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Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

Average score from 10 reviews and 14 ratings 86

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

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@markjedi1
Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

What little credit whiskyguru Jim Murray and his Whisky Bible still enjoyed, melted like snow in the sun when he named this Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Best Whisky in the World in 2016. I was not even curious enough to go find a bottle or a sample. But when my buddy Robert from Canada sent me a box of samples, this was included. Well, it would be impolite not to try it, right? Let’s see what the fuss was all about. The mashbill is 90% rye.

The nose is soft, sweet and more fruity than I am used to from rye whisky. I get banana, gooseberries and apples. Some vanilla cake. Almonds and eggnog in the back. The spices are surprisingly soft. In all fairness, this is both pleasant and accessible, but far from grand. Very, very easy going.

It is creamy and candy-sweet on the palate. A perfume note (think lavender) precedes some spices. Unfortunately it turns quite orange-liqueur-like, but with a lot of pepper and nutmeg. Again, far from bad and easy quaffable, but lacks in complexity.

The finish is medium long on more oranges and pepper.

Don’t get me wrong. A whisky does not have to be complex to be good or ‘best of the world’. This whisky is simply good, no more. Quaffable? Yes. Best of the world? Ah, good ol’ Jim and his funny jokes! Thanks, Robert!

@murrayaitken

I decided to try this one on a side-by-side “neat and iced” tasting. Quite a contrasting difference – perhaps I’ll taste this way in future. When it won the award, I asked my brother in Vancouver to pick up a few bottles for me, as we were meeting down in New Zealand over Christmas 2016. Needless to say he ran about town in a frenzy and finally found only one bottle for me, but didn’t tell me until I opened it on Christmas Day, perhaps now there’s more in supply?

Colour: yellow gold.

Nose: Neat: strong hit of alcohol at first overpowering the aromas and nearly burnt my nose hairs. Iced: diluted on (one large ball) of ice – definitely get steamed pears and some caramel…but then when I smelt it neat again, I got lovely light wood, nose hairs intact this time. Palate: Neat: wow, spicy. Piercing my tongue on the sides with alcohol burn. Lots of oak comes through but nice and gentle.
Iced: I think I prefer it on ice - medium bodied, some light nutmeg, pepper is all over it but pleasant, it’s good. I will try it next time with a few drops of water only.

Finish: Neat: long finish with strong pepper, but not black pepper, more like red crushed peppercorns and also somewhat salty. Iced: less pepper, more fruit but hard to pinpoint exactly, maybe traces of almost ripe banana? It fades slowly. I’m actually liking it on ice, it’s easy drinking and a great price too, but I hope the alcohol burn earlier hasn’t killed my taste buds.

I’m no RYE expert, and probably need to get a few more in my cabinet. Jim Murray, whose 2016 edition of the Whisky Bible awarded CRNHR release a massive 97.5 points and the title of “World Whisky of the Year” – well you already knew that. I think I’ll pour another to see if I concur, still undecided but don’t think it will convince me in a hurry.

@murrayaitken My experience with CRNH is similar to your experience. I like it and find it very good in it style. This is not my favorite style, even among rye, but it is well crafted. If I remember it correctly, it deserved an 85-90 mark. I like big whisky but IMHO, I will go for something a little bit lighter than what would get the favor of @Victor and @Nozinan.

@murrayaitken Murray's "World's Best" for this year is Colonel E.H. Taylor's Four Grain Bourbon. I don't know it as I've never had it, but @Victor is our resident bourbon expert, so perhaps he'll weigh in, if he hasn't done so in another thread. Ultimately, these awards are meaningless for several reasons.

  • You aren't tasting the same whisky as someone else unless it is from the same bottle at the same moment in time.
  • Your tastebuds are not the same as anyone else's
  • The climate/environment in which you're tasting a whisky will differ from pretty much everyone else.

and plenty of other reasons. These awards may be interesting, frustrating, puzzling, but ultimately, what YOU like is the only important consideration.

@OdysseusUnbound

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.

Nice review - I am pretty much in agreement.

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...

@Megawatt

Well, here it is, the most debated whisky of 2016 thanks to Jim Murray and his 97.5 point rating.

Nose: definitely herbal. Also noticing barbeque sauce (?). Slight pine resin. Quite fragrant, almost perfumed yet not exactly sweet. Potent and herbaceous.

Taste: follows through on the aroma with concentrated rye flavours, mostly of the dried-herb variety. A fair bit of bite to it as well. Not a light-style Canadian whisky, to be sure.

Finish: rye and oak, quite dry and crisp. Long and consistent.

Balance: I once heard someone compare high-rye whisky to Islay malts in that it is an acquired taste. Northern Harvest is an example of that. Some might find the tart, bracing herbal taste too harsh or unfamiliar. For fans of true rye whisky, this should be a treat.

@Hull

Let's be honest, the regular Crown Royal or even the black is just mediocre at best, but this is on a whole other level. I mean Jim Murray gave this 2016 whisky of the year, so how could this be bad. Another good thing about this is it's bottled at 45% and who doesn't love that over a regular 40% Canadian whisky. Plus it's flying off the shelves still to this day, I had to go to a few different LCBO's just to find one that had this in stock. That's got to say something.

Nose: You get a rich oakiness and rye right off the bat. Then I get a green sour apple which is quite nice. Warming vanilla and some Caramel. It may be a bit strange but I get even some soft banana almost to the point of banana medicine. This sounds gross buts actually very nice.

Palate: With it being 45% it has little to no alcohol burn. You get the spiceness of the rye. A nice vanilla which can come across as vanilla pudding or vanilla shortcake. Some of the apple carries through as well. Very complex and very simple at the same time if that makes sense.

Finish: The finish is of medium to long in length. The oak and spice goes on for a bit. It leaves you wanting more. I find my self drinking way to much of this at one time.

Overall: You just can't beat this for the price. It's a very good whisky for beginners as I feel you can pin point flavours very well. It's sutle yet complex which makes it extremely interesting. The one bad thing is that it's way to easy to drink. I could put a straw in the bottle and drink it straight like that. I mean it's obviously not the best whisky in the world, but for it may be the best rye at this price point in the world.

I have returned to this Rye 4 times now over 6 months and nothing has changed for me. I really wanted to like this but it is meh for me.

Price aside Wiser's Legacy and Lot 40 are so much much more enjoyable.

I like Northern Harvest, a lot. A unique expression indeed.

I can never spend enough time with this one, or CR Hand Selected Barrel, or CR Monarch 75th.

Kudos to Crown Royal for listening to whisky drinkers and expanding their line-up to include these three fabulous whiskies.

@Hull, this is indeed an easy sipper. Thanks for a stimulating review.

@Nozinan

Full disclosure:

I am not an expert on Canadian Whisky. My preferences are generally toward single malts and bourbons, but I am open to any well-crafted whisky. I’ve really enjoyed a number of Forty Creek special releases, and am a big fan of Alberta Premium 25 and 30 YO ryes. Highwood 90/20 is a stunner.

Tonight I was at a meeting and someone who is aware of my interest in whisky but who doesn’t drink it to my knowledge asked me if I had tried the World Whisky of the year. I have a sample courtesy @paddockjudge and so I promised I would taste it and let her know. I emailed her before writing this review: “ I tried it…I don’t like it”. So I suppose you could stop reading here.

I decided to do a head to head with another sample I received, Crown Royal Monarch, and after nosing both I tasted this one first. It was put in a sample bottle after being open three weeks.

Nose: fruit, pickle juice, spirit 20/25
Adding a drop or two of water brings out a pleasant fruit syrup / pineapple note but then the pickle juice pokes through 21/25

Taste: hot, some vanilla, muted. Spice or alcohol? With time becomes a tad less bitter with some added sweetness. 19/25 Water adds to the fruitiness as in the nose and gives it some flavour but also makes it hotter. 20/25

Bitter finish 18/25 – minimal change with water

Balance: Not unbalanced just not pleasant. 20/25

Score (with water because it was a touch better – unusual for low ABV whisky): 79

I did not finish the dram. I will leave the rest of the sample un-gassed and see what happens. I am a patriotic Canadian but I’ve tasted many whiskies , Canadian and not, which are better than this.

PS: mixing this with Crown Royal Monarch in equal proportions creates something better than the NHR and more complex than the Monarch. I am not sure I would repeat it.

For some reason when I open the comments on this review I get a whole bunch of comments that were clearly meant for my review of CRNHR, and the identical ones appear there. This comment however is about Glenfarclas 15 YO.

I see some few bottles still available for $115 at the LCBO. I'm relaxing with the second half of the sample from @paddockjudge that I had earlier reviewed. The vegetal note persists even though I put some water in right away. On the palate I get sherry notes but compared to something like an A'Bunadh this has neither the depth or the breadth. It's not unpleasant but it does not provide anything unique that I cannot get from another sherried dram.

If offered in someone's home I would probably accept. It's not bad, has some flavour, 46% is OK. But I wouldn't likely order it in a bar and I won't spend $115 on it when I can get a 17 YO CS Glendronach single cask for $5 more ( and I did get it, when it was about $80-90 and I wish I got 10).

But tonight I want to toast @paddockjudge's safe arrival at home after the chaos that was yesterday's SOT, and so I chose something that was a gift from him...

And, after a long drought, this once again available at the LCBO. 10 000 bottles worth. I guess they figured it would be snapped up like last time. I wonder if it the shelves will be emptied or if everyone has all they want...

@Narcism

This is my first rye so I'm looking at this with a scotch-lens which I know isn't appropriate.

The whole experience can be summarized as "sweet."

A delicious dessert hits the nose: vanilla, cherrywood, syrup and vanilla. Very inviting, very accommodating. I had high expectations from the smell.

On its first sip, the nose notes carry through but a slight smokiness is added. Despite the water added, I was still greeted with a harsh burn I didn't expect.

Nothing too noteworthy or new happens on the palate in the high notes or the low notes. The finish is fairly short, sweet and unremarkable.

Very low complexity overall. I just wish I'd been more "wowed". Isn't this supposed to be the best whiskey in the world?

@Victor

Crown Royal reports that this whisky contains 90% rye content, and has not disclosed the grain content of the remaining 10% of the whisky. The reviewed bottle with serial number 003105408466 has been open for 7 days and is half full

Nose: quite a fragrant very dark-fruity nose of medium pitch mostly, smooth and quite soft and rounded. There is some rye spice also, cloves, cassia, and black pepper, deep-pitched, clumped together, and muted. Some vanilla. This is a beautiful nose, nicely balanced and very reminiscent of the better MGPI rye noses or Col E H Taylor Straight Rye. Water added mellows and sweetens the nose and is very pleasant. Score: 23/25 points

Taste: sour, citric, and bitter in the mouth. The palate bears very little resemblance to the beautiful nose. There is a clump of amorphous bass pitched flavous here, which is where the spice flavours dwell. The lovely fruit flavours are present but are drowned out by this low pitched mess of flavours. I believe I know what it is I am tasting: that 10% secret whisky component is wheat whisky, and Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye suffers from a clash of wheat and rye flavours so common when a distiller combines these two grains together. Water added slightly softens the clashing flavours. Score: 20/25 points

Finish: the clash of flavours just continues to develop in a bad way, becoming more sour, more citric, and more bitter into the finish. Water added softens the finish, which is an improvement. Score: 19/25 points

Balance: very good balance in the nose; fair balance on the delivery; poor balance on the finish. Score: 19/25 points

Total Sequential Score: 81/100 points

Strength: very good strength of flavours throughout. Score: 23/25 points

Quality: very good quality of flavours in the nose; good flavours of the individual components on the palate. Score: 21/25 points

Variety: adequate variety of flavours throughout. Score: 21/25 points

Harmony: very good harmony in the nose; poor harmony thereafter. Score: 16/25 points

Total Non-Sequential Score: 81/100 points

Comment: Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye should have contained 100% rye content. There is no reason to hide the identity of the other 10% of grain unless it is wheat. Corn or barley will not ruin a whisky made of other grains. Wheat will. This is a primary reason why SO MANY malt lovers do not like either blended Scotch or Canadian blended whiskies: WHEAT.

Good God, Jim Murray! Don't embarrass Canada by picking such a mediocre Canadian whisky as World Whisky of the Year 2016. There are much better Canadian whiskies than Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

@mscottydunc, I am always happy to share my impressions and opinions about whisky. I can't say that I have sampled very large numbers of whiskies which premiered in the year 2015. And I have been saving without opening most of the bottles I have acquired recently, such as Ardbeg Supernova 2015, 2015 William Larue Weller and 2015 Eagle Rare 17.

I think that I have been most excited this year by the quality of some of the single barrels I have tasted, coming from High West, WhistlePig, and Willett. Some of the proprietary barrels of fairly common and relatively inexpensive whiskies, such as High West Double Rye, have been very impressive.

Not only do I really like Cutty Sark Prohibition, but I rejoice in the possiblity that more blended Scotch may be sold at 50% abv.

One other whiskey which impressed me greatly this year is the Teeling Single Grain Whiskey, with Cabernet Sauvignon Finish. Beautifully done whiskey.

New for me, but not new for 2015 has been discovering Highwood Ninety 20 yo corn whisky. Excellent corn whisky, and one of the best Canadian products, in my book.

Overall 2015 represents to me a year of contracting opportunities and increasing prices for the well-established premium products. I think that a whisk(e)y lover has to be really resourceful to find good value these days. There is a wealth of new-distillery products available now, but I haven't been chasing any bottles of these without first tasting samples.

@Victor. The Cutty Prohibition finally made it to BC and based on your earlier review I grabbed a bottle. No regrets and I will be grabbing a couple more. Also a bargain for us at $35. This one is very much straying into single malt territory and whatever grain whisky is involved is of very good quality. Thanks for the tip.

@talexander

Our third Canadian today was, until recently, only available in the US. Crown Royal's Northern Harvest Rye is a blend, but 90% of it is rye.

The colour is a medium amber. On the nose it's a total rye assault: grapefruit pith, freshly sawn lumber, buttered rye toast and freshly cut mulch. Very floral. Lots of citrus and spice, but in the background you still have that Crown sweetness. Evens out well with water. Fantastic.

On the palate there's tons of grapefruit pith as well, with big spice and hints of vanilla, toffee and rye. Again, the sharpness of the rye is well balanced by the vanilla/toffee sweetness. Quite citrusy and oaky - and even more so with water. Very well done.

The finish is a little briny with more pith, black pepper, graham crackers and sawdust. There's a real tightness to this, which is in great contrast to the "flabby" G&W (Part I) and more balanced Forty Creek (Part II). This is a style I love - this to me is what Canadian rye is all about. Between this and the beautiful Monarch, Crown Royal is having a fantastic run of great new expressions.

@talexander and @adamh I agree. I am not so surprised that ET Taylor is on allocation, but it's sad. I don't think it's worth the effort, at this point, though that rye is pretty awesome.

I loved Northern Harvest Rye - I gave it a 93 last month. Surprised that JM rated it so high, and not surprised. I only give moderate stock to his reviews, but at least it was quite a decent Canadian and I stand by it being a very good whisky (and $30!). Now let's hope CR doesn't just repackage it and charge double in a year, with lower quality, as I could see happening...

@adamh I don't think you have to choose. Good luck with getting the BTACs as well. I will put my name in but I don't expect for a repeat of the last year's Handy.

However, last year a few of us winners got together and had a BTAC party and we got to taste the three CS bottles. I hope we can do that again. I certainly am willing to put up my bottle if I get the opportunity.

And just sayin, last year there was someone from Northern Ontario came to T.O. for that tasting... so you could come down...

@JasonHambrey

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.

@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.

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.

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