Last year, Crown Royal launched it's new Noble Collection of limited edition premium whiskies with the Cornerstone Blend. Although I thought it was only pretty much average, I know a lot of people who loved it, and it won Whisky Advocate's award for Canadian Whisky of the Year. This year's Noble Collection offering, Wine Barrel Finished, is the standard Crown Royal finished in cabernet sauvignon from Paso Robles, California. The packaging is pretty nice, with a purple velvety hard case, within which is the usual velvet bag and a slightly taller (and more elegant) bottle shape.
The colour is a medium amber. On the nose you detect the standard CR notes of vanilla, toffee and gentle rye spice, but on top is an extra layer of dates, wine gums, wood smoke and black pepper. It's a real fruit basked with berries as well as both dried and stone fruits. Water provides a few herbal notes. For me, the grape slightly overpowers the straight-up whisky notes, but only just - it's still what you hope for in a wine finishing.
Very rich and smooth on the palate, with a nice interplay between the tannins and the oak. The rye spice still comes through, with pepper, balsamic and the usual butterscotch and vanilla. Also paprika and again, lots of dark and dried fruits. There is a sweet meringue element in the background as well. Water brings out some mint and anise. Very nice, elegant and easy to drink (maybe a little too easy?)
The medium-length finish reflects the cab sauv, with oak, dates and a bit of spice. I'm usually not crazy about wine finished whiskies, but this one works, improving upon the lacklustre standard CR. While I think it could use a bit more bite and complexity, it is a very luxurious, smooth, richly flavoured whisky.