Crown Royal XR - Extra Rare (40% alc./vol.)
A rich, weighty, hugely complex and skillfully structured whisky displaying ripe red fruit, fresh-cut oak, hot spices, dry grain, and violets. Rich & Oaky. ★★★★☆Joseph Seagram's old, and now largely demolished distillery, in Waterloo, Ontario, still has quite some cachet. In 2006, when it was announced that whisky from the last remaining barrels was to be released for sale, whisky aficionados took notice. A custom bottle was designed in honour of this end-of-an-era whisky, just as Sam Bronfman had done back in 1939 when Crown Royal was first created.The loss of Seagram’s silent Waterloo distillery, in part to a devastating fire, has long been lamented by Canadian whisky aficionados. But it’s only fair to explain that loss to whisky lovers on both sides of the border, especially those less familiar with the Seagram’s story. So the front label on those bottles of Crown Royal XR destined for the USA makes it very clear that this is definitely the last of the Waterloo whisky. But examine the label as closely as you like, you won’t find the Seagram name anywhere, although the whisky itself is very reminiscent of older whiskies from Seagram’s.To make XR, whisky that may well have rested in the warehouse pictured above, is masterfully blended with whiskies from Diageo’s Gimli, Manitoba plant and the resulting whisky really is one of a kind. But Crown Royal is a decidedly Diageo whisky now, and this elegant, perhaps even stately example is simply—and appropriately—called Crown Royal XR – Extra Rare.Nose: Closed at first, the nose opens to hints of fresh lumber, cedar, sweet licorice, floral and perfumed rye notes, then hints of pine. Dry grain, mash, hayloft, then sweet cigarette tobacco follow. Light, but also rich and complex, with many intermingled essences yet no dominant notes. Among the many aromas are corn, sweet ether, mucilage, vague peppermint, hints of canned peaches, some sultanas, then a whiff of something just slightly citric.Palate: Begins with mild toffee, like faintly floral corn whisky, and surprisingly, it tastes a bit salty. It’s sweet, but not cloying. Sweet rye baking spices show themselves right away then after a lot of other action they come back with hot flashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and generic ‘rye’ spices. Glowing white pepper notes along with hot peppermint create quite a warming sensation. An early bitter lemon-peel zestiness balances a rich, creamy, weighty mouthfeel, keeping the palate responsive.What starts out as a hint of dry grain or cereal soon becomes real rye and rye bread. Freshly cut wood wafts in and out with red cedar winning in the end, even though on the tongue it’s only mildly tannic. Although it has an almost fragile delicacy, this is a hugely complex whisky, and a very skillfully integrated one, beautifully balanced with no dominant notes. Supporting this intricate structure, a foundation of ripe fruit flavours, more fruit, in fact, than wood, keeps everything in its place until it all simply melds into one. And that’s just as it should do.Finish: Longish, peppery, and warm, with bitter zest in the middle, then hot and vaguely sweet with hints of toffee. Fragrant rye flowers, like waking up in a flower shop, then peppery, fading into hints of rye spices and fresh-cut wood. This unique lumberyard finish is just so nostalgically Canadian.Empty Glass: Not much, but some toffee, violets, lilacs, faint hints of something sweetish, aromas of ripe fruit, peaches, and again, hints of sweet cigarette tobacco. It’s quite mild, but with lots of fresh-sawn wood.The last barrels of Waterloo whisky were filled in November 1992, making the whisky about 14 years old at the time the first bottling of XR was made. Additional batches have since been blended to meet demand. One of the techniques Canadian whisky makers use in making their finest whiskies is to take advantage of the interplay between the mature richness of long-aged whiskies and the vibrancy of a more youthful one. “Time works wonders” was a Seagram’s motto and the original Crown Royal recipe in particular called for a blending of very old whiskies with others that ranged in ages, some of them quite young. Still, the impression that XR is seemingly made entirely with very old whisky did influence some bloggers who would have exalted its fresh luxuriant oak in a whisky perceived to be much younger.If these reviews influenced you not to splurge on a Canadian whisky that’s at the top end of the price scale, you might want to think again. Among the 1.4 million barrels in the Gimli warehouses, only a few barrels of Waterloo whisky still remain. The stocks are dwindling. For now, Crown Royal XR is still available from a limited number of retailers. More than just history in a bottle, it represents one of the finest expressions of the blenders’ art.At LCBO Crown XR sells for $180.00Highly recommended.★★★★☆Crown Royal Limited Edition reviewed here.Crown Royal Black reviewed here.Crown Royal Cask 16 reviewed here.Vintage Crown Royal Fine De Luxe from 1963 reviewed here.Press release for the new version of Crown Royal XR which includes whisky from the old LaSalle distillery in Montreal.