Two additional Crown Royal bottlings for your consideration. This classic Canadian whisky continues to expand its portfolio upward and onwards, with rarer and more expensive blends. (See also our review of Crown Royal Reserve.) Both of the below whiskys land at a perfectly accessible 80 proof.
Crown Royal Cask No. 16 – This is a very unusual whisky, a blend of 50 different whiskys that are then brought together to age in old cognac casks made from French oak. (The “16″ comes from a stamp put on the casks to indicate their place of origin and authenticity.) Served neat, you get fruit notes and a good slug of vanilla. Very smooth, it’s a fine whisky. Crown Royal recommends it served on the rocks, but I preferred it at room temperature. The cold brought out some bitterness which I found disagreeable. A / $100
Crown Royal XR Extra Rare (pictured below) – A curious blend of bourbon and rye characters, this spicy number carries an initial punch of vanilla, then backs it up with strong rye grain notes. It’s creamy in body, but the finish fades quickly, leaving you with a modest, oaky note. It’s good enough, but I think the #16 is a better, more interesting, and better balanced whisky. For your $180, though, you will at least get a great story to tell: The XR was crafted from whatever rare whiskys that they managed to save when one of Crown Royal’s distilleries, Waterloo Distillery, burned down. So, yeah, that’s pretty rare. A- / $180
Crown Royal is no Johnny Come Lately in the whisky world — though I’ve had a vague grudge against the brand since my family was mistakenly and bizarrely charged for 11 glasses of said whisky at Tony’s in Houston, Texas. But who doesn’t love that little purple bag?
Crown Royal Reserve is, obviously, the reserve version of the classic Canadian blend. Re-released this month with a new design (and a fancy little gold bag). Formerly known as “Special Reserve,” the blend also gets a slightly new, less “Special” name. The recipe, however, is the same, a selection of less than 1 percent of the stock available to the company, notably including some spicy rye whisky.
Crown Royal Reserve is a very pleasant whisky, surprisingly easy to drink even without water. The heat is minimal, allowing you to focus on the spicy notes here: cinnamon and incense, and a surprisingly light touch of vanilla from the oak barrels. Finish is short but nicely sweet. Nothing too complex, but really quite compelling… and I keep going back to it.
Now I know how those mysterious guys ordered 11 of these things.
A- / $45 / crownroyal.com
In case you haven’t been reading your glossy magazines, the venerable Canadian Club is working on a comeback, with retro ads touting the whiskey as what “your dad drank” in a broad appeal to both your machismo and your father complex. Sure enough, though, if you check Dad’s liquor cabinet, he’s probably got a half-consumed bottle of the Club in there, likely bottled around 1974.
Celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, Canadian Club sent a bottle of the Classic 12, (aka just Canadian Club Classic), a step up from the traditional Canadian Club, which is aged for just six years.
80 proof and obviously blended with care, it’s a very light and generally harmless whiskey. The flavor is muted. The finish is very short. What’s there is traditional whiskey notes of honey and some light flower character. Not much to it. Drink it with water and you may feel like you’re sipping iced tea. (Hmmm… maybe that’s why dad drank so much of it.)
That said, who’s going to argue with the likes of Al Capone, who counted Canadian Club as his favorite tipple?
B- / $17 / canadianclubwhisky.com
Got a sweet tooth? Have I got a whiskey for you. Pendleton’s Canadian blended whisky (they spell it without the E) is aged for 10 years in barrels and bottled at 80 proof. Oddly, it is made from Oregon water and bottled in Oregon, to boot… yet it’s a Canadian whisky. Go figure.
Sip #1 indicates how overwhelmingly sweet this whisky is. It almost tastes like sugar has been added, it’s that strong. Honey, brown sugar… whatever it is, it’s sweet. Did I mention sweet? Cut through that and you’ll find some floral notes and a bit of Scotch-like smokiness. There’s no harshness at all here, this is easy to sip… if your teeth are up to it. For me, I couldn’t finish a glass of the stuff.
This would be fine in a sweet cocktail or with Coke, but on its own it’s a tough proposition.
B- / $22 / hrdspirits.com