Royal Reserve Canadian Rye Whisky (40% alc./vol.)


Prototypical light and smooth 1970s cocktail whisky. Starts small, gradually becoming complex but subtle, with brittle rye, hot pepper, creamy toffee and lemon zing. Spicy Rye. ★★★☆Royal Reserve was a major Corby brand when the distillery was still located on the banks of the Moira River in Corbyville, Ontario. Throughout the 1960s and '70s Corby’s promoted it as light and smooth with a hint of woody character. Value pricing may have contributed to strong sales back then, but today's plastic bottle certainly does nothing positive for the whisky's image. As someone once said, "I want to know who invented plastic whisky bottles, and where they were hanged."Since Corby’s has moved production to Walkerville, Royal Reserve has fallen into the shadows somewhat, so the whisky now waits as a pleasant surprise for the rye drinker in search of a crisp mixing whisky.Cocktails are cool again and Royal Reserve is a typical old-time Canadian whisky from the cocktail’s hey-day. It’s mixing whisky, yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s without substance. Where punch and power define so many of today’s sipping whiskies, Royal Reserve stays clearly in the camp of subtle elegance. When light and smooth defined the best whiskies, Corby's put enormous energy into making theirs the lightest and the smoothest without sacrificing complexity of flavour. Happily, the team in Walkerville continues this tradition.Nose: A rich and somewhat complex nose emerges slowly from an almost silent start. First to appear is dusty rye with faint cloves, ginger and cinnamon in tow. Toffee soon follows then a contrasting inkling of pickles. This is a '70s Canadian rye whisky nose to be sure: tightly integrated with slowly growing intensity, though it never really becomes overly expressive. Rather, it’s all about subtlety, nuance and balance. The scent of walnuts adds a new dimension as do whiffs of pine needles and a vague suggestion of bicycle tires, but really this is all about mild but assertive hard rye.Palate: Starts out quite light and sweet and almost watery, with burnt sugar right off the bat then sweet toffee and a hint of ripe fruit. The slight bitterness of rye grain, hints of dry oak, and the feel of French's® mustard complement a mouth-coating creaminess. Hot pepper and sweet rye spices dominate, but not enough to hide a vague and ever-present hint of brittle rye along with some zingy lemon zest.Finish: Medium length. Develops slowly then fades from heat to sweet with zippy rye spices. A refreshing bitterness balances the glowing pepper.Empty Glass: Not much at all except some vague hints of caramel and black licorice.$23.40 at LCBO.Recommended. ★★★☆