Apparently, Crown Royal Black was the most successful new spirit launch of 2010 in the US, and I recall seeing signage with Big Boi of Outkast as its spokesperson - so obviously, this was a huge initiative by Diageo. Pretty impressive given that this spirit hails from a Canadian distillery based in Gimli, Manitoba!
Crown Royal has never been a big go-to Canadian whisky for me, but it is certainly more than drinkable, though somewhat lacking in character. So it's no surprise that the Black expression has proven to be so popular, since it's CR to the power of 10. The packaging and advertising sell the product to bourbon lovers, and I can certainly see the appeal in that direction - but only if bourbon is not on hand!
The colour is a reddish dark amber with gold highlights - darker than most bourbons, so clearly caramel has been dumped in this one. The nose comes with a blast of vanilla underscored by rye grain. Combined with the maraschino cherry, it's a little like nosing a Black Forest cake. Some dark fruits and oak in the background as well as some citrus (orange and lemon). Water tames the sweetness and brings out some rye. Not complex but certainly robust.
There are more cherries in the mouth, with some spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. So we are still with that vanilla / oak / sweet cherry profile. Surprisingly, it has a rather thin mouthfeel for such a full-bodied whisky. Water gives it a creamier mouthfeel and tames the sweetness - which for me, is welcome.
The finish is pretty heavy on the rye, with the citrus becoming grapefruit pith - so a little sour. Also some pine needles just on the death, which is interesting. But I find this to be a somewhat quixotic whisky - is this Canadian whisky trying to be bourbon? Well, kind of, though it still retains some characteristic Canadian rye notes and a distinctive smoothness. But the lightness that I enjoy about Canadian whisky is missing. The Black is rather a blunt instrument, and though it tastes as if it would be a good mixer with Coke, it, like the other Crown Royal expressions, will never be a go-to Canadian for me.