Review: Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Canadian Whisky

IMG_2101A combination of the changing market of consumers and the rye craze has brought out some new interesting Canadian whiskies. Crown Royal has released 2 new whiskies, one being its Northern Harvest Rye and another its Hand Selected Single Barrel – the first being a 90% rye whisky and the second equivalent to a very high rye mashbill bourbon in terms of production and aging style. These whiskies are both components of whiskies which are blended together to form all crown royal products – in the classic Canadian style, most Crown Royal products are a blend of base whiskies (typically corn) which provide a good base and body and they are spiced with powerful whiskies (often rye) to add flavour and craft a blend, much like how Scottish distillers use grain whisky as a base and single malts as the flavoring to their blended whiskies. Now, what we are seeing more and more in Canada, is that more of the more powerful flavouring whiskies are being released as bottlings, as Crown Royal has done here – this is similar, I think, to the single malt craze which emerged and grew outward from the blended scotch industry.

Crown Royal has a number of different whiskies which are produced – 5 in fact. There are two base corn whiskies, and three different flavoring whiskies, two of which are high rye recipes (from which these whiskies were crafted), and another of which is a bourbon style whisky (the hand selected single barrel). Both of these whiskies are only available in the US. Sadly, I picked up a Hand Selected Single Barrel on a recent trip to the US but it got crushed in transit as I was bringing it back, and now all my clothes smell like butterscotch and cherries! Thus, I will not be posting a review soon, so in lieu of that take a look at some other recommended reviews of a single barrel Canadian whisky bottled at 51.5% and probably will remind you more of a bourbon than a crown royal:

Moving along, here are my notes on Northern Harvest Rye, which, notably, comes in at 45%:

Nose: Very fruity, with both a bit of a fruity rose wine and a bourbon profile. As I said, very fruity – fresh and dried blueberries, fresh and dried cherries, peaches, guavas, pineapple, dried apricot, and a bit of a candied fruit character as well like candied mango and candied pineapple, and hard tropical and berry candies, dried apricot….there are wisps of bourbon too, mint, oak, vanilla, honey, and light earthiness. And, as well, spices – cumin, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Yet, this is not a heavy winter rye! But rather a lighter spring one. Water brings out the nose even more, too, and more of a floral nature comes in. 27.5/30 (92%)

Taste: Surprisingly tannic, and now the rye comes in full force with its herbal essence – arugula, tobacco, jasmine tea, all with a pretty bright berry-like fruitiness as you might find in a fruity cigar. After tasting, I picked up a lot more of these notes in the nose. The rye presentation is quite clean, and works well amidst the light fruit, surprisingly enough. It reminds me, in effect, of the trappist beer Chimay Extra Strong (the little blue bottle – a fabulous beer!) in its balance between heavy grain and bright fruit. The mouthfeel is medium – not super thick, but not watery. Very well done. 27/30 (90%)

Finish: Dried apricot, black tea, jasmine, raw ground almonds, with a slightly sour profile and a bit of a peppery bite. The tannins take their toll, and the rye fades quickly – this is the weakest part of the whisky, but it’s still very good. 18/20 (90%)

Conclusion: There you go folks – I’m very pleasantly surprised by this. I expected something better than the standard Crown Royal, but wasn’t expecting something this good. This whisky is now my top budget whisky, sitting alongside the likes of Forty Creek Copper Pot, Lot no. 40, and Pike Creek – very good company. The match between the complex fruitiness (I rarely find a whisky with such complex fruit packed in it!) and the heavier herbal rye and spice is brilliant, and continues to impress upon subsequent tastings. Quite a bit different, and significantly better, than the standard Crown Royal – not nearly as dry or harsh. Highly recommended – and, also, $30. 19/20 (95%)

Overall Score: 91.5/100


15 thoughts on “Review: Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Canadian Whisky

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  7. Ok Jason, I have tried this several times and have followed your reviews for some time now. This is ok, but Lot 40 is much better, and Collingwood 21/ Wiser’s Legacy is as well.
    This is a young tannic/acidic rye, I did a side by side with High West Rendezvous Rye and there was no contest. (I dare not bring out my Masterson’s Rye to blow this CR away 🙂

    Great review as always, also Canadian Rockies 21 year rye is out in Alberta, do you have any idea when the LCBO may have this?


  8. OK Jason, I have followed your reviews for some time now and I must be missing something here. This is not better than Lot 40. I just did I side by side with HW Rendezvous Rye at it was not close.

    Nice review as always, cheers

    Have you heard anything regarding Canadian Rockies 21 year being available at the LCBO, already in Alberta.

  9. Sorry to disagree Jason, but Lot 40 is better than this. Too young, acidic, OK for the price.

    Did a side by side with High West Rendezvous Rye as well, was not close at all.

    Can’t take Chip Dykstra’s review serious in his 94.5/100 since he rated Masterson’s Rye an 84/100, and that’s ridiculous as Masterson’s Rye may be the best attainable Rye there is.

    Great review as always,

    I see that Canadian Rockies 21 year is available in Alberta, any idea as to when it may hit the LCBO


  10. I haven’t heard anything about the Canadian Rockies coming yet – the LCBO staff often don’t know, but distributors have a better idea if you call the LCBO and ask to get in touch with a distributor. Someone from Crown Royal e-mailed me in November saying that Northern Harvest Rye wasn’t coming to Canada! So certainly it isn’t well communicated.

    I have heard a similar sentiment about this whisky from others. It’s a subtle whisky, not overt, so you need to take time with it – but the style may not be for everyone. Certainly a very different style from Masterson’s, which, I agree, is better. But, also, everyone’s palates are different – this is true and true. Every tasting I do there aren’t unanimous favorites. Also why it’s not usually a good idea to only take one person’s opinion as authority (as so many do!)

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