The whiskey world erupted earlier this year when Jim Murray named Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye his 2016 World Whisky of the Year. The resulting uproar created waves of controversy as people reacted to the news, reacted to the reactions, and continued on from there. So what’s the real story here, and should Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye actually be the Whisky of the Year?
Two important points should be made right away — and they have indeed been made by the more logically inclined who have already shared their own thoughts on the matter.
The first is that this is one man’s award, not a panel or blind review, not a majority or unanimous polling. The second is that this one man happens to be selling an annual book release, and wouldn’t you know it, he has received quite a bit of publicity from all the hubbub surrounding his award winning pick.
Moving on, I wanted to sample the whisky for myself. So let’s dive in and take a look…
Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye was released in the States in early 2015. It’s bottled at 45% ABV and is a 90% blend of rye whisky.
The nose features rye spice and oak, along with distinctive green apples and pears, and a touch of medicinal and minty notes. The palate is smooth and creamy, with vanilla, rye, oak and baking spices including cloves and cinnamon. The finish is short and easy, leaving a touch of black pepper along with more rye and vanilla.
All told, it features a fluid combination of Crown’s signature creaminess with the spice and bite of all that rye. It’s a highly enjoyable easy-sipper, and at $29.99 a bottle, it’s also a damn good dram at a damn good price.
Canadian whisky authority Davin de Kergommeaux chimed in with his own thoughts, saying:
Still, Canadian whisky makers have reason to celebrate. Not only will this attention bring long-lasting notice to Canadian whisky, it will also help assure the future of the thousands of Canadian farmers who supply the grain required to make it.
You disagree with Murray’s specific choice? It doesn’t really matter. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye is now the ambassador for Canadian whisky worldwide.
(For what it’s worth, de Kergommeaux did not even name Northern Harvest Rye his top choice out of Canada for the year in the Whisky Advocate awards. Instead, he opted for the Crown Royal 75th Anniversary/Monarch release.)
While I wouldn’t have named it my “whisky of the year”, as Davin says, it doesn’t really matter. It’s a worthy spokesman for Canadian whisky, a strong entrant to the category if you’re unfamiliar, and it makes for an easy drinking, affordable and worthwhile addition to your home bar.