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Crown Royal Cornerstone Blend

A hybrid blend

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@JasonHambreyReview by @JasonHambrey

1st Jul 2016

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  • Nose
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  • Taste
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  • Finish
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  • Balance
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  • Overall
    91

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

For Canada Day, I thought I'd post a review of a recently released Canadian whisky. This is the first in a series of limited annual releases in the “Noble Collection”. It is a blend of three whiskies, describes as "a spicy Canadian rye", "a creamy whisky from our unique Coffey still" and a "soft, sweet Canadian Whisky matured in charred American white oak".

Gimli Distillery, where Crown Royal is produced, distills 5 streams of distillate: a corn whisky in a column still, a corn whisky in a column and kettle, a corn-based bourbon style whisky, a strong rye whisky in a column still, and a high rye whisky in a Coffey still. The bourbon-style whisky is shown in Hand Selected Single Barrel, and Northern Harvest Rye - at a guess - is either a blend of the column rye or a blend of the column and coffey rye whiskies. My guess is it's mostly the column rye, because they love to market about their coffey still and there is no mention of it on NHR. Also, the coffey rye is often describes as creamy, and I don't find that particularly with NHR. Why distillers never want to talk about their product beats me; when I inquired more about Northern Harvest this is all I got: "This offering combines the richness of Northern harvest rye grains with the unmistakable smoothness of Crown Royal to create a perfectly balanced whisky." Well thanks.

So this blends spicy Canadian Rye (think Northern Harvest Rye) with creamy Coffey still whisky and a bourbon-like whisky (Hand Selected Single Barrel). You can distinguish both the elements in the single barrel and the northern harvest on this.

White grape and cherry on the nose- typical crown royal! Rich grain, with quite a bit of vegetal rye hanging in behind the corn. Vanilla, arugula, corn bread, caramelized dried apricot, a touch of mint, prunes, and spice – reminding me of morrocan stews or roasts where there is cinnamon, raisins, prunes and dried apricots in the sauce. And creamy. Terrific nose. Though it’s very complex, I’m not sure it quite comes together – the two extremes between the spicy, dry rye and the luscious corn/bourbon-style whisky aren’t quite brought into balance by the coffey still whisky.

The palate is soft, with lots of dried corn and cherries and peaches while having a dry, spicy, and vegetal underside from the rye. It showcases lots of cherry and dried apricot, and typical rye arugula. Finishes in a drying fashion with oak, corn husks, vanilla, prunes, cinnamon, ginger, and clove. The dryness fades and it turns creamy and sweet. Not quite as interesting to me as Northern Harvest, or as moreish and balanced as the single barrel – but very nice. It actually seems like a hybrid of Northern Harvest Rye and the Single Barrel. A lot of these Crown Royal products reminds me quite a lot of Four Roses bourbon products – I imagine lovers of that would appreciate this.

Score: 91/100

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26 comments

@talexander
talexander commented

Would love to try this....maybe one day...

3 years ago 0

@newreverie
newreverie commented

Sipping on my freshly opened bottle. A Canadian that drinks like a bourbon is very apt. It does indeed remind me of a high rye four roses, with their fruity, bold, and spicy yeast.

Given the low 80 proof I wish it was much smoother. I have a 110+ proof four roses with similar flavor that drinks easier. Here's hoping it calms down with some air time.

3 years ago 0

@Nelom
Nelom commented

Hmm... This have been on my wishlist ever since Distiller got the exclusive. And then once it showed up on the LCBO website for $70 I've been on the fence... but this review intrigues me. I think I'll make the jump once it's in stock around here, which should be soon. Thanks for the write-up.

3 years ago 0

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

@talexander - I can bring some if we taste together anytime soon...

@newreverie - I agree. It could be smoothed over in a few places, yes. Too bad about the low proof - the body, however, is quite decent for 80 proof.

3 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

I think I'm running out of the phrase " I wounder what this would be like at cask strength"

I suppose the producers expect most of their distillate will go into tumblers of ice and long drinks and that most consumers won't want to pay the higher cost of the higher ABV in such a case.

When you do your value calculations, comparing something so underpowered to a Booker's for the same price, how does it rate?

3 years ago 0

@newreverie
newreverie commented

@Nozinan I'd think at full proof this would be undrinkable. But I had a second glass over ice and it is very pleasant. Bookers is a sub $50 bottle for me and I can't think of a reason why I'd prefer this over Bookers.

3 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@newreverie I think you made my point with respect to the Booker's.

But you bring up another good point. Just because something is CS doesn't automatically make it good. I had that experience with Arran 12 CS a few months ago, and there was also a significant difference between the Ileach CS and the Bowmore Tempest at the Summit. Similarly Writer's Tears CS was not as good as Redbreast 12 CS.

Interestingly, the better examples in each instance carried age statements.

So I guess in my mind you need two things for a good sipping whisky:

good and adequate maturation Concentration of flavour (or maybe better put - less dilution)

3 years ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

Dilution vs CS,

@newreverie, @Nozinan, you make good points.

Recently I posted a list of "21 Canadian Whiskies for the 21st Century". Spots #1, #2, and #3 are occupied by expressions with 40% abv, and 4 of the top 5 are bottled at this lower proof. In the top 10 there are 5 offerings above 40%; three at 45%, one at 51.5% and one at 61.6%.

A higher proof does not necessarily make for a better whisky, but I'd welcome the opportunity to verify or disprove this statement through a comparative tasting.

connosr.com/lists/394267/…

3 years ago 0

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

@Nozinan - Booker's at 40% isn't fabulous, though - it is much better at CS. I think I'd take this over a 40% Bookers, but I'd take Booker's at CS over this - this, I think, would be pretty spicy

3 years ago 0

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

I agree @paddockjudge - some of my favorite whiskies have also been 40%. That said, I don't think I'd ever complain about a jump to 46% or 48%, though I don't always prefer (I often don't) CS to 48%, my generally preferred drinking strength

3 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@JasonHambrey, I can imagine some whiskies might be too overwhelming at CS, but I think it would be best if producers let us decide how much water is right for us, rather than diluting to the lowest common denominator.

Some of us just can't pick up the flavour in a 40% whisky as well (if it's been heavily diluted as opposed to aged down, like the AP 25 and 30).

3 years ago 0

@Nelom
Nelom commented

Just had some of this tonight, and it's fine. Nothing spectacular. Bourbon-y for sure. I'm happy to have this limited release in my cabinet, but unlike Last Barrels it's not something I'll get a second bottle of.

3 years ago 0

@Nelom
Nelom commented

So, two months later and I'm pretty much here to take back my previous comment. Over the past several weeks I've grown to like this quite a bit. There's something about its split personality that has grown on me a lot. I'll for sure get a second bottle before they're all gone.

3 years ago 0

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

The above discussion makes me think a Jim Beam Small Batch tasting would be interesting where they were all diluted down to 40% and the group blindly ranked them all, after which time the whiskies were tasted at full strength and were blindly ranked. It'd be interesting to see how the rankings compared.

3 years ago 0

@talexander
talexander commented

I did finally taste this - sorry, but I wasn't super-impressed - good, not great.

3 years ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

@talexander, I think I like this one more than you do. I still hold the CR Monarch a few notches higher.

3 years ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

@JasonHambrey, I've done the Small Batch at 40% exercise, including the fifth member, KC1B.

3 years ago 0

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

And what were the results?

3 years ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

Baker's followed by Basil.

3 years ago 0

@newreverie
newreverie commented

I've probably had the greatest sampling of Beam products out of anyone on this site. The most direct comparison would be to Basil Hayden. Basil Hayden is also bottled at 40% which is low for a bourbon but lends itself well to the rye forward nature and good mixing quality.

I'd say Basil Hayden is superior to cornerstone on all fronts. It is smoother, more complex, and cheaper.

3 years ago 0

@Nelom
Nelom commented

So, this was just picked by Whisky Advocate as the Canadian Whisky of the Year for 2016, and in the write-up there's an interesting piece of trivia that I was not aware of:

"A few years ago, when they were making a batch of Crown Royal Deluxe, workers at the Gimli distillery accidentally blended in an extra tanker car of flavoring whisky. Rather than leave an expensive railcar out of service, they transferred this whisky back into barrels to await future needs. In the barrel, new crisp oaky notes, rye spices, soaring florals, and hints of chocolate developed, and so Cornerstone Blend was born."

(I made an identical comment on another Cornerstone review, but thought it worthwhile to post here too)

2 years ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

Love this one, almost as much as Monarch. I missed the boat and would be willing to trade for this one. Anyone up for a trade?

2 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

If I had it....I would GIVE it to you, forget a trade...

2 years ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

@Nozinan, I'd gladly accept it, knowing that I would enjoy it much more than you.

2 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

by that logic, I should be handing over most of my whisky to you...

2 years ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

@Nozinan, Only the N. American varieties and Macallan Cask Strength ;)

2 years ago 0

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