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Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

Best in the world?

6 2783

@OdysseusUnboundReview by @OdysseusUnbound

17th May 2017

1

  • Nose
    22
  • Taste
    21
  • Finish
    20
  • Balance
    20
  • Overall
    83

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

Most people reviewing this whisky online either want to eviscerate Jim Murray or vindicate him. I want neither; I'm just sharing my thoughts. I've had three bottles of this Canadian rye whisky. My first bottle was in December 2015, my second in November 2016 and my third in March 2017. My notes for the first two bottles are not as detailed as my notes for the third.

The first bottle had (undiluted) lovely rye on the nose with hints of brown sugar, less sweetness than expected on the palate and some nice pepper and nutmeg on the finish.

The second had (undiluted) more citrus on the nose than the first, more sweetness on the palate and the spice on the finish was more subdued.

The third and most recent bottle had (undiluted)

Nose: Cloves, rye bread, orange peels, oak, vanilla

Palate: medium-bodied, brown sugar, oranges, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, rye bread

Finish: Pepper (similar to the first bottle), ginger, oak and cloves

Adding some water brought out more fruitiness, but I like my ryes and bourbons on the spicy side, so I prefered this neat. With the orange tones in this whisky, I imagine it would do quite well in a Whisky Sidecar cocktail. Since it's sold at such a reasonable price, I wouldn't feel as though I was "wasting" CRNH by mixing it.

I don't think this is the best whisky in the world, but I really enjoyed it. I often keep a bottle around because of how accessible it is to those new to whisky. And at about $35 CAD, I don't mind if people cover it with ice and/or coke. For those interested, I've also posted a review over on my blog.

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27 comments

@Victor
Victor commented

@OdysseusUnbound, thanks for your nice review.

It is precisely because Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye is a mass market multiple batch whisky that Jim Murray took a big chance in naming it World Whisky of The Year. What I've had of it has an excellent nose and makes a nice mixer, but I dislike like the taste neat. I did wonder fairly quickly, "Did Jim Murray really taste Crown Royal Nothern Harvest Rye which tastes like mine, or did he taste a cherry-picked lab sample?" The subsequent publicly-noted wide batch variation explains a lot about why Murray could be so impressed and others not.

Another, and very subtle, observation about Jim Murray's taste is that he does not object to the clashing of wheat flavours with other flavours, viz. rye, wine, and peat. For this reason he generally likes both blended Scotch whiskies and blended Canadian whiskies a lot more than most malt lovers do.

12 days ago 2Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

@Victor CRNH is 90% rye. The first time I tried it, I was surprised how "easy-drinking" it was. I had, up until that point, thought of rye as a bold, acquired taste. I didn't think I'd like it as much as I did. But I'm nothing if not honest. It's made me curious to try Lot no. 40, which I believe is 100% rye. Who knows what the next few weeks will bring....

12 days ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@OdysseusUnbound Lot 40 and CRNHR are 2 different animals. If you want other good 100% ryes consider something from Alberta Distillers (Alberta Premium, CC Chairman's reserve).

12 days ago 3Who liked this?

@casualtorture
casualtorture commented

@Nozinan If I'm not mistaken, up until very recently Alberta Distillers made the only 100% rye in Canada, correct?

12 days ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@casualtorture Rye is the least favourite of my genres (though I like some of them). Single malts and bourbon are my usual drams. So I'm not an expert on ryes.

AD produces a lot of rye for a lot of people. @Paddockjudge would know better.

12 days ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor commented

@OdysseusUnbound, IMO 10% wheat is much more than enough to f___ up rye whisky, blended Scotch, or rye-based bourbon. Sometimes wheat and rye work well together. In my book, that is maybe 25% of the time.

12 days ago 0

@talexander
talexander commented

Nice review - I am pretty much in agreement.

9 days ago 1Who liked this?

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

Canadian Club Chairma'ns Reserve is a much different whisky today compared to when it was launched. The first batch from which I had tasted was IMHO an excellent whisky; I cannot say the same thing today.

7 days ago 1Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@paddockjudge Good thing my first bottle will likely last a lifetime...

7 days ago 0

@talexander
talexander commented

@paddockjudge I agree - now it tastes like any overly sweet and caramel-y Canadian blend (even though it is 100% rye).

7 days ago 0

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

The 90% rye statement is ambiguous, and I haven't had good clarification from them. I've wondered if it is actually 90%, since their statements are actually quite ambiguous - "crafted from 90% rye mash whisky" - "crafted from"...so, I suppose, if 30% of the blend is this rye mash whisky, the statement still applies? As usual, they don't like to talk clearly about what is in the bottle and it boggles my mind as to why.

Anyway, it is rye forward, that is for sure. I love the complexity.

3 days ago 1Who liked this?

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

@casualtorture Canadian distilllers have been making 100% ryes for a long time, malted and unmalted - Forty Creek, Alberta, Hiram Walker, and Highwood all make 100% ryes - to my knowledge, with distilleries like Canadian Mist producing it from time to time. They are just not usually released, because they are generally made to flavor blends.

The best of Canadian micro-distilllery whisky these days is also 100% rye, with notable bottlings coming from Stalk & Barrel and Dillon's.

3 days ago 0

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

@JasonHambrey The bottle states 90% Rye whisky, so I've always assumed that 90% of the whisky in this blend is rye. But I see what you're saying. Have you emailed them? It took me a few weeks to get a response, but when I sent questions to Aberlour, they were pretty clear in their answer to my query.

3 days ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@JasonHambrey I've heard rumours that Stalk and Barrel single grain spirits are not what they could be...

3 days ago 1Who liked this?

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

haha I did. It may well be 90%, but "rye whisky" is ambiguous in Canadian whisky. I got a classic reply. let me dig it up...

"at this time I am unable to provide you with the other 10% of the Northern Harvest Rye. This offering combines the richness of Northern harvest rye grains with the unmistakable smoothness of Crown Royal to create a perfectly balanced whisky. "

they also told me there was no plans to release it in Canada 3 months before it was released in Canada. With the slow LCBO process, there were certainly plans at that time...

3 days ago 0

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

Maybe I should elaborate. In canada, legally, whisky can be called "rye" if it is Canadian and possesses characteristics of Canadian whisky (but by whose judgement?). So, for example, Ninety 20 year old or Century Reserve 21 year old are called "Canadian rye whisky" even though they are 100% corn. Thus, a 90% "rye" whisky could technically be anything. I have no doubt that it has a good chunk of rye in it (and may well be 90%), but, because of ambiguities of definition, it could be less than 90%. And since you can distill and age different grains to taste like other grains....

3 days ago 0

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

@JasonHambrey Nice wishy-washy hand-waving marketing-speak. I respect Aberlour even more now for the direct, honest answer I got from them. Nevertheless, the CRNH is still enjoyable. I've blogged about this ambiguity and secrecy in the whisky industry. I usually focus my rage on NAS malts, even though I enjoy some of them, simply because of the price tag. At the LCBO, there is almost no price difference between Laphroaigh QC and Laphroaig 10, though the QC is mostly made up (from what I've been able to decipher) of 5-6 year old whiskies.

3 days ago 0

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

@OdysseusUnbound fair enough. I love the 10 but prefer the QC, age statements aside though. whisky is pretty terrible for marketing. what is your blog?

3 days ago 0

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

@JasonHambrey My beef with NAS scotch is simply an objection to the secrecy, and pricing. The latter, especially, is enraging, when you research the costs associated with aging, warehousing, etc. Bottom line, the economics support my argument that NAS scotch is, as a general rule, way overpriced. But that's pure economics and has nothing to do with taste or quality. I've tasted quite a few NAS scotch that I've really liked. I'm a fan of QC, but I prefer the 10, and with a whopping $4 price difference at the LCBO, I usually stick with the 10. I've linked my blog in my profile. It's ontarioscotchlover.blogspot.ca for anyone who's interested. I try to keep it light and fun and I try to review a wide variety of whiskies.

3 days ago 1Who liked this?

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

@OdysseusUnbound thanks for the link and the comments. Yeah, I'm with you on the NAS. Scotch, in general, is going down in quality and up (sometimes outrageously) in price. Or they are trying to cover up young whiskies with new oak (though they aren't the only ones doing it!). I've almost stopped buying it, other than a few gems...though I do quite like it. Laphroaig QC is one of the NAS bottlings I really love. There are lots that I don't.

3 days ago 1Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@JasonHambrey To answer you, I heard of someone who returned the opened 3 bottle taster pack because all three bottles contained spirit "that ought not have been sold...", and got his money back...

3 days ago 0

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

@Nozinan haha I know of whom you speak. I can't speak for the corn, but all of the rye casks I have tasted were terrific (though perhaps still not worth the price). My guess as to the new blends is that it was more than just wanting to release new product, but also get rid of some...

3 days ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

@JasonHambrey

These were all individual grains... I'm still holding a cask strength version from cask 1, wondering if it's worth tasting or worth more as a keepsake.

Of course when I say "worth" I'm not talking about money.

3 days ago 0

@JasonHambrey
JasonHambrey commented

@Nozinan Cask 1 is ok. Not great. Mine got better in the bottle (half full for 3 years), quite a bit, but still not amazing. It's their best cask of SM I've had, but the rye is significantly better (I wouldn't say the SM is particularly worthwhile)

2 days ago 0

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