, length, movement - it’s all there.

Value: Very High. This is a great whisky for the price. Even at $100, it’s hard to find a whisky of this quality at that price.


Review: Crown Royal Limited Edition Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Crown Royal Limited Edition.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

Price-wise, this Crown Royal sits in between their ultra-premium offerings and their budget offerings. As far as I know, this was originally introduced as a Canadian-only bottling, and I believe it still is.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: There’s definitely some bourbon touches here! There’s plums, green grapes, and some orange blossom – it’s light and slightly floral. At times the orange in it reminded me of orange creamsicles. In the background we have glimpses of rye, and there’s some dried apricot, along with a bit of charcoal and some lemon, and, interestingly, cucumber. Despite being light, it’s still quite rich.

Taste: The lightness of the nose carries through to the taste. Yet, it’s still quite sharp. There’s some green grape, apricot, marula fruit, and peach – with many hints reminding you of bourbon. There’s also some light smoke and a little trickle of spice. It is quite balanced and I enjoy how it is subtly rich amidst the light body – it would be easy to just keep drinking this. It is wonderful – but could benefit from a bit more complexity and depth . The sweetness, however, is just about right for this one. I never noticed this until a side by side tasting of other crown royals, but there are very big sherry aromas that come from the nose – it’s almost all I could smell in the side-by-side tasting! It had the light-apple like nature of fino sherry and the caramel, oxidized flavour of oloroso sherry.

Finish: It’s light and grainy, with a touch of green grape and nutmeg, and some oak with a bit of vanilla eventually. There’s a bit of spice and the finish overall is quite light and bright.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High. On the better side of whiskies you can get for $40.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

I always liked this whisky. It now carries a 10 year old age statement – crown royal has informed me that the whisky was always 10 years old they just hadn’t put an age statement on it. It certainly tastes the same.

The base for this is the batch corn base whisky at crown royal, a luscious yet light corn whisky with a nice clean flavour. I always like tastes of the batch corn, if I can ever find them. I’ve written about this more in the post on crown royal distillates here. I would love to see an old version of it.

The nose is clean, with light fruits – characteristic green grape, apple, vanilla, prunes, blanched almonds, and a dry spiciness. The balance of dried and fresh fruits, when combined with the spiciness – is incredible. It is a classical Canadian style, and one that I quite like – lightly sweet, spicy and complex with fruit top notes and a drying finish. This version, though, is much more elegant and refined than many other whiskies in that style.

The finish is quite nice – lightly fruity, full of spices, and light grain.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: high at $43


Review: Crown Royal Black Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Crown Royal Black 1.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This whisky was (relatively) recently introduced – a higher strength (45%), “robust, full-bodied” whisky. It certainly is, relative to the regular offerings such as Crown Royal Reserve – but it is still quite smooth and creamy (in line with the other Crown Royal products), and certainly does not have as big a body as I was expecting from the label.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Fruity, with light bourbon notes, chocolate, and some gooseberries. There’s a bit of grainy rye and it is a touch sour; the fruitiness is interesting – it’s quite light, with just touches of apple and starfruit, but more dominated by soft fruits (apricots, peaches) and even marula fruit (which I only know from the liquer Amarula). There’s also a bit of cedar which fits in nicely, with some brown sugar, bitter orange, rye bread, and a touch of stale rye with just a hint of bitterness. It also has distinct hints of the blackberry and black currant notes you get in some big red wines. This comes alongside some stale, slightly mineral notes, and even some hints of fried onion (which I had to verify I wasn’t getting from the kitchen – I wasn’t!). Very interesting.

Taste: It starts out with some juicy, fruity rye and ends delicately with corn, vanilla, oak, and some light fruitiness after a touch of rye. It’s actually quite tangy, which is interesting – and it is yet creamy and rich. There’s some cacao, cinnamon, ginger, and brown sugar in the mix, too. Quite enjoyable, but not outstanding.

Finish: Some cedar, ginger, vanilla, orange peel, and oak appear, with some subtler notes of nutmeg and cinnamon and a touch of smoke. The fruitiness is not as present as I would expect. However, the finish is quite light but still full.

The colour is actually not very black…I find it a touch off-putting. Jim Murray described this whisky as “russet” – he got that right. It interestingly treads through both bold and delicate, as you might expect from a Crown Royal.

Value: Average. Not bad for the price ($33)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Nutty and woody, with some light apple, dried apricot, white grape, dry oak and beautifulbourbon notes, and balsamic vinegar. The grain is quite rich and buttery overall. On the palate, the whisky comes more alive with some apple and a balance of sweetness, grain, and spice concluding with a dry, spicy finish. Can't escape that bourbon influence...

Value: Average. Not bad for the price ($33)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Light fruit – banana, pear, gooseberry – but also rich vanilla, custard, and fresh apple. The palate is easy, with lots of apple, vanilla notes, and a light finish still focused on vanilla, but with clove and light oak.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Not bad for the price.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

I must say, it’s always hard to get past the colour. I would like this more, in fact it might even be more natural to rate it higher, if it had more of a natural colour. A lot of whiskies add a fair bit of caramel, but nothing comes close to this one. Some folks call it “crown royal russet” which I thought was always fitting.

But, as for how it tastes. It really is a very well blended, complex whisky – black tea, dried fruit, prune, white pepper, grapefruit, vanilla, dried orange peel, creamed sugar and butter, and light oak. The palate is nicely balanced – sweet oak, caramel, herbal notes, floral notes, baking spice, and white pepper. The tannins creep gently into the finish.

I think for the profile, ABV, and character of the whisky it makes for a terrific casual or table whisky. Great bang for your buck.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High at $34.


Review: Crown Royal Noble Collection French Oak Cask Finished Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Thanks to Crown Royal for the image.

Thanks to Crown Royal for the image.

ABV
40%
Aging
Finished for six months in Virgin French Oak Casks
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

Here is another Crown Royal finish - another crown royal which has been finished in a French oak cask - but this is no cognac or wine cask, rather, it’s a virgin French oak cask which lends a very different character. The release is once again focused on the US market and isn’t available in Canada where it is produced.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2019 Noble Collectoin

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

French oak, indeed! Toasted and rich oak seems to dominate the nose, but, of course, as a crown royal we have lots of layers: a nice thread of floral and vegetal rye, light creaminess, dill, and confectionary notes are present also. A lot more oak than typical for a Crown – but it isn’t a rich bourbon oak, much more like the new oak finishes which are increasingly common in Canadian and Scotch Whisky.

The palate has a nice kick of spicy oak, and grain underneath. Tannins, vanilla, butterscotch, toasted fennel, green cardamom, and clove are all in the mix. The finish is sweet, herbal, and lightly tannic – lots of baking spices, white pepper, prune, and grapefruit pith.

Very different than the wine barrel finish, which, although French oak also, is a lot softer and fruitier. The wine finish is also a bit deeper and more complex, with a fairly big wine character. I know the palate is going towards oak, but this one seems to be at the loss of some of the complexity of the spirit. It’s similar to what Wiser’s has been doing with their Pike Creek 21 YO last year, or seasoned oak.

Quite enjoyable. I’m glad that the noble collection continues to provide a diverse set of releases.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Around $80 CAD isn’t great for this, but it’s still a decent whisky for the price when compared against the whisky category as a whole.