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?

11 thoughts on “Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye: Tasting Notes for the Best Whiskey of 2015

  1. (Just a quick note to please check/edit your proof vs abv calc. – simple oversight I am sure.)
    Enjoying the articles… keep it up.

  2. I’m sure the rye is a very nice whiskey, but I settled on Scotch as my drink long ago.

    Life’s too short not to drink what I love. That might make me a one-dimensional miserable excuse for a human being, but I can live with that!

    It was a good review, by the way.

  3. I’m from Canada (Toronto) and I had “noticed” this bottle in my local liquor stores for the better part of the late summer. Being Canadian, I typically look past most Canadian whiskeys (whiskys? Crap, I can never remember). Needless to say, before the middle of November if you wanted to get a bottle of Northern Harvest there were plenty to be found. As soon as Mr. Murray made his announcement this bottle was almost impossible to find. 1000’s of bottles were scooped up and all orders being brought into the liquor stores had lineups (no lie) waiting for them to open up the cases. They never even got to the shelves.

    However, in the last few weeks I was able to track a couple of bottles down only because I wanted to see what the hype was about. And for the price tag, it seemed worth putting a little effort into it. I used to drink regular Crown Royal in my university days. It was good, but since I’ve gained an appreciation for all things whiskey a few years ago, I hadn’t thought of it in the same light. I was happy to reunite with it, even if it was a different expression.

    Thoughts? For $30.00 you can do MUCH worse. It’s actually pretty good to tell you the truth. If it was $50.00, I may not think as highly of it, but it would still be worth it. I agree with Jim here, a little spicy, but still a good dram. 97.5 out of 100? I can’t see how anybody with any kind of rating system could give it that. But high 80’s wouldn’t be a far fetch. Mr. Murray needs to sell books. What better way than to be controversial. If anything he has shun a light on Canadian whiskey, which for me, is not a bad thing. Two more recommendations from the Great White North if you can find them: Lot 40 (interesting enough there was an advertisement for this in my latest copy of Whisky Advocate) and Stillwater Distillery’s Stalk and Barrel. I’d put them up there against many single malt scotches.

    Sorry I was so brief.

  4. I am yet to taste this whisky. I managed to grab one in the midst of the rage and demand for this whisky in the Canadian stores that are now sold out till the new year .
    I am a big single malt scotch whisky fan but because of the review Mr. Murray accorded this whisky, I definitely needed to try it for myself. I appreciate you honest opinions and the comments of fellow malt lovers here

  5. Very nice review Jim. I guess I will buy a bottle and see what the hype is all about. It goes for around 26 in this area, so not a big outlay of cash. Will use it for Manhattans or Old Fashions if nothing else.

  6. You are correct Jim, had this man named the 2015 Cairdeas as Whiskey of the year I would have thought “okay, sounds reasonable” as this is a excellent batch.

    Only problem would have been that this was gone off the shelves everywhere without any major hype in North America and from what I have heard was only available at the Laphroig Distillery and by Lottery in the UK.

    I believe he had scored the 2015 WLW 2nd which I was lucky to obtain through a lottery. Cannot sell books about unattainable Whisky I guess.


  7. I picked up a bottle because of your listing and the award.

    I keep a bourbon or two around sometimes, and enjoy a Makers’, Wild Turkey, or Dickel on the rocks or as a mixer, and might enjoy a wee dram of Blanton’s from time to time.

    While I can’t list the CR NHR as high on my list as, say, a Bunnahabhain or a Glenfarclas, it is a very nice whisky.

    I think your tasting notes are spot on here.

    After the disappointment over Templeton, and a dalliance with Wild Turkey Rye (which I like), I figure that CR can be my rye for a while. It’s nicely affordable and pleasant on the rocks. A decent finish on that one, too.

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