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Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

A budget surprise

0 1693

@JasonHambreyReview by @JasonHambrey

21st Sep 2015

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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
    93

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

A combination of the changing market of consumers and the rye craze has brought out some new interesting Canadian whiskies. Crown Royal has released 2 new whiskies, one being its Northern Harvest Rye and another its Hand Selected Single Barrel - the first being a 90% rye whisky and the second equivalent to a very high rye mashbill bourbon in terms of production and aging style. These whiskies are both components of whiskies which are blended together to form all crown royal products - in the classic Canadian style, most Crown Royal products are a blend of base whiskies (typically corn) which provide a good body and they are spiced with powerful whiskies (often rye) to add flavour and craft a blend, much like how Scottish distillers use grain whisky as a base and single malts as the flavoring to their blended whiskies. Now, what we are seeing more and more in Canada, is that more of the more powerful flavouring whiskies are being released as bottlings, as Crown Royal has done here - this is similar, I think, to the single malt craze which emerged and grew outward from the blended scotch industry.

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 these whiskies were crafted), and another of which is a bourbon style whisky (the hand selected single barrel). Both of these whiskies are only available in the US. Sadly, I picked up a Hand Selected Single Barrel on a recent trip to the US but it got crushed in transit as I was bringing it back, and now all my clothes smell like butterscotch and cherries! Sad turn of events, that.

Moving along, here are my notes on Northern Harvest Rye, which, notably, comes in at 45%:

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 spices too - cumin, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Yet, this is not a heavy winter rye! But rather a light spring one. Water brings out the nose even more, too, and more of a floral nature comes in. 92%

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 like 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) in its balance between heavy grain and bright fruit. The mouthfeel is medium - not super thick, but not watery. Very well done. 90%

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 decent. 90%

Intrigue: 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 in my top 2-3 budget whiskies, sitting alongside the likes of Forty Creek Copper Pot, lot no. 40, and pike creek - 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. 95%

Weighting the nose 25%, the taste 35%, the finish 15%, and intrigue 25%, the overall score is 93. I am surprised how much I liked this.

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16 comments

@Victor
Victor commented

That's great that Crown Royal is selling their 90% rye whisky. That is one more big distiller true-rye coming out of Canada.

What's the other 10%, malted barley? If so, are they combining grains in the mash like the US distillers do, or are they blending in 10% of some separately produced whisky? I don't see the point of a small non-rye faction, unless it is for the enzymes of malted barley.

5 years ago 0

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

@victor I agree. As far as I know, from reading between the lines, the whisky is composed of one of their recipes - a coffey still rye whisky which is a bit softer than their more powerful rye flavouring whisky. I imagine that the 10% is for flavouring more than anything - I haven't heard specifically of Crown Royal using enzymes to use unmalted grain, but they may well do so as many other Canadian distillers do.

I'll send them an e-mail and see how I do for a response...

5 years ago 0

@Benancio
Benancio commented

@JasonHambrey it's great news to see Crown Royal putting out a Rye and Single Barrel, bravo to CR. let's hope other distillery up north keep up the high standard set by CR. I bought a bottle of the CR Single Barrel. The CRSB is a fine bourbon, I really enjoy it.

I'm a huge American Rye fan. I did try the CR Rye, while I would not rate it a 93 point Rye, it's a very good effort by CR. I don't know if it's the type of Rye grain used or some other process, it's not what I'm use to in a Rye. All that matters is that you enjoy it.

Again I do really enjoy the CRSB. It's a shame your bottle broke. I hope you're able to get a replacement bottle soon. If there any legal way to send you a sample I would.

I enjoy your review so I will give the CR Rye another try. Cheers,

5 years ago 0

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

@victor they wouldn't release the other 10% to me, so it is a mystery.

@benancio - the flavour difference is largely in part to wood, where American ryes are typically matured in new charred oak and Canadian ryes are typically bourbon or refill barrels; this can make a significant impact. In this case, the rye certainly doesn't taste like new wood, though there might be some in the blend.

5 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

Even for a great Canadian whisky booster like @JasonHambrey the Canadian distilleries still play their ridiculous "we won't tell you what's really in the whisky" games.

"Intrigue" factor, Jason? I call it Bull Shit.

Thanks for trying, Jason.

5 years ago 0

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

yes, it's true. I honestly don't know why they don't share more of these things - it's not really an industry where knowing even the industry will enable anyone to replicate anything. And, few things in the industry are really that novel.

I would think there's more of a connoisseur consumer market if they would share more of these things.

5 years ago 0

@Benancio
Benancio commented

@JasonHambrey. Something I copied about the Rye grain used.

"The distinct Canadian climate provides the ideal conditions for growing rye grains. This is due to the fact the grains are planted in the fall, then blanketed with snow during the harsh winter months and only finish their growth cycle once they have sprouted throughout spring and summer. The extra time the grains take to fully mature results in flavorful hints of fruit, cloves and spice."

Your probably correct about the used bourbon barrel, it had less barrel influence. If it fruitier I definitely want to give it another try.

5 years ago 0

@talexander
talexander commented

Great review! Very detailed notes, and I agree very much with all that you say. I doubt that the 10% non-rye grain is just malt, as I detect corn as well. Not sure if there is wheat in there but it is very possible to give it some softness.

4 years ago 0

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

@talexander I agree...I doubt it's all malt, especially with the use of enzymes in Canadian whisky.

4 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

Ontario Gentlemen, I just picked up a bottle of this 15 minutes ago. I am about to give it a try.

Nice very fruity nose in the style that Jim Murray loves, all soft and rounded, like Alberta Premium or MGPI. I agree more with Tom that this has lots of grapefruit pith in the mouth--sour grapefruit pith. I don't like sour grapefruit pith in rye whisky, myself. My wife thinks this would be good in cocktails, though she joins me in being unenthusiastic about sipping it neat. I HATE the finish.

I like the nose, but I don't think this will review much over 80 points from me. Personally I think that Mr. Murray has lost his mind in naming this 2016 World Whisky of the Year.

4 years ago 0

@talexander
talexander commented

Ah - interesting! I thought you might have liked it more. Today, Murray has been pilloried all over social media by pretty much every whisky enthusiast you could imagine...

4 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@talexander, I swear to God that I haven't read any of those other reviews!!!

4 years ago 0

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

I generally don't take much stock of Jim Murray...he has a lot of experience and a good palate but I disagree with much of his ratings. Glad, though, that he has the guts to name a 30$ whisky his number 1, especially since there are so many solid whiskies that you don't have to pay the earth for (though they're running in short supply sometimes these days)

4 years ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

@Jason Hambrey, Yes, ballsy indeed to choose a $30, blended, NAS, coloured, chill-filtered, 90 proof, Rye, and a Canadian at that.

How dare he!

I'm calling the Royal Canadian Malted Police on him.

4 years ago 0

@Robert99
Robert99 commented

@JasonHambrey I just want to check with you if you get banana with time and air.

4 years ago 0

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

@Robert99 my bottle is in storage for a few months due to a short term move - I'll have to check in 2017. It wouldn't surprise me, given its profile, but I haven't identified it thus far in my tastings.

4 years ago 0

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