Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye: Tasting Notes for the Best Whiskey of 2015

Crown Royal Canadian Whisky Tasting NotesJim Murray releases a Whiskey Bible every year and the 2016 Edition of Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible named a Canadian whiskey as the world’s best.

Not a single Scotch made the top five.

(the top five were Crown Royal Northern harvest Rye, Pikesville Straight Rye, Midleton Dair Ghaelech, William Larue Weller Bourbon 2014, and Suntory Yamazaki Mizunara 2014)

The Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye scored 97.5 out of a possible 100 points and he called it a masterpiece.

I don’t know what I’d call it but when I saw it for $28 at the local store, I picked one up.

So what do we know about this before we pop open the bottle? First, a little background on what makes something a Canadian whisky. Canadian whisky tends to be lighter and are blends of multi-grain liquors, most of which will be corn based. Just as in Scotland, it must be aged for at least three years in Canada and be at least 40% in alcohol. Many Canadian whiskies contain rye (albeit sometimes very little) but are not always explicitly labeled as such.

The Northern Harvest Rye has a mashbill with 90% rye and clocks in at 90 proof (45% abv).

Now that we have the accounting out of the way, what’s it like?

Tasting Notes

  • Nose: Light, sugary without much alcohol vapors, rye spice, fruit and caramel
  • Taste: A little sweeter than I expected, not as much spiciness as I expected but has the rye bite I was looking for, cinnamon, molasses, cloves.
  • Finish: Medium finish with a lot of sweetness, bite of rye, and it lingers nicely.

OK so here’s where I get tripped up. It tastes very much like the fall, like the scents of the holidays (Christmas!). Now is that because ’tis the season or is it really like that? I’ve tried this on three separate occasions, with different glasses, to see if my original impressions were right.

They were. This is like a rye designed to be sold during Christmas. It’s kind of unexpected really.

Overall, it’s pretty good. For $28, it represents good value.

I don’t consider it a masterpiece but that’s personal preference. Whereas I love Laphroaig’s Cairdeas expressions, where they finish Laphroaig in desert wine casks to marry the smoke with the sweet, this one is a marriage I’m unsure about. If they got divorced in three years I don’t think anyone would be surprised. :)

Personally, I prefer my rye whiskey to have a little more spiciness and bite without the other flavors like molasses, fruit, and cinnamon.

Your thoughts?

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S’mores Forever Changed: Bourbon Marshamallows


One of my great loves in the world is putting together a fire. I’m not a pyromaniac or anything like that, but I enjoy the firepit outside as much as the fireplace inside. There’s something about the flames dancing around… it’s mesmerizing.

My wife loves fires too. She loves them because they precede s’mores. :)

(I kid — she loves the smell of fires, the look of them, and especially their warmth… but she’s usually the one busting out the s’mores making materials even before the kindling is ablaze!)

So when I discovered that you could find flavored marshmallows, I knew I had to get some. Stat.

I haven’t gotten them yet but I plan on getting myself a set of bourbon marshmallows made by this company Wondermade. They’re not cheap, it’s like $8 plus shipping for a package of 16, but they are bourbon flavored!

Have you tried them? What do you think?

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Best Whisky Ice Cube Trays & Molds

I’m not a purist but I don’t put ice in my single malt scotch. I rarely put it in any other type of whiskey I drink.

Irish whiskey is so light it never needs it. I like feeling like a lumberjack when I drink bourbon and lumberjacks don’t use ice.

But, I get that some folks like it. I don’t begrudge them, I think you should enjoy life however you like. Drink whisky however you see fit. Just drink it. :)

(also, I use ice in cocktails, so there is a good reason to have ice cube trays!)

So, when I was asked to share my thoughts on ice cubes at home, I had to think about what I cared about… and this is that post.

There are two things that matter when it comes to ice and whisky. The size of the cube and the shape of the cube (yes yes, I realize how silly that sounds… a cube is a cube is a cube).

When it comes to trays, or molds, I look for these things:

  • Silicone – A great philosopher once said that silicone parts are made for toys and I think ice cube molds and trays fit the bill. Silicone means it’s really easy to get the ice cube out because the mold is easy to bend. Plastic molds? Too rigid, especially when you have a frozen block of ice, and you’re likely to break the ice (or the mold) as you try to get it out.
  • BPA-free – Who wants BPA? I’m not a hardcore organic this and organic that, but scientists tell us that in large doses BPA can act like estrogen. Despite my overwhelming manliness (I am drinking Scotch after all), I’m drinking whisky in order to avoid estrogen. :)
  • Shape – A ball is better than a cube because it has less surface area, so it melts slower, which means less water and more cool.

Which ones are the best?

Tovolo Ice Molds are one of the highest rated sphere ice molds on and they’re cheap, under nine bucks. They make two 2.5″ ice balls and the mold itself is 3.5″ x 6″ and stack. They’re the #1 best seller in the Ice Cube Molds & Trays category, so that has to count for something. I don’t own them nor have I ever used them.

If you want enormous cubes, Tovolo has HUGE 2″ ice cube trays. Again, thousands of reviews, and it’s cheap.

Lastly, if you want to cool it down a little without watering it down, cubes of soapstone (a.k.a. whiskey stones) are a decent alternative. They won’t get them as cold as ice, but they won’t water down your elixir either.

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One Man’s Journey to Blend Your Own Scotch Whisky

One of the great pleasures of being in a Facebook group with nearly a thousand members (join us!) is that there are so many experiences. There’s always someone who has an opinion on something, whether it’s a whisky or a glass!

I think different opinions, and arguments, are the lifeblood of any good community. Take all the opinions, mix them together, and then formulate your own.

One of the ideas that’s been floating around the group is the idea of blending your own whisky. Take a few drams you like and just experiment by mixing them together, letting it sit for a bit and then see what comes out of it.

I’ve personally never tried it but one of our intrepid members, Mike, has and I wanted him to share his approach.

Take it away Mike!

Blending Your Own Scotch Whisky

One Man's Journey to Blending his Own Scotch WhiskyI was inspired to home blend Scotch after watching after watching Ralfy Review46. I enjoy, and agree, with his take on whisky and spirits in general. I wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur, that sounds too stuffy and self-important, and consider myself more of a hobbyist. I enjoy researching, tracking bottles, and collecting what might suit my taste.

In review 46, he suggests lining up four short drams of the same unpeated single malt. Then, leaving the first one alone, adding incrementally more drops of peated malt into each of the other three glasses with a straw. Two drops, then four drops, then eight drops. Then nose and taste each to experience the changes that occur.

This is a cool experiment for your palate.

What’s also cool, and what I would discover as I did this myself, was that you can change a single malt into a variation of itself. Adding peat to Glenfiddich 12. Adding heavy sherry influence to something that doesn’t normally have it. The combinations are endless for collectors who have a lot of bottles on hand.

I first did this after being disappointed by a bottle I purchased and had been struggling to finish. It was a bottle of Ballantines 17 and I didn’t like it very much. I think I was too new to whisky. It’s a fine blend that I was probably not ready to enjoy early in my whisky journey.

After pouring a dram one night, I decided to try “perking” it up with a teaspoon of another bottle I was not enjoying – Aberlour 18. The result of this “in glass” blending? I learned that my palate loved the blend far better than the two separately. It was more than the sum of it’s parts, so to speak. The lightly citrus blend was lifted by the inclusion of more single malt and it’s sherry influence.

I would do an “in glass” blend a few more times before graduating to blending into a separate vessel. I cleaned several small jars for blending.

My first small jar was just an old maraschino cherry jar from the fridge. It worked fine but I wanted something better. I moved onto little 2 ounce snap top bottles I found at a local dollar store, four for $3. Now I always have five mini blends sitting around waiting to be sampled. When I want to go for a slightly different taste, I can crack one of these minis and drink something totally unique.

When blending, I don’t get too complicated. I mix 50/50, 75/25, and even 33/33/33. The point is you are using your own collection and working on choosing from you own favorite taste elements. You also don’t need to blend a lot of volume, a few ounces is all it takes to experiment. If you enjoy it, make it more.

In addition to playing with different flavor elements, you can work on “fixing” a bottle you don’t otherwise enjoy on its own. Better to blend and try to find a dram you enjoy than pour it down the drain!

Also, there are some whiskies that are so revered you might never think to “taint” it by blending. No worries, that’s ok too. But imagine if you put a few drops of Talisker 18 into your glass of Macallan 18? Give it a shot, you might be surprised. Maybe you decide to never do it again, OR, maybe you just stumbled onto a new favorite.

My current blends marrying:

  • Glent Grant 2003/Coal Ila 12 – 75%/25% – Here, I love the GlenGrant on it’s own, it’s light, subtle, almost buttery. I just want to taste a hint of that quality with some peat smoke. Coal Ila is similar in subtlety (as much as an Islay can be), and without any Bowmore 12 on hand, easy choice to inject the peat. I have high hopes for this one.
  • Springbank 18/Highland Park 18 – 50%/50% – Simple blending of two 18 year old quality malts to see if the sum is better than the parts. My bottle of Highland Park 18 has never really blown me away, possibly part of batch variance I’ve read about with the brand. So mixing some funky barnyard Springbank into it could make something special. This should be good.
  • Arran Amarone Cask/Glenlivet Nadurra 16 – 50%/50% (both I disliked, so I’m a bit twisted) – This is pure Franken-blending. I hated the Nadurra (I’m a confirmed Glenlivet enemy), and I did not like the Amarone Cask much either. Arran makes much better age statement whisky than this Cask Finish line. Only thought here, empty the last two swallows of two bad bottles into a blend. How much worse can they get?! HAHAHA, not much hope here.
  • Bowmore 12/Glenlivet 12/GKS Artist Blend – 33%/33%/33% – Again, trying to make Glenlivet palatable to me, by adding the last of my Bowmore 12, and also and already very good blend in the Great King Street Artists Blend. Adding a little single malt to a successful blend has given me some of my best blending results, and hopefully this continues that trend. The Glenlivet 12 is the least offensive, so this may turn out ok.
  • Jura 16/Glenlivet 15/Redbreast 12 – 33%/33%/33% – Similar to the last one. Using up the last of Glenlivet 15 and matching up age groups. Jura 16 was enjoyable and mostly sweet toffee and honey. I was hoping to hide the Glenlivet, and Redbreast is a very good Irish whiskey to add, and my first attempt to include some Irish.

An update on the Jura/Glenlivet/Redbreast blend – since I wrote this I tried this blend. Utter failure. The Glenlivet remained a strong presence, and while I enjoyed Redbreast and Jura 16 separately, this mix was an abomination. But it was a fun trial. I learned something about the strength of the Glenlivet here, and that Redbreast would do better blending with less sweet, as I successfully have mixed it with Coal Ila in the past. It’s all about the education.

Have fun people! Post your trial combinations, no matter if they succeed or fail.

Posted in General | 17 Comments

Whiskey Smash Drink Cocktail

via Bon Appetit

via Bon Appetit

For a while in the summer, I started researching really simple whisky cocktails. When I say simple, I mean like no more than a few steps and five ingredients.

A Manhattan is pretty simple. Bitters, whisky, and vermouth.

Another simple one is called a Whiskey Smash and I found a recipe in Bon Appetit magazine.


Mash the leaves and the lemon along with the tablespoon of simple syrup. Add the bourbon or some other whisky. Transfer to a glass filled halfway with crushed ice.

Boom. Simple. Tasty.

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