Royal Canadian Small Batch (40% alc/vol (80 proof))
A very sweet fruit smoothie with earthy rye, hints of fresh oak, hot pepper, baking spices, pickle juice, spirit, and refreshing bitter notes. Fruity & Spicy. ★★★☆The old familiar Royal Canadian blend has a loyal following. In Michigan and the south-eastern states, Sazerac’s ever-popular Royal Canadian blended whisky sells strongly. But now, a new arrival is garnering even more attention, and earning solid sales nation-wide as well. You see, there’s a new Royal Canadian and it’s older, just a little bit smarter, a lot better looking, and about as robust and flavourful as you could want a mixing whisky to be.Royal Canadian Small Batch is an all-new, richer blend of Canadian whiskies packaged in a sleek, substantial, custom-designed, tall, clear bottle with a distinctive label that is screened right onto the glass. And along with the beefed-up flavour and the striking package, the price has been given a $10.00 upgrade as well.Although it is made in Canada, and by Canadians, Royal Canadian Small Batch is not yet available north of the 49th parallel. It has been on store shelves in the U.S. since spring, but plans are just coming together now to introduce it in British Columbia and Ontario early in 2011. Perhaps the enthusiastic reception it has received in the U.S. has prompted Sazerac to expand its reach. Like its stable mate, the premium Caribou Crossing Single Barrel, Royal Canadian Small Batch has exceeded sales predictions and is already into its second small-batch release.The nose behind these new whiskies is Sazerac Master Blender, Drew Mayville, who came to Buffalo Trace after 23 years with the Seagram’s organization. Mayville, in fact, was Seagram’s Master Blender when the firm was sold. This is an important detail. Seagram’s was a trail-blazing spirits company all through the 20th century – and especially in the era of the enigmatic “Mr. Sam” (Bronfman to you!). Well, something of that pioneering approach seems to have rubbed off on Mayville. He has set his sights on nothing less than re-defining the Canadian whisky category. Such brash talk could only come from someone who has walked in the shoes of “Mr. Sam”.“Canadian whisky is a misunderstood spirit,” Mayville said, as he introduced Royal Canadian Small Batch and Caribou Crossing Single Barrel at the Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans this past July. "We think this category is unlimited,” he enthused. “This is going to be an explosive category and we're starting the trend." Well, we haven’t heard any explosions yet, but signs are everywhere that the connoisseur is beginning to take notice of Canadian whisky. So, kudos to Mayville and to Sazerac for recognizing this niche and supplying it with whisky.Buffalo Trace, which is owned by Sazerac, has amassed a diverse inventory of over 200,000 barrels of Canadian whisky through several acquisitions from leading Canadian distilleries. This gives Mayville a wide range of choices when he selects the barrels for his Royal Canadian Small Batch. And the success these whiskies have had in the marketplace already, has encouraged Mayville to use this broad inventory to create even more new whiskies, Stay tuned!“The Single Barrel and the Small Batch are the beginning of a long-term strategy for Sazerac to raise the bar for Canadian Whisky,” says Mayville. There’s Mr. Sam talking again. But Mayville’s plans to foster a greater appreciation for Canadian whisky are well-rooted. Not only did he spend 23 years at Seagram’s, Mayville also went to school in the same town where the legendary “Mr. Sam” created the ultra-successful Crown Royal, 1.6 million barrels of which sit maturing in the Crown Royal warehouses at any one time.With more new releases on the way, and Caribou Crossing still to review for these pages, let’s get started with a close-up look at Royal Canadian Small Batch, the mixing whisky which serves as the entry point to Sazerac’s new range of premium and ultra-premium Canadians.Nose: An over-the-top fruit smoothie made of tangy green fruit, pink lemonade, and a whole range of citric fruits – some sweet, some sharp. The sweet generic fruitiness is punctuated by rich dark fruit, including dried dates, figs, and prunes, candied baking fruits, ripe black cherries, and some berryish notes. But there’s more fruit! Cantaloupe, ripe red wine grapes, and white wine. This multidimensional fruitiness starts clean, but soon loses its distinct notes in a blended synthesis. Although the fruit clearly dominates the nose, other more interesting notes also poke through. Earthy rye spices, oily rye, vague hints of pickles, fresh-water plants, suggestions of fresh-cut wood, and hints of sweet baking spices reassure us that this is indeed aged Canadian whisky. A heavy, oily, almost waxy aroma deftly counterbalances bitter walnuts, citric zest, and a generous dollop of spirit. Hints of anise, and a slight oakiness add more interest to this fruity mixer.Palate: Very sweet and sugary, with burnt sugar and caramel that become somewhat cloying in the throat. Winey, with lots of fruit, including over-ripe dark plums, dried dark fruit, dried oranges, and a fruity bitterness. Rye spices in the sweet-baking-spice range, including most notably, cinnamon, cloves, and glowing hot white pepper which is reinforced by hot ginger. As the heat intensifies some bitterness develops in the middle. The most interesting feature of this whisky palate is a refreshing bitterness which combines hints of lime peel, citric pith, bitter lemon soda, and something reminiscent of tonic water. Just little hints of red cedar bounce off the dominating peppery notes. In the end, this is not so much a complex whisky as a complicated one. It is quite flavourful, although as a sipper it has some watery patches, but these would never be noticed in a mixed drink. What starts out simple and a bit thin improves significantly as the body develops substantial weight thus improving the overall enjoyment of the whisky. As well as substance, the body has lots of texture, including a slight oily-waxy feel, a slight mealiness, and a touch of tannic grip.Finish: Medium-long and fading. Hot tingling pepper, hot spices, citric bitterness, cut cedar, sweet fruit, sultanas, and sweet caramel.Empty Glass: Caramel, hints of fresh-cut wood, dry wood, hints of ripe fruit, prune juice, dry dates, dry grain, hints of beer.$25.00 in selected U.S. liquor stores.Recommended. ★★★☆Caribou Crossing Single Barrel is reviewed here.