Crown Royal

Review: Crown Royal Noble Collection Blender's Mash 13 Years Old by Jason Hambrey

Thanks to Crown Royal for the image. Note that this is the wine barrel finish - the bottle is the same as the blender’s mash.

Thanks to Crown Royal for the image. Note that this is the wine barrel finish - the bottle is the same as the blender’s mash.

ABV
45%
Aging
13 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
64% Corn, 31.5% Rye, 4.5% Malted Barley
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This whisky highlights the column-distilled, rye-heavy mashbill that is matured in new oak which Crown Royal makes - the process is very much the same as that used to make straight bourbons, with a mashbill, a column still, and new white oak casks. This is an older version of the Blender’s Mash (“Bourbon Mash”) released earlier this year by Crown Royal.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Noble Collection 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Clean and fruity – with rich rye, corn, and oak notes. Much cleaner, richer, and tightly held together, and more elegant, than the regular blender’s/bourbon mash. The nose is surprisingly elegant – not many bourbon style whiskies are so. It also is closer to a bourbon in taste profile than the blender’s mash.

Back to the nose…brown cardamom, clove, rich oak, dried chilli, cacao, corn husks, maple sugar, and ketchup chips! The palate has rich corn and wood, and has a sharp set of spice. Also there we have rich oak, prunes, dried apricots, clove, toffee, creamy oak, and fall marshes. Caramel and toffee really grows. As does oak and char.

The finish has a bit of tobacco and is drying. Lots of dried fruit, oak, and baking spices, too. Brilliant whisky.

Ever so slightly tannic, but I quite like it. I like it when whiskies play close to the line of too much bitterness and tannin for balance.

Easily on my favorite of the year list. Last year’s release was also exceptionally good (as was the year’s before) – great! If anyone thinks Crown can only blend whisky of different mashbills, they are missing this. But they are continuing to get a bit better…one of my favourite Crown Royals ever.

I’ve had this mashbill at cask strength – it is absolutely awesome. If they released a cask strength version at this age I’d be over the moon. If I’m on a wish list, I’d also take a few vattings of their favorite barrels of coffee rye at cask strength too!

Score: 92/100

Value: 91/100 (based on $82)


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

ABV
45%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
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).


Review: Crown Royal XO Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
Finished in cognac casks
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This whisky was introduced in what seems to be a replacement for the cognac finished Cask no. 16. It is created from over 50 whiskies which are blended together and finished in cognac casks. So, why 50 unique whiskies? That’s a lot of work for a single regular product, isn’t it? This is basically because there’s so much variation of production at the Crown Royal plant in Gimli, Manitoba – there are a lot of different whiskies produced between 5 different recipes, 3 types of wood (newly charred, ex-bourbon barrels, and refill/reused barrels), alongside a wide range of aging length. The name, “XO” (extra old) , is a tribute to the cognac classification for their spirits, indicating the highest grade of cognac in terms of age.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L40932N001315251SL143

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: A hefty bit of rye comes through the nose, interestingly enough because that wasn’t my first impression with Cask no. 16, which I assumed this would emulate. Not so, this is a bit darker and, initially, I thought, less fruity, but after successive tastings I am not sure. There’s a good bit of maple syrup – it’s quite prominent –  it keeps reminding me of an overly crisp waffle soaked in maple syrup especially with some of the grains coming through. Vanilla comes through, and a bit of orange – overall it’s a bit of a dense nose, but it does lighten up as it sits. There are interesting spicy notes – green cardamom (quite prominent), cinnamon, ginger, and toasted black pepper – indicative of the French Oak which the cognac casks were made from. There’s also some nice light grape notes which tend to go quite well with Crown Royal.

Taste: After the pretty dense and dark nose I was surprised to find a light-feeling and delicate whisky enter my mouth. Starts off with some rye emphasis before some light fruit and vanilla come through with some bourbon notes before the end turns to oak and spice. A very interesting movement in this whisky is that it seems to start off quite light before upping both in flavour and feel until the end which feels quite dense and a bit dry. Towards the end there’s a bit of an oxidized sherry-type flavour too. Very nice, I must say – the main knack is that it is just a bit too dry, I think, without something to counteract it.

Finish: Mainly spices – ginger and green cardamom, with some cinnamon mixed in too. There’s a bit of oak in the background and a light orange citrusy background as well, and a bit of nuttiness. Nicely done. It’s slightly dry, but not too dry, and I like finishes that are a bit on the dry side.

I quite enjoy this, and I like this a fair bit more than the Cask no. 16 bottlings that I’ve tried. It’s perhaps most surprising to me how rye-forward the profile is – I expected a bit more of a hybrid with this one. But the fruit, spiciness, and complexity do good work in this one.

Score: 88/100

Value: Average to high. Quite decent for $75. This is a particularly good batch, which puts it on the upper end of average - at the threshold of high.


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L42812N00114 4451SL143

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Grain and spice heavy, candied orange peel, cola, lime, rich oak, and apple. On the palate, caramel, vanilla, macadamia, and white chocolate. Spice and tannins are also at play, with some excellent complex fruit on the finish.

While still very nice, it doesn't have the depth of the previous bottle I own (above), which shows more spice, complexity, and particularly a better integration of rancio and a bit more of a dried fruit character rather than candied fruit.

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

Value: Average. Decent for $75.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Apple, oak, brown sugar, nuts, green grape, fennel, and a variety of dried fruit come together on a slightly tangy and spicy whisky balanced with pleasant brown sugar and sweet potato in the mix.

Still good, but not what it was when it first came out and the oak, finish, and spices shone through quite uniquely.

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

Value: Average. Decent for $75.


Review: Crown Royal Reserve Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This whisky is bottled from select barrels from the Diageo plant in Gimli, Manitoba, where all Crown Royal products are produced. Less than 1% of supply goes into this blend – the barrels are hand-picked by Crown Royal master blender Andrew MacKay, and then blended together. The word “reserve” is often overused in wine and whisky, and may denote simply the standard bottling or spirit, which is too bad. In the case of this whisky, it is actually a reserve, and in my opinion one of the best of the Crown Royal range.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 0713A51231

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Creamy, rich, and full. green melon, honey, vanilla, with many a touch of bourbon. There’s caramel, a touch of grassy and dusty rye, stewed apricots, loads of plum, fresh cherry – it’s quite beautiful. It’s slightly sour the same way that some bourbons are, with the slightly tart stewed fruit. There’s some nice maple and oakiness, as well. My only qualm is at times a bit of a slightly bitter corn whiff which comes from time to time. Wonderfully fresh, though.

Taste: Thick, sweet entry, with lots of caramel and warming rye spice held in check by the richness and sweetness of the surrounding whisky. There’s a distinct touch of dried corn at the end and sweet dried apricots, and it finishes in a flourish of developing spices and heat, and it’s a broad range of them – ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cacao…with some sweet vanilla lingering in the background. Beautiful balance. It’s deep, full, and with great feeling in the mouth.

Finish: Mouth-coating and flavourful. There’s lots of spice as above, which fades to wood as the mouth dries. There’s some grassy rye slightly in the background with, of course, some vanilla and fruit. It remains coating the mouth with a slight bite of spice, clove in particular, before opening up to reveal some slight maltiness and residual corn which lasts for quite a long time.

Distinctly crown royal – it’s the basic blend, done better, and it is wonderful. Complex, very sip-worthy, full, and elegant – this is a wonderful gift with the Presentation, approachability, and complexity. this makes me want to come back for more, more, and more… certainly a Canadian which is pretty wonderful to sip.

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

Value: Average. A decent buy for the price ($60).


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 0713A51231

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Apple, pear, bourbon, nuttiness, some oak and orange peel with some nice earthiness balanced with some vanilla and the fruit. On the palate, a rich toffee undercurrent and notes of nuts, pears, apples, oak, and spice - cinnamon, nutmeg, and a touch of allspice - all doing their thing pretty well. Very enjoyable.

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

Value: Average. A decent buy for the price ($60).


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Elegant and spicy floral characteristics sit overtop a clean base. All sorts of baking spices combining with all sorts of fruit – apple, peach, pear, white grape – with a lightly buttery base. Elegant, clean, and complex. A pleasant set of drying spices which build up towards the nice finish.

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

Value: Average. A decent buy for the price ($60).


Review: Crown Royal Black Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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: Crown Royal Fine Deluxe Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This is Canada’s number 1 selling whisky – and it does have a story. Sam Bronfman, who originally oversaw the production of the whisky, waited 25 years to export to his largest export market (the US), to ensure he would have enough mature stock to keep up with demand. This blend was originally crafted to mark the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939. It was supposed to be a whisky fit for royalty, with the original stock, apparently, including whiskies well over twenty years old.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: It’s quite clean, with a slight bourbon aroma – some of that stewed fruit and caramelized oak , vanilla, and then a whisp of sour corn. The light oaky vanilla is very nice, though. It also smells quite grainy, and is light (at times) to the point that I find myself sniffing rather than just letting the aromas come. The stewed fruits seem to come out a bit more, and there are aromas of prunes as well. There’s a fair bit of sourness and almost a slight bitterness in the nose which I find detracts from it, however.

Taste: A light vanilla entry buffeted by some thick corn before the vanilla comes through and a touch of drying ginger comes on at the end. It’s quite light – not hard in the spice or the rye department, but certainly has lots of fruits in line with the nose – the prunes and light flavour of dried apricots. Vanilla in this one plays center stage, and it’s light and reasonably clean. There is a tiny bit of sourness with a citrus character like slightly watered down orange. There are certainly many pleasant bourbon notes as well.

Finish: There’s a touch of dry spice on the finish with an almost salty character, and very light oak spice with a touch of acidity and a bit of stewed fruit. It’s quite light, and I even get a tiny wisp of smokiness from the char in the wood. There isn’t much that is negative, but you have to search for flavour and the finish is a bit dull and short. However, it does coat the mouth nicely and cause your mouth to water, which is always great.

It’s very common as a mixer, and it’s no surprise as to why – it is light, has a simple and versatile flavour profile, and won’t make cocktails run out of balance if the proportions aren’t quite right. Enjoyable to sip, but not one I’d be excited or look forward to getting into. This is a quintessential Canadian whisky, with a distinctive character with the corn creaminess and flashes of rye that is present throughout the entire range. The nose would be quite a bit better if it had a bit less sour and dull nature, but I am often pleasantly surprised at the quality of these “simple” mixers…quite enjoyable!

Value: Average. Ok for the price, which is pretty cheap ($25)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Subdued on the nose, but with some spice - ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, musty oak, dried apricot, milk chocolate coated nuts, and very light apple. The nose takes time to come out, but then it is quite vibrant. Sweet and tame on the palate, with some vanilla and almonds which fade into a creamy yet tannic finish with prunes, dried berries, and vanilla powder.

Value: Average. Ok for the price, which is pretty cheap ($25)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Fruity and buttery, with pear, guava, brown sugar, butterscotch, vanilla, and apple. The palate shows depth and a nice integration of vegetal, floral, spicy, and dried fruit notes. That’s some blending! Light spices on the finish. Pleasant bourbon nuances throughout.

Value: Average. Ok for the price, which is pretty cheap ($25)


Review: Gordon's London Dry Gin by Jason Hambrey

Gordon's Dry Gin.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Producer Diageo

In 1830, Aeneas Coffey designed and thereafter patented his Coffey still - the first widely used continuous still. The consequences of this still were widespread, and gin saw the effects - the impurities in gin did not need to be covered up with sugar in the prominent Old Tom style of the time. Instead, a new gin was able to emerge, driven by the clean spirit of the Coffey Still - an unsweetened ("dry") and "strong" version of gin started to take hold - London Dry Gin. The wealthy classes of England gravitated to this gin, and the Victorian emphasis on health further promoted it. Old Tom faded, London Dry emerged - and dominated, for hundreds of years. One of the earliest big gin distilleries emerged in the midst of this popular wave of London Dry - a distillery founded by Alexander Gordon in 1769 in London. It is now the world's best selling London Dry Gin, and is even produced exclusively for the North American market in Canada - presumably at the Crown Royal distillery in Gimli, based on the bottling code.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: L72552P00119:24 51SL143
  • Bottling Date: ~2018

Classic gin: clean, with juniper, lemon peel, white pepper – it is focused around juniper, which I like. Coriander plays a light background, but, overall, everything is held in balance. A touch of spicy, earthy bark too. The palate is clean, with lots of fresh, spicy coriander and a light juniper backbone. The spiciness is nice. Quick, light finish.


Review: Crown Royal Bourbon (Blender's) Mash Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Crown Royal Bourbon Mash 2.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
Charred Virgin oak and Ex-Bourbon
Recipe
64% Corn, 31.5% Rye, 4.5% Malted Barley
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This whisky is produced very much like a bourbon – distilled in a column still from a mashbill of 64% corn, 31.5% rye, and 4.5% malted barley. It is then dumped into a mix of new and once-used barrels – this is one of the 3 flavoring spirits used in Crown Royal blends (two others that can be readily seen are the coffey rye in Crown Royal Single Barrel / Blender’s Select and Northern Harvest Rye) which are mixed with 2 base spirits to form Crown Royal’s blended whiskies. So the portion of the whisky dumped into new fill barrels is made in a process just like a straight bourbon, but it isn’t a bourbon since it’s made in Canada (bourbon is a protected product of the United States) and includes some ex-bourbon casks (which bourbon cannot include). That being said, it tastes much like a fruity, high rye bourbon. In the US, the label was initially approved but was since recalled and is being re branded as Crown Royal blender’s mash in the US.

I really like seeing the base spirits of the various distilleries in Canada – to hear more about Crown Royal’s process, you can read more here.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L3… 117 06:53

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is full of dried fruit – dried peaches, dried apricot, confectioner’s sugar, prunes – and then we have white grape, a sharp fruity spiciness remniscent of northern harvest rye, corn husks, and very pleasant rising bread aromas. Buttery. Just a touch of honeysuckle intense dried florals too – both rose and lilac. It’s no wonder this is a flavoring whiskey!

The palate has a rich woody sweetness with the fatness of corn, alongside dried apricot, dried peaches, dried strawberries, dried rose, clove, cashews, and brown sugar. I love the dried rose!! The finish is woody, slightly spicy, and drying with more mixed dried fruits. Dry glass is very sweet, with loads of vanilla, spiced maple syrup, and fall marshes.

As typical with most whiskies that come from Crown, quite creamy. This would be way better at a higher ABV – this would be a bomb at 50% or 60%.

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

Value: High. Pretty good whisky for $35!


On the Base Whiskies of the Remarkable Crown Royal Distillery by Jason Hambrey

An aerial image of the Crown Royal distillery in Gimli, Manitoba.  Copyright Jeremy Dueck, Courtesy of Crown Royal.

An aerial image of the Crown Royal distillery in Gimli, Manitoba.

Copyright Jeremy Dueck, Courtesy of Crown Royal.

Many believe that Crown Royal is in fact a bourbon due to the luscious creamy and vanilla notes contained at the heart of many of their products. It is not - it is made in Gimli, on the shores of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba.

Crown Royal is a remarkable distillery. They make 5 different types of distillates which filter into an assortment of brands once aged. It’s well worth talking about. These 5 spirits go into a variety of different woods (new oak, once-used, re-used, cognac, etc.) and are taken out of the barrel at a variety of different ages – which is why Crown always boasts of their blends of 50 or so whiskies – all are, in fact different, due to different barreling and aging regimens. It is perhaps a bit overstated, but nonetheless remarkable.

Gimli was founded in the 1960s when Seagram’s Valleyfield distillery couldn’t produce enough for the demand of Seagram’s VO and Crown Royal, so the Gimli distillery was built. Originally, it was to focus on VO but Crown outgrew VO and its efforts shifted there. Ok, let's get to the spirit!

Base whiskies

Here, the emphasis is on creating a great base upon which to blend upon. These whiskies allow the characteristics of highly flavored whiskies to be highlighted.

  1. Continous Corn-Based Whisky: This whisky is corn-based (100% Corn), and is all about a light base whisky that is easy to produce, distilled to high proof – but it is nothing like vodka. It is cooked in a continous process before spending about 60 hours fermenting, and is distilled in a continuous beer still before being sent to another set of continuous column stills for distillation to higher proof and to produce a very light, clean base whisky. This is quite an industrial process – a continual process of transforming grain into whisky, with corn coming in and distillate coming out in a continuous process. It is dumped into re-used barrels ,which pick up the Crown Royal house style from previous whisky stored in the barrels. Despite being distilled to a very high poof, this tastes nothing like vodka. At about 7 years old, this whisky has a heart of light toffee, light corn, and white pepper with a light spicy finish. If you have a whisky like Canadian 83, you get a sense of what this style is like - but even this is a blend with other whiskies at the centre - the base whiskies aren’t showcased. If you want to taste it, the only way is in a Crown Royal masterclass if they let you taste the components...
  2. Batch Base Corn Whisky: This whisky is different from the above in the sense that it is produced in batches rather than as a continuous process, as the name implies. It is high corn –  now 100% (it used to be 97% corn, 3% malted barley) – again, cooked but this time in batches and fermented similarly for about 60 hours. It is then distilled in the continuous beer still, and then distilled in a copper kettle and column still – something like a pot still with a continuous still set on top. Like typical pot still distillation, the heads and tails are discarded and only the heart is collected. The whisky goes into re-used barrels. This whisky is richer than the continuous corn base whisky – but still light, with a light nuttiness, corn, and yet still being quite sharp and very creamy. I quite enjoy it. Crown Royal Limited Edition has a fair amount of this whisky in there, but, again, it’s a blend where the base doesn’t dominate, though it is the main support of the whisky. The true example of this is Orphan Barrel Entrapment is fully based on this whisky, but at 25 years old – but the sample I had which was about 10 years old I liked more than the Orphan Barrel, so it’s not necessarily indicative.

Flavouring Whiskies

Here, the emphasis is all about flavour, and more care is taken at each step to generate flavor.

  1. Corn-Based Whisky (i.e. a bourbon-style mash): Here, the emphasis is on high flavour. This whisky is made the same was as a very high-rye bourbon. It is cooked as in batches as a mashbill of 64% corn, 31.5% rye, and 4.5% malted barley and fermented for around 75 hours – longer than the base whiskies – to enable the generation of additional fruity notes. Like a bourbon, it is only distilled in the column beer still before going directly into new charred barrels (almost exclusively, though some go into first fill ex-bourbon barrels). It tastes, unsurprisingly, like a bourbon – full of terrific dried fruit notes, rich rye spice (clove, nutmeg, light star anise), and a rich nuttiness. The closest analogy is Four Roses Single Barrel, but this has a lot more light fruit, is fruitier, and not quite as richly oaky. It is brilliant at cask strength, and I hope we see it as such at some point. They are releasing this whisky as Crown Royal Bourbon Mash soon (it will be re-named after a year since the US TTB decided against the name after it was approved). Sadly, it'll only be at 40%. After Northern Harvest, I was hoping for 45%. This isn’t clearly found anywhere, yet, until the new whisky and we can cross our fingers for a limited release – but it is showcased throughout the blends.
  2. Rye Flavouring Whisky: This whisky is a 95% rye and 5% barley whisky which, like the other flavouring whiskies, is cooked in batches, distilled about 75 hours to develop extra flavours, and distilled in a beer still. It then goes to be distilled again in a column still, before being put into new oak (mostly, but a small bit goes into first fill ex-bourbon). It tastes of incredible spice, dried fruit and oak – this can be seen in the heart of Northern Harvest rye, which is mostly this whisky. It has brilliant spicy and fruit notes and dominates at whisky competitions. Again, it tastes brilliant at cask strength – I hope we get some offerings at some point. But it’s probably a bit too intense for most (but not me!), so it may need to be tamed with some base whisky.
  3. Coffey Rye: The most renowned of Crown Royal's whiskies, this whisky starts as the corn-based whisky (bourbon mash), but after the beer still distillation it is distilled in Canada’s only Coffey Still. This is only made once a year, over a 5 week period, because so much tweaking has to be done to get this distillate just right. It is then filled into new charred oak barrels. This is seen in Crown Royal Hand Selected Single Barrel or Blender’s Select. Again, remarkable at cask strength.

It’s no wonder Gimli can output so many blends!

Review: Crown Royal Noble Collection Wine Barrel Finished Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Thanks to Crown Royal for the image.

Thanks to Crown Royal for the image.

ABV
40.5%
Aging
Finished for 6 months in Californian Cabernet Sauvignon Cask
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This whisky is a crown royal finished in cabernet sauvignon casks - the second in their "Noble Collection" after last year's Cornerstone. This whisky is finished in freshly emptied, medium toast Cabernet Sauvignon casks from the Paso Robles region of California for 6 months.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: Lot 0100-43-B1245

  • Bottling Date: 2016

I’m getting interesting notes on the nose. Canadian whisky is becoming really interesting – expanding, yet still within its own style. Hats off to the team at Crown Royal.

New oak, superposed on rich grain (bourbony notes and some rye) with lots of fruit – prunes, dried peaches, dried apricots, along with typical wine notes of cassis, black currant, and then we have clove, green cardamom (French oak, perhaps?), mixed baking spices, cola, licorice, and pine. Buttery and creamy, with all of that oak influence. It really evolves, with rye notes emerging more with time. And, underneath, beet root! Some blending magic at work.

The palate is full of new oak and toffee, yet those cassis and blackberry notes continue. Lightly herbal, with mint, tarragon, arugula, and dried corn husks. Also, lots of custard (quite clearly so). I don’t know if I’ve ever had a whisky display custard so prominently. The finish continues with custard and spices – nutmeg, clove, and green cardamom. And a splash of rye, coming out more clearly as you drink it. Very complex, as a whole.

Wiser’s isn’t the only one continuing to push Canadian whisky forward. I like this more than last year’s release. The thing I like the most about this is where the rye sits – underneath it all – and I didn’t notice it at first, but it starts to emerge as a backbone of the whole blend. I do like rye a bit more forward, but it is still impressive to be able to merge the fruity and creamy style with the herbal rye. Also, it’s not overtly winey - which I like – it is subtle and very well integrated.

Since tasting notes can be confusing to interpret, here is how I would describe this whisky relative to others – it is somewhat of a cross between the fruity style of a cognac finished crown royal (think XO or Cask No. 16), with the buttery, creamy style of the softer crown royals, and the softer new-oak influenced wiser’s whiskies like One Fifty, Union 52, or Red Letter (but not as spicy as Red Letter). It has similar notes to last year’s Cornerstone blend, in terms of the rye notes – but it is very different in focus. Some marvelous blending at work here.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). An exceptional work of blending - balanced, broad, complex, deep…

Value: Very high. I think this is a stunning whisky, and 70$ for that is a bargain.