Review: Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

crown royal rye

A Crown Royal Rye? Wait, isn’t all Canadian whisky “rye”? Hang on a sec.

There’s a lot of confusion about rye and Canadian whisky, and rightly so: By law in Canada, a whisky only has to have some rye in it to be called a rye, part of an outgrowth of hundreds of years of shorthand and tradition there. Today, most Canadian whiskies have quite a small amount of rye in the mash — like Bourbon, they tend to mostly be made from corn — yet the myth that Canadian whisky is largely rye remains.

Well, Crown Royal is going to confuse things even further with the release of Northern Harvest Rye, its first-ever legitimate rye in 75 years of operation. The mash for this whisky is a whopping 90% rye. By Canadian law, the other 10% is poutine. (Just kidding! Crown doesn’t specify.)

On first nosing, I thought perhaps Crown mistakenly filled this with its Regal Apple flavored whisky. Very strong apple notes on the nose are backed by a little caramel, giving it a distinct apple pie character. The body is again distinctly apple-fueled, but here more of the spice shows itself. Cloves and allspice are strongest, with some molasses-like sweetness sugaring things up a bit. The finish is slightly drying, and a bit of roasted grain character comes to the fore before fading out.

This is a truly strange whisky, unlike any other rye I’ve encountered in recent memory. The intense fruit character isn’t unpleasant, but it’s not what I’m looking for a quality rye. This whisky will likely resonate with many fans — but may well turn off just as many drinkers.

90 proof.


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10 Responses

  1. EricH June 7, 2015 / 4:38 pm

    The other 10 percent should be malted barley. Unless the rye is malted, the mash needs the enzymes from the malted barley to keep from becoming a sticky mess.

  2. Chris June 12, 2015 / 12:26 am

    Erich, it is quite common for distilleries (especially in Canada) to use commercially-available enzymes for starch conversion, so the last 10% does not need to be malted barley.

  3. Bill Shelhart September 18, 2015 / 12:00 pm

    I have been a bourbon drinker for 50 years. Every now and then I like to mix it up and drink a good rye for a few days. I saw the Crown Royal advertised at my Publix so I thought I would give it a try. What a waste of $27.00 dollars. This is piss water. Save your money.

  4. Bobby Baccala September 30, 2015 / 8:06 pm

    It’s easy to trash a new product from a well known distiller. Piss water? Seriously? I just tried this for the first time. I made a simple Old Fashioned, with a muddled orange and a little sugar. I’ve been bartending for 25 years and this was one of the best cocktails that I’ve had in a long time. I don’t drink rye straight (I don’t know many people who do) – but for an Old Fashioned, I would go to this anytime.

  5. Carl October 22, 2015 / 2:54 pm

    I just bought a bottle. I drink straight rye (Bobby) as my favorite drink. I do like rye with brown apple cider too… flavors go well together with this – see review about apple flavors. Usually I enjoy Bulleit or Rittenhouse or Alberta Rye… all very much stronger flavored (read nasty – straight to the untrained palate).

    This was enjoyable and light. LIGHT. I like strong flavors so may not buy another bottle.
    Tasty, but light for me. Its a good place to start if you are new to Rye. And well better than many MANY of the other ryes – high and low priced ones.

  6. Sam Komlenic November 24, 2015 / 11:32 am

    And now don’t you feel ridiculous having given The Best Whisky in the World just a B rating?

    I appreciate your honesty and humility in matters such as these. They seems to be lacking elsewhere.

  7. w s November 25, 2015 / 12:26 pm

    Knowing Jim Murray growing up in the streets of west Philadelphia hanging out on the basketball court. These guys were starting trouble one day and a fight broke out and my mom sent me to conservative bowl air California to live with my uncle and aunt. Now I drink all the good stuff.

  8. un_malpaso December 30, 2015 / 6:25 pm

    Having just purchased some of this stuff for medicinal (holiday cold!) purposes, I drank a single on the rocks with a liberal squeeze of fresh meyer lemon from my backyard tree, and I have to say I can’t find any problems with its caramel-apple-spice taste. Ideal simple cocktail. Taken neat, it is a little robust, but it still tastes great. It’s not punching above its level, but I think it’s a good value disregarding the hype.

  9. bob October 13, 2016 / 9:03 pm

    Malpaso-take another sip after your nasal congestion clears.

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