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Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel (2017)

Review: Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel 92.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted December 13, 2017

Crown Royal®Canadian Whisky is currently produced in Gimli, Manitoba, at the Crown Royal Distillery. The distillery and the brand are owned by the global spirits conglomerate Diageo, and I think it is fair to say that Crown Royal is Diageo’s flagship Canadian whisky. The brand was introduced in 1939 (by Samuel Bronfman of Seagrams) as a special whisky bottling to commemorate the Royal Tour of Canada by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth who traveled across the Country by train that year. (Apparently, the train carrying the Royal Couple was stocked with 10 cases of the new Crown Royal Blend.) Until 1964, the whisky was only available in Canada; however, today it is available world-wide, and is in fact the number one Canadian whisky brand sold in Canada and the USA by value. (I believe Canadian Club is still the number one brand in Canada by volume.)

Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel is the first production Canadian Whisky ever to sold in the single barrel format. It drawn from a single oak cask and bottled a full 51.5 % alcohol by volume bottling proof. For this whisky, Crown Royal Master Blender, Andrew MacKay, hand selected the barrels to be used for this expression. Because each barrel will have different characteristics there will be differences in each individual barrel bottled. However, the casks chosen share common characteristic flavour profiles which gives the brand a general consistency of flavour and maturation.

I have now reviewed the Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel on two occasions, the first time was in 2015 when the product was first released and I was sent a bottle from one of the first barrels chosen. This second review is based upon a blind sample I was given when I was chosen to act as a juror for the 2017 Canadian Whisky Awards. I wrote brief tasting notes for each whisky I tasted and saved them such that when the whiskies were identified after the awards were over, I could go back to each of these whiskies and compare how they tasted in isolation away from the palate confusion of the tasting flights. Using both the blind tasting results and my impressions when tasting the spirit in isolation I constructed this review.

(My review of the 2015 bottling can be found here.)

In the Bottle 5/5

Crown Royal Whiskies have a rather unique presentation. As you can see, they use an elegant crown shaped bottle with each brand of whisky having its own distinctively shaped bottle. As well, each bottle is usually housed in its own cardboard carton. In the case of the Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel, it is encased in a very nice looking beige box. The iconic crown royal bag is this case is made of burlap and features a leather drawstring. When you open the beige box and the aroma of burlap hits you, it is like going back to the farm and smelling the old burlap gunny sacks in a dusty granary.

I love it!

In the Glass 9.5/10

When poured into the glass the Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel displays a rich golden colour with hints of amber and red turning the whisky towards copper. When I tilted and twirled my glass I saw a slightly thickened liquid sheen on the inside which slowly releases a multitude of droplets which turn to medium-sized legs which run back slowly down to the whisky at the bottom of the glass.

The nose is quite enticing as my initial tasting notes indicate:

Nose: Robust grain with burlap, leather and milk chocolate, hints of sour fruit and raisin.  

The scents in the breezes include rich oak spices and lush caramel toffee, some lovely bourbon-like honeycomb with vanilla, pipe tobacco, rye spices and bitter rye kernel. As I let the glass breathe, impressions of maple and cola evolved with vanilla and baking spices. Marmalade, canned apricots and almond turning to marzipan rounds out the wonderful nose.

In the Mouth 55/60

The spirit is soft in the mouth with corn and rye playing with firm oak and cedar spices along with rich butterscotch/maple and vanilla. I can taste some nutty barley notes which remind me of burlap and almond. With the sweetness of the butterscotch/maple the nutty barley soon turns to marzipan. The whisky carries a bevy of spiciness which in turn leads to impressions of cinnamon and peppery cloves. Yumm!

Adding ice to the glass brings out milk chocolate and a few impressions of raisins and other dried fruit.

In the Throat 13.5/15

At first the spirit seems relatively smooth in the finish with oodles of chocolate oozing out of the whisky. Although the spice builds the sensation is invigorating.

The Afterburn 9.5/10

I first encountered Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel 2 years ago when my good friend Davin de Kergommeaux (Author: Canadian Whisky – The Portable Expert) arranged for Crown Royal to send me a bottle that had been sourced from a barrel personally selected by Davin. It was one of my most Favourite Whiskies from 2015. It seems that the barrels being selected by the folks at Crown Royal are continuing to live up to that high standard.

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


Suggested Recipe:

CRHSB SAM_1638Crown Royal Whisky Splash

2 oz Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel
2 or 3 Large Ice-cubes
Splash of Ginger-ale
Slice of Lime

Add the Ice-cubes to a rocks glass
Pour the Whisky over the ice
Add a splash of Ginger Ale
Garnish with a lime slice

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


As always you may interpret the scores I provide 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 more 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)


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