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Crown Royal Reserve

Review: Crown Royal Reserve Canadian Whisky 90.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
(Revisited and re-scored October 2017)

Crown Royal Canadian Whisky is currently produced in Gimli, Manitoba, at the Crown Royal Distillery. The distillery and the brand are owned by Diageo, and I think it is fair to say that Crown Royal is Diageo’s flagship Canadian whisky brand. In 1992, a premium version of Crown Royal was introduced as Crown Royal Special Reserve. This whisky was produced from specially selected casks which were tasted and monitored closely by the Crown Royal Master Blender. These ‘premium casks’ represented whiskies with special character, and they were allowed to age longer with the aim of producing a more premium whisky. In the fall of 2008, this more premium Crown Royal Special Reserve was relaunched as Crown Royal Reserve Canadian Whisky.

I have to admit that I seem to have mixed reactions whenever I taste this particular whisky. When I originally scored it in 2010, I was underwhelmed; but, when I re-scored the spirit in January of 2013, my impression of the whisky had improved considerably. As well, I have noticed that in blind tastings (when serving as juror for the Canadian Whisky Awards) I seem to have a different reaction each time I taste a new bottle.

This review is the result of my latest evaluation (October 2017).

sam_2663In the Bottle   (5/5)

Crown Royal Whiskies have a rather unique presentation. They use a rather nifty/elegant crown shaped bottle with each brand having its own distinctive shape. The whisky bottle is placed in a colourful cloth bag with gold coloured drawstrings. For my bottle of the Reserve, a gold cardboard box houses the presentation.

As well, each variety of Crown Royal utilizes a ‘crown’ shaped screw cap to close the bottle.  I like the presentation very much.

(BTW: Crown Royal Reserve is produced at 40 % alcohol by volume.)

In the Glass 9/10

The whisky displays itself as a rich mahogany coloured spirit which brings a rather rich menagerie of scents and smells into the breezes above the glass. Things begin with rich notes of oak and cedar mingling with rye grain and butterscotch. The punky corn accent so familiar in all Crown Royal whiskies is very apparent; but it is much more subdued in this expression. I believe the more subdued bourbon notes are helping the rye spices gain momentum in the air.

I smell distinct impressions of ginger and wood spices. As the whisky breathes, some baking spices begin to rise with vanilla, nutmeg, and cloves. These are accented by a touch of maple and milk chocolate as well as some spicy tobacco spice. Some tart apples and ripe pears make their way into the breezes as well as some impressions of sour fruit and canned peaches. This whisky is very appealing and complex. It does though, require a bit of time in the glass to reach its full potential.

In the Mouth 54.5/60

As I take my first sip, I am further impressed by the complex structure of the whisky which is all at once tart and spicy, sweet and creamy, and rich with flavour. The whisky is lightly oaky with wood spices leading out as orange peel and pepper. Some clear rye spices (ginger in particular) jump in, and this spicy montage of flavour is accented by sweet flavours of caramel and maple. There is of course that typical punky corn/bourbon presence winding through the whisky that seems to be the signature flavour of Crown Royal. But, it is lurking more in the background allowing the rye to stand out and grab your attention. Dabs of baking spices (vanilla and cinnamon this time) are present as is a certain Demerara quality which is quite beguiling.

As the glass breathes and I sip some more, the whisky seems to have gotten spicier, and the flavours more jumbled together. Spicy tobacco, canned fruit and tart apples ride somewhere in that jumble of flavour.

In the Throat 13/15

The exit is unfortunately shorter than expected. White pepper glows in the background accented by caramel, maple, cinnamon and oak. It is here in the finish that the whisky seems to take a step back from rye and lets the corn have the final bow.

The Afterburn 9/10

As I indicated earlier, I seem to have mixed reaction to the Crown Royal Reserve, and I think perhaps one of my astute readers who commented below has got it right. This whisky appears to vary from batch to batch. Fortunately though, those variations seem to be diminishing over time as the Crown Royal Reserve Whisky seems to be settling down about who she wants to be.

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


Suggested Cocktail

Crown Reserve & Evening Salute

Evening Salute
(This drink may be called the Royal Salute if ginger ale is used instead of cola)

2 oz Canadian Whisky (Crown Royal Reserve)
1/2 oz Apricot Brandy (Bols)
Lengthen with Cola
Build on Ice in a small rocks glass
Garnish with a Lemon or Lime Slice

Also please remember that I encourage you not to drink more spirits, but rather to drink better spirits!

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

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)


7 Responses to “Crown Royal Reserve”

  1. Renee said

    My husband loves this stuff. I want to get him something with similar tasting notes for the holidays. Any suggestions?

  2. Brian said

    I’ve heard rumblings that there are absolutely *enormous* batch-to-batch variations in this stuff. Heard (or experienced) the same phenomenon? I’ve got a bottle that’s been sitting on the shelf for awhile–I like it; it’s good. But I’m not blown away by it.

    • Hi Brian

      I have not heard anything in particular about batch variation with respect to the Crown Royal Reserve, but it would not surprise me (and it would get me off the hook for my initial reaction in my first review several years ago when I was underwhelmed as well). For any Limited Edition Bottling, batch variation can be quite noticeable (The Wiser’s 18 Year Old for example is blended from less than 20 barrels, and at that point consistency in flavour from batch to batch is almost impossible). Based upon the description given on the Crown Royal website as to how the barrels are selected, perhaps consistency in flavour is not necessarily the aim from batch to batch, rather the aim is to select the best barrels possible and to make the best whisky possible each time.

  3. Harvey Levitt said

    Chip, in the islands I bought this whisky. It came in a gold or beige sack ( I’m not good with color), not the royal blue in your photo. I really like it and was wondering if you might be able to explain the discrepancy. Keep up the good work.

  4. Вибропогружатель свай said

    Straight to the point and well written! Why can’t everyone else be like this?

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