Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
There has been a great uproar amongst whiskey lovers. When a certain whiskey aficionado announced Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye as the “Whiskey of the Year”, he took a lot of heat. I am not going to mention his name or his well-known publication because I don’t want to use his name just to attract readers. You can do a search on your own, and if you are reading this only because you searched for whiskey or whisky reviews, you already know full well about this. I don’t know this writer, never met him, not a fan nor critic of his work, and honestly have no opinion whether it be good, bad or indifferent. I only knew he writes a pretty comprehensive guide book on whiskies.
For me, I gave up on Canadian Whisky long ago. There is nothing wrong with it if you do not like complexity or if you are going to mix it. It lacks so many things I look for when sipping something neat. If it were on the rocks then I would probably be more enthusiastic about something like this offering. I even tried to buy it from my spirits guy but he simply refused to sell it to me and led me to different section of whiskey to choose from if I was going to spend money in his store. That spoke volumes to me especially since he told me he could not keep it on the shelf. He has no problem getting rid of it, so he clearly wanted to steer me clear of it. When I went to other stores they had either jacked the price upward of the $31 suggested retail, or were out of it all together.
So when my friend brought it along to taste just for laughs, I had to give it a try. I am glad he did. Its not bad, its just very different. I tasted a lot of apple, almost as if it were apple cider. There was no bite or sting, it was very light on the tongue. Once I had a few sips I was automatically thinking of creating a cocktail with this as the main ingredient like Applejack or mixing it with ginger ale. If instinctively I start thinking of it as an ingredient rather than drinking it straight, then I know its not something that deserves the title of Whiskey of the Year.
I understand that not every year the same whiskey can win the same title. And I know that there are now so many whiskies that are unobtainable to the average store or consumer. The best example of this is the Pappy Van Winkle selections. Not only are they in high demand but its gotten so out of control that if anyone does get a bottle they try to sell it online for nearly 10 times the price and they actually get it. With this in mind, I am totally on board with someone selecting a whiskey of the year based on something that is affordable and you can buy in nearly any local, decent liquor store. I am also told from insiders that this guy tends to favor bigger corporate brands.
Either way, I would sooner pick nearly any American Whiskey over this one. Its great that a Canadian whisky finally made the grade, but if this is the finest Canada has to offer, its no wonder why most stray away from it and go toward the old standby spirits of Scotland, Japan or even the good old USA.
If I were to go into 10 liquor stores and only be able to choose from those whiskies that all the others had, I would wind up with a list like Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, Jack Daniel’s, and on the higher end, Michter’s, High West, or even Knob Creek. All of those are viable candidates. This is why it bewilders me as to why this one made the cut of the hundreds, if not thousands of whiskies out there.
After tasting a few other brands of Scotch and Bourbon, I decided to have another sip of this Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, and it did taste different, even a bit better. Maybe because it had a chance to breathe, or probably because I was in a cigar bar and smoking myself, and my tastebuds were dull. It did not have that tangy taste or aftertaste, and it was not bad, even a bit tasty, but it was never something I would buy even though $31 is cheap for whiskey these days. I would use it in a cocktail as a replacement for something like apple brandy. If I were to mix it with soda, I would go for ginger ale.
Again, nothing horrible about this, but completely misguided and over-rated as a straight sipping whiskey. Its worth the retail price its set at, which is $31, not a dime more.