Canadian, No Age Statement, 51.5% ABV, $44
I’ve never been a fan of Crown Royal (or Canadian whiskey for that matter), but a friend handed me this sample and told me it was surprisingly good, so here we are. This is the original barrel delivered to Spec’s in Dallas. I have no way of knowing how this compares with current offerings and I’ve since seen this practically everywhere in the DFW metroplex.
The smell is first of all sweet with vanilla, butterscotch, brown sugar, milk chocolate and a mild alcohol burn. The taste is similar, but not as sweet, offering the expected vanilla, butterscotch and brown sugar with a finish that is thin with a bit of burn. There are notes of milk chocolate midway through and some mild varnish on the finish. Still, it’s fairly solid and somewhat enjoyable. Eventually, there is some dried honey up front and some straw and young leather on the finish with the latter tasting tannic, but not much excitement.
This isn’t bad, but tastes somewhat artificial and doctored. The flavors are simple and mostly enjoyable, but not well integrated. If you suspend the critical aspects of your palate and just enjoy the show, then you probably will. For the price, I think I’ll pass.
Thanks to Mark E. for the sample.
Tonight, I attended a different kind of tasting at Trinity Hall Irish Pub in Dallas. This one included 4 pairs of similarly styled whiskey, which had to be identified as either the named flagship offering or a specific premium offering. Here was the lineup:
- Bulleit Bourbon ($20) or Bulleit 10 Year Bourbon ($35) – The 10 Year is a new offering from Bulleit that was introduced in 2013 and I haven’t read any favorable reviews or received any favorable recommendations on it. I had tasted their regular Bourbon almost 2 years ago and wasn’t impressed. I approached the judging by expecting the flavor of the 10 year to reflect it’s age, but I was duped. The 10 Year is worse than the original and a definite waste of money.
- Crown Royal ($18) or Crown Royal XO ($45) – I’ve not had many Canadian whiskeys, so this was new for me. The cognac influence of the XO was subdued (as was the general flavor of both whiskies), but discernable. I didn’t find either one very interesting, so I would pass on both of these.
- Bushmills Black Bush ($30) of Bushmills 1608 400th Anniversary ($100) – This was the most difficult to identify because both of these blends have sherry influence. Black Bush is finished in sherry casks, while 1608 includes whiskies which have been aged in sherry casks. For me, the 1608 had an added depth of flavor and richness that caught my attention more. Both of these were good, but I prefer Jameson 12 Year ($39) or Jameson Gold Reserve ($63) over either of them.
- MacAllan 10 Year Fine Oak ($38) or MacAllan 17 Year Fine Oak ($150) – This was probably the easiest to identify even though both of these are good. I had tasted both of them at a previous Trinity Hall event and this helped as well. The 17 Year just had enhanced flavors and complexity over the 10 Year, but it’s still not worth the price difference.
If you’re keeping track, then you know that I correctly identified 3 out of 4. I don’t know of anyone at the event who correctly identified them all (like I said, Bulleit duped everyone with their 10 Year Bourbon by making it worse than their original). This was a good test of whether premium offerings really offer anything special and it was a fun event to attend. In general, premium offerings need to be approached carefully. There are those who will offer inferior products with a premium label (e.g. Bulleit), while others will price their premium offering far too high to make them worthwhile (e.g. MacAllan). Still others, take mediocre products and enhance them to create mediocre premium products (e.g. Crown Royal). What you’re looking for is the honest producer who will masterfully or cleverly work to create a superior product that is worthwhile. The closest example of that tonight was Bushmills 1608… even though it’s not a whiskey that I would seek, the premium blend definitely demonstrated a richness, depth and complexity that I expect in a premium offering.