By Richard Thomas
For some reason, liquor billboard advertising in my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky is dominated by two brands. The first, Maker’s Mark, is unsurprising. The other was Crown Royal. I have never quite understood why Canadian whisky has been so heavily advertised for so long in the heart of bourbon country, and certainly all those billboards failed to work on me, because I never bothered to try Crown Royal as a casual drinker. It took my first flirtations with whiskey writing to bring me to it.
Crown Royal was created by Seagram back in the 1930s, commemorating a visit by George VI to Canada. In Canada it stayed until the 1960s, and today the whiskey’s production has been consolidated down to one distillery in Manitoba. The classy appearance of Crown Royal emphasizes those royal roots, what with the fancy Edwardian-style bottle and blue velvety bag, and the brand is currently part of Diageo’s stable.
Crown Royal is bottled at 40% abv, the standard alcohol content for many a mass market whiskey. The coloring is burnt gold/light copper, reflecting the light character of the whiskey. The nose is floral and citrusy, with a current of creamy vanilla.
The flavor is light, with a sweetness that would be plain, were it not for the minor notes of toffee and honey. There is a slight woodiness there, as well as a little rye spice. The finish is warm, pleasant, and lingering.
Ultimately, Crown Royal is not sophisticated stuff. However, it is nice enough for neat drinking, and simple enough that there is no shame in putting it on the rocks or using it as a mixer. It’s simple virtues as an average whiskey go a long way to explaining why it sells so well.
Depending on local taxes, a fifth of Crown Royal goes for $28 in the United States. The price in Canada is also about $28, albeit in loonies. Prices in Europe follow the “similar number, different money rule” to come in at €26 or €27.