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Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel (2015)

Review: Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel  94/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka the Rum Howler)
Published July 12, 2015

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.

Now the folks at Crown Royal didn’t just go into their warehouse and start checking random casks of whisky for this expression. They chose a very particular whisky to showcase as their first Single Barrel Whisky. A whisky from a rye heavy mashbill (64% corn, 31.5% rye, and 4.5% malted barley) which was distilled upon their one of a kind Coffey Rye still which is located in their Gimli facility. This is reported to be one of the key whiskies which is found in their flagship blend, Crown Royal Deluxe.

Note: Although the whiskey has no age statement, I did a little research and according to Davin’s De Kergommeax’s article in Whisky Advocate (see here), Crown Royal Master Blender, Andrew MacKay, leaves the Coffey Rye spirit in virgin oak bourbon barrels for seven years.

Crown Royal Single Barrel (Davin) SAM_1633In 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 9/10

When I pour the Hand Selected Barrel into my glencairn, the Crown Royal Whisky shows me a nice golden butterscotch colour. It is not quite copper, but the whiskey has started to head in that direction. When I give the glass a tilt and a twirl, I see a thickened sheen of spirit on the inside of the glass which has formed a stubborn crest which only reluctantly gives up a few fat leglets.

A fairly intense aroma of butterscotch rises from the glass with scents of fresh rye bread trailing just afterward. As the whisky breathes I notice an abundance of rye and wood spices, more butterscotch, some honeycomb cereal (you know that children’s breakfast cereal from POST) and fresh rye grain. By the time the glass is fully decanted I also notice an abundance of vanilla, cinnamon spice, sourdough and milk chocolate.

The aroma is very enjoyable and although the spirit is bottled at 51.5% alcohol by volume, there is only a small alcohol push.

In the Mouth  56.5/60

That intense butterscotch I noticed on the nose manifests itself as a sweet yummy honeyed butterscotch flavour when the spirit crosses the palate. Along with the sweet butterscotch are equally intense spicy rye wood spices which along with the 103 proof alcohol heat the mouth. I realize I have to be careful with this whisky, the flavour is so good I want a mouthful, but the heat the spirit possesses must be treated with respect.

The intense flavour includes zesty orange peel and canned fruit (peaches and apricots) with a dollop of vanilla impregnated with bits of cinnamon. Sourdough crusty bread, toffee and luscious milk chocolate round out the flavour descriptors. The descriptors do not really do the whisky justice as everything is melded together so well and this tastes so nice that it is easy to forget that you are sipping a whisky with this much alcohol heat.

When I add an ice-cube to my glass I like the flavour even more. The sweetness is dampened just a little and more yummy milk chocolate covers my palate. What is even nicer is the lightly bitter kernel of rye grain which has begun to shine. A splash of ginger ale tames the heat completely, and I have found my summertime backyard deck drink for barbeque season.

In the Throat 14/15

The exit is long and heated with rye and wood spice having their way with your tonsils. As the spiciness ebbs I notice aftertastes of chocolate toffee and sourdough cinnamon buns.

The Afterburn  9.5/10

One of the things that makes the sample bottle I received even more special is that this particular bottle has been drawn from a very particular barrel. The barrel that my good friend Davin De Kergommeax selected right out the Crown Royal whisky warehouse in Gimli, Manitoba.

I would like to thank you Davin, for you, just like that Jones boy, chose very wisely!

(This whisky will be a contender for the Rum Howler Whisky of the Year!)

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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