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Crown Royal Black Canadian Whisky

Review: Crown Royal Black Canadian Whisky 86/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted March 07, 2012

Crown Royal Canadian Whisky is currently produced in Gimli, Manitoba, at the Crown Royal Distillery. The distillery and the brand are owned by the spirits conglomerate, Diageo, and I think it is fair to say that Crown Royal is Diageo’s flagship Canadian Whisky brand. A couple of years ago Crown Royal Black was introduced as an addition to the Crown Royal family of whiskies. This new Crown Royal Black is a bit of a departure from the rest of the Crown Royal line-up featuring a stronger bourbon profile in the whisky through the use of new charred oak barrels during a portion of the maturation process of the whisky. It is bottled at 45% alcohol by volume and is intended as a robust alternative to their best-selling Crown Royal Whisky.

Crown Royal Black sam_2670In the Bottle 5/5

Each whisky in the Crown Royal line-up is housed in a rather unique crown shaped bottle which makes them immediately noticeable on your bar shelf.  The bottles are usually sold in a nice box with a colourful cloth bag complete with braided drawstrings that the bottle can be placed inside.  The presentation is topped with a gold coloured cap. In the case of Crown Royal Black, the cardboard box is black with purple trim and the cloth bag is black representing the name of the whisky quite well.

In the Glass 9/10

When poured into the glass the Crown Royal black displays a dark golden amber colour with hints of red flashing in the sunlight. The initial nose is quite enticing. I smell rich oak spices melded with caramel toffee, some lovely bourbon-like honeycomb and vanilla with hints tobacco and rye spices and a light influence of maple and chocolate. As I let the glass breathe, some rum-like brown sugar aromas evolve and I seem to sense some light corn accents in the breezes as well. The Crown Royal Black appears to be well-balanced and quite robust in the glass.

In the Mouth  51/60

Sometimes I wonder how much variation exists between various batches of the same product. I say this because I tasted the Crown Royal Black about a year and a half ago, and it just did not seem to have the depth and character which I am experiencing this time around. Perhaps the men and women working in Gimli have been quietly improving the blend?

What I taste now (a year and a half later) is quite delicious. Caramel, butterscotch and maple are melded with flavours of oak spice and cedar. Canned fruit (in particular apricots) is obvious and dark fruit (dates and the skin of black cherries) seems to be hinted at. There is a bit of clove, a touch of cinnamon and dash of spicy wood sap. Finally under everything else is a certain dry tannic bitterness that puckers my mouth, but which seems to be just the right foil for all of those other sweeter flavours I mentioned earlier. The only thing keeping the score down a little is a certain astringency which is probably a function of the higher proof (45 % abv). The whisky is just a bit rougher in the mouth than I would prefer.

In the Throat 12.5/15

I receive an impression of new oak in the finish which is full of woody flavours, honeycomb, caramel and tobacco. The higher proof is very obvious in the exit which feels spicy and hot down the throat. I cannot decide whether to call this ‘bracing’ or to just call it ‘rough’. I guess I will compromise and call it ‘rough and tumble’ such that you understand that I am not enthralled, but neither am I displeased.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

Crown Royal Black surprised me in my tasting sessions. As indicated earlier, I tried this blend about 18 months ago, and the whisky was not revealing its character to me at that time. However, whether it was me that changed, or whether it was the whisky, I really liked the complex flavour I encountered this time. With a little ice or water the whisky is a very acceptable sipper, and like all good Canadian Whiskies it makes a great cocktail mixer.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe:

This recipe is a slightly more elegant take on the good old-fashioned Rye and Ginger-ale highball cocktail.

The Long Autumn

2 oz  Canadian Whisky
1/8 oz Triple Sec
1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
1 tsp sugar syrup
1 dash bitters


Build in a tall glass with ice
Complete with Ginger-ale

I am always asked what my numbers actually mean. In order to provide clarification, you may (loosely) interpret the scores as follows.


0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

2 Responses to “Crown Royal Black Canadian Whisky”

  1. CBrown said

    Interesting about your perception of batch variation (or in this case evolution!). I’m constantly amazed at how a whisky will evolve over time even when it’s the same bottle- just with a bit more oxygenation from the fill level descending.

    As well: mouth chemistry – how many wines, whiskies etc have been given the back of the shelf or poured down the drain because of what someone ate or drank even hours previously? I know I’ve learned to always come back days or even months later to try a bottle I really disliked,only to find it was most likely my palate that was off and not the spirit.
    I’ve always pushed the Crown Black off my try list as I figured it was a cynical injection of “caramelization” to create a new market thread. Now I might just give it a try.

    I wonder if the Diageo guys would admit to tweaking the mix? It shouldn’t be a negative to show ongoing commitment to excellence. I know I’d be interested to find out.

    thanks Chip

    • Hi Christopher

      I have had some interesting discussions with various peoples in industry regarding batch variation in the last few years. Generally speaking, when I discuss the topic candidly with master blenders and distillers from the larger companies, they (almost without exception) acknowledge that variations between batches is inevitable especially when dealing with the more premium products when the whiskies (or rums) will be blended from a small batch of barrels. One of the gentlemen I talked to stated that his policy was not to blend to a specific taste profile in these cases, but rather to try to obtain the best flavour for each particular batch. It has been only in very rare circumstances, that I have been told that it is always possible to blend away variation (and frankly I doubt this).

      As for batch evolution, my hope is that this is always the goal of every producer. One would expect that experience breeds competence, and that every producer is always striving to make the next batch just a little better than the last with the acquisition of new knowledge.


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