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Royal Canadian Small Batch Canadian Whisky

Review: Royal Canadian Small Batch Canadian Whisky  85.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published September 21, 2012

According to the Sazerac website, their company is a direct result of the famous cocktail which bears the same name. It began in 1938 when Antoine Peychaud created a special drink for his guests to enjoy in the evenings at his apothecary in the French Quarter’s Royal Street. He would mix brandy, absinthe and a dash of his secret bitters for his guests. This special drink became quite popular, and it began to appear in the various ‘coffee house’ establishments in New Orleans. One such establishment, the Sazerac Coffee House became so popular serving their version of the drink (made with Sazerac de Forge et Fils Brandy) that it became known as the Sazerac Cocktail.

In 1869, Thomas H. Handy purchased the Sazerac Coffeehouse, and by the 1890’s the coffee-house and its growing business interests had become chartered as the Sazerac Company. Although, the company is based in New Orleans, its holdings include many of  North America’s most popular distilling companies, the Buffalo Trace Distillery, A. Smith Bowman, the Glenmore Distillery, and more.

According to the information sent to me by Sazerac, Canadian whisky is a very big deal in the USA,  accounting for sales of roughly 100 million liters of spirits. In fact, Canadian Whisky is responsible for a whopping 11.6 % of the overall spirits market in the USA. Although it has been popular for spirits writer’s and whisky critics to disregard the Canadian Whisky category, the truth is that North America has seen growth in sales of the premium and super-premium categories of Canadian Whisky over the last several years. Sazerac has been a participant in this growth with the launch of their new Single Barrel Canadian Whisky, Caribou Crossing, and their new Small Batch Canadian Whisky, Royal Canadian Small Batch.

The Royal Canadian Small Batch whisky has been constructed from a very small selection (50 barrels) of carefully chosen Canadian whisky barrels. Bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume, this is a 4 grain whisky which was blended from those selected barrels to not only have the smoothness traditionally associated with Canadian whisky; but to also carry robust taste profile forward for the whisky connoisseur.

I was fortunate enough to have been sent a sample bottle from the good folks at Charton Hobbs who are marketing this unique whisky for Sazerac, here in Alberta.

In the Bottle 4/5

I snapped a photo of the sample bottle of Royal Canadian Small Batch out on my back deck. As you can tell the whisky arrives in a rather tall bottle which although nice, lacks the frills I normally associate with a premium whisky. The etched coat of arms on the bottle is a nice touch, although as you can see from the picture, it really does not stand out in any substantial way. (Although etched glass is nice, the lack of colour contrast makes etchings hard to see unless the light is just right.) I would like to see a little colour added to the label which would give the presentation ‘pop’ on my bar shelf. As it is, the whisky bottle just sort of blends in and disappears next to my other whiskies.

In the Glass 9/10

The Royal Canadian Small batch displays a nice bright copper colour in the glass similar to the colour of a brand new penny. When I give the glass a quick tilt and a slow turn I witness a plethora of long slender legs moving down from the top of the whisky crest, back into the liquid below. The whisky sends an initial display of light oak, sweet butterscotch, and punky caramel corn into the breezes above the glencairn glass. As the whisky breathes, I notice some wood spices and sticky maple wandering upwards joined by vanilla and light almond accents. There is a fruitiness in the air represented by light impressions of dry fruit (plums and apricots), some fresh berries, and a little citrus zest, all of which seem to meld into that sticky maple aroma giving me impressions of freshly opened cans of apricots and pears.

Those breezes are pleasant above the glass and I am pleased with the scents and aromas I have encountered.

In the Mouth  51/60

The initial impression I have upon the palate is that the whisky is relatively clean on the palate with the light taste of oak leading out ahead of the butterscotch, rye spices and dank corn flavours. Despite the obvious sweetness of the whisky, the oak spices pucker my mouth a little giving me an impression of dryness. And though I can taste a myriad of different flavours (both fresh and dry fruit; butterscotch and maple sweetness, and dabbles of ginger, cloves and cinnamon) it is that dry woodiness which I notice the most. I find the dichotomy of the dry wood spices versus the sweet fruit and butterscotch very interesting, and appealing.

As appealing as I find the whisky, I am leaning towards mixing rather than sipping. The interesting flavours I am finding will work out very well in cocktails (see recipe below).

In the Throat  13/15

The exit is not long and lingering, but neither is too short and crisp. Rather we have an exit which is sweet with hints of maple and spicy with dabbles of ginger and white pepper. A touch of oak spice and an impression of tobacco linger upon the palate after the glass is consumed. The sweet and spicy finish reinforces my desire to try a few cocktails (I mean this as a good thing).

The Afterburn 8.5/10

I am quite happy that the Sazerac Company is beginning to bring their premium Canadian whisky brands into Canada (and my home Province of Alberta). The Royal Canadian Small Batch represents a solid contribution to the Canadian Whisky landscape. This style of Canadian whisky carries more wood and oak flavours forward than us Canadians are used too; but, it also carries forward the traditional Canadian Whisky flavours of rye spice, fruit and butterscotch which we love. The whisky is an interesting (and good) sipper, and it is also a great mixer as you will see from my recipe below.

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


Suggested Recipes:

The Sazerac Splash
a Canadian take on a classic recipe

2 oz Royal Canadian Small Batch Canadian Whisky
1/2  tsp sugar
2 drops of Angostura Bitters
1 drop Fees Cocktail Bitters
1/4 tsp of absinthe (sub Green Chartreuse)
tsp crushed ice
lemon peel
Ginger ale

In a cold glass muddle the sugar, the bitters, and the Green Chartreuse with a teaspoon of crushed ice
Add 2 oz of Royal Canadian Small Batch Canadian Whisky
Stir until the sugar is dissolved
squeeze the lemon peel over the cocktail to release some oil
Drop the lemon peel into the glass
Add a splash of cold ginger ale

Enjoy this Canadian take on the classic Sazerac Cocktail


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)


2 Responses to “Royal Canadian Small Batch Canadian Whisky”

  1. Mike said

    Nice review. I was overall very pleased with this whisky; it reminded me somewhat of Wiser’s Small Batch but I think this is better balanced.

    • I didn’t make the connection during the review, but you are right; it is kind of spicy and complex like Wisers. At some point I will have to try them side by side.

      Cheers Mike!

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