Crown Royal Black Canadian whisky

Crown Royal Black 45% alc./vol. (90 proof)

October 14, 2011

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Rum-soaked Christmas cake. Creamy, with vanilla, hot pepper, ginger, dark fruit, orange bitters, Bourbon, charcoal, oak, and floral notes. Rich and Round. ★★★★

Think dark rum. No, not any dark rum, think El Dorado 21 year-old. Now add some vanilla, some Bourbon, a handful of charcoal, a load of hot white pepper, and a dash of orange bitters. Now, with all those flavours still vibrant in your mouth, add the signature Crown Royal creaminess and you have nothing short of an indulgence: a big, powerful, and eminently quaffable whisky.

There are five spirit streams, at the Gimli, Manitoba distillery where Crown Royal is made. Three of them are ryes, one a “Bourbon,” and the fifth primarily corn. Add to these a couple of dozen different types and ages of barrels and the possibilities for Crown Royal flavour profiles are huge.

Master blender, Andrew MacKay, took full advantage of these possibilities to develop a bigger, bolder Crown Royal by balancing a heavier percentage of Bourbon-style and rye whiskies with buttery base whiskies. And he has managed to showcase the rye and Bourbon-style “flavouring” whiskies without losing any of the creamy corn-whisky tones associated with the Crown Royal family. Crown Royal Black’s rich nose and robust palate clearly take North America’s best selling Canadian whisky in decisive new flavour directions, while retaining its familiar “house style.” And this is exactly what MacKay intended.

Even though all the whisky in CR Black exceeds Canadian standards for ageing, like all Crown Royal whiskies, the bottle does not bear an age statement. What the label doesn’t tell you though, the flavour certainly will. Rest assured there is plenty of quite old whisky in the bottle.

Nose: Opens up on molasses then gets loads of vanilla, some spirit, dark fruit, black cherries, and bouquets of flowers. This whisky becomes quite expressive as slightly oaky old Bourbon notes move in to displace the rummy ones. It’s vaguely minty, creamy rich, and robust. Reminiscent of Crown Royal Deluxe, but with hints of charcoal, more fruit, and with a lot more floral perfume. Juicy Fruit gum, cigarette ashes (not smoke), orange bitters, and orange juice round out the nose. Quite expressive.

Palate: Very sweet and peppery. It begins on dark rum then becomes more Bourbon like, with some charcoal, followed by copious vanilla, loads of hot white pepper, chili pepper that stays hot on the tongue, and some ginger. Hints of rye spices, nice bitter orange and a slight astringency come out in the middle. Then, it becomes spicy and fizzy, like ginger ale. Rich, robust, and creamy, with hints of black fruit and late on some Smith’s Bros. licorice cough drops. Really nice weight. The rum/molasses notes make it seem just a bit candied, which will appeal to some palates more than others.

Finish: Medium with nice warmth. Fades to pepper and bitter orange, with lingering vanilla-charcoal-Bourbon notes.

Empty Glass: Sweetish, toffeeish with wood and wood smoke, cooked vegetables, vanilla, pickles, dry grain, dry hay, floral notes.

This is a whisky to sip and enjoy while chatting with friends, or mix in a whisky (or rum) cocktail. It’s not one for quiet reflection or silent contemplation. While it retains its regal name and livery, this is not so much a whisky for her majesty, the Queen as it is for her grandson, the rambunctious Prince Harry. Although it is blended and bottled in Canada, Crown Royal Black was exclusive to the US market when first released. It began to appear on Canadian liquor store shelves late in 2010 and early in 2011.

About $29.00 to $40.00 at American liquor stores.

Update February 15, 2011: – reader Ken McLelland advises that Crown Royal Black is now in stock at some LCBO stores where it sells for $34.95.

Highly recommended.

★★★★

Crown Royal Limited Edition reviewed here.
Crown Royal Cask 16 reviewed here.
Crown Royal Extra Rare reviewed here.
Vintage Crown Royal Fine De Luxe from 1963 reviewed here.


Comments

32 Responses to “Crown Royal Black 45% alc./vol. (90 proof)”

  1. Sounds intriguing. Must be a new release as I have never heard of it until a couple of months ago. Hopefully, Diageo will supply Atlantic Canada, in addition to our neighbours south of the border.

    Jason

  2. Davin:

    Hi Jason,

    It’s very much Crown Royal for sure, but really robust. Funny, I went through about a third of a 750 ml bottle while editing this review. Quaffable indeed!

    Incidentally, I enjoyed your comments on your blog on the brown vodka fiasco. The things people will say to get attention.

  3. George Jetson:

    Wow Davin,

    This is one where we will just flat out polarize on. I don’t want to rant about his one, but to me it is the Loch Dhu of Canadian Whisky. The overwhelming scent and flavor of caramel coloring was too much for me to overcome. I didn’t prise out much, if any, of the rum/fruit/rye/bourbon sweetness. I’m really quite surprised by some of your tasting notes, so I will have to revisit it armed with the influence/bias of your impressions.

    Whereas the garden variety CR has an easy-drinking, smooth, non-offessiveness about it, to my sensibilities, the CRB is hot, treacle-y and ashy. I certainly did enjoy the extra %abv, which gives the whisky it’s only redeeming qualities in my eyes, a robust mouthfeel and heavier body. I’d like to see that repeated in other expressions / other Canadian distillers, but my expectations for this blend far exceeded what was actually delivered to my glass.

    The remaining 3/4 of my bottle is definitely delegated to the CW and ginger ale fodder shelf. Using your analogy, maybe I should bill it as a “Dark and Stormy Lake Ontario? Given the very hot summer we’ve had, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

    • Davin:

      Hi George,

      Yes you had said earlier that you had not liked this one. But as for the Loch Dhu, flavour, I’ve heard that before and frankly to me this is nothing like Loch Dhu, (which was a waste of a bottle in my opinion). Loch Dhu tasted like the bitter caramel, which it was full of. There is a lot of sweetness in CR Black, but the bitterness is more zesty to me.

      To me, treacle (molasses) brings rum to mind more quickly than it does whisky and I find a lot of dark rum notes in this. I also find a lot of other things in there as well, and many of them are big. This is a big robust in-your-face Crown Royal, but it does still feel like CR in your mouth. I agree with you on the ashy part, but to me it only comes in flashes. I also agree about the heat. I found cayenne pepper that stayed and stayed.

      I have read a number of reviews and they are all over the place. Some love it, some don’t, so your “polarizing” comment is shared by many. I’m glad we agree on Crown Royal Extra Rare and Crown Royal Limited Edition though. They are top of the line in my opinion.

      I see no harm in setting the rest of your bottle aside for mixing – I think that was the idea anyway when they put it together. I have sipped my way more than half way through a bottle. I don’t sit there pondering it, rather it’s a handy companion when working.

      Thanks for sharing your opinion. Believe me, I respect it a lot.

      Davin

  4. Keith:

    Is dark whisky always colored with caramel? What about Black Bowmores?

    • Davin:

      Hi Keith,
      This took a bit of research, but I now have it on very good authority that yes, Black Bowmore did have E150 caramel spirit added. Without question, this is one of the finest whiskies I have ever tasted which kind of makes me wonder what all the fuss is about caramel. A few years ago a very well-known and reputable Scotch whisky blender told me directly that almost all whisky has some caramel added, not to adjust the colour, but because it helps the component whiskies marry better. Remember, almost all whiskies, including single malts are mixtures of many barrels vatted together, and apparently spirit caramel is used to help them integrate properly and more quickly. Some of the Malt Maniacs, with the help of Diageo, did an experiment where they took the same vattings, some with spirit caramel, and some without, and tasted them blind. The whiskies were scored and the ones with the caramel added did better almost every time. Some people thought they tasted caramel in the ones that had none, but no one detected it in the ones that did. I wrote this up and it was published in Scotch Whisky Review a few years ago. If I can find a clean copy, I’ll scan it and put it into the archives here at this site.
      I don’t think caramel was on the whisky anorak’s radar until Loch Dhu, a black Scotch whisky, was released. Loch Dhu was coloured with spirit caramel, and really was not very good, and suddenly whenever they saw a dark whisky people started asking if there was caramel added. Since Black Bowmore came out before Loch Dhu, no one thought to ask, or even gave a hoot. Like me, they just sang its praises.
      So, to make a long-winded response more direct: Yes, there was spirit caramel in Black Bowmore, and good question.
      Davin

  5. Mike:

    Davin, thanks for your fresh perspective on the caramel issue. I see so many reviewers docking marks for added caramel and I wonder if it is justified. Does it really detract from the taste or is it more of a perspective thing? On the other hand I would prefer if distillers let the colour of the whisky speak for itself instead of trying to mislead consumers. If E150 has other benefits for the consumer, the distillers should say so.

    As for Crown Royal Black, it indeed seems to have polarized poeple. I’ve read an equal number of good and bad reviews. Too bad I’ll probably never get to try it since it is for the US market. Guess I’ll just have to be content with Limited Edition ;)

    • Davin:

      Hi Mike,
      I’m not sure most people would recognize spirit caramel if they tasted it. I have a bottle and I can tell you, it does not taste like ‘caramel’ at all. In fact it is not even sweet, but rather it is really quite bitter. On the other hand, toasted oak and charred oak are loaded with sweet caramels.
      Davin

  6. Tim N:

    Crown Royal Black is now available in Alberta – $35 to $40. From looking at the reviews I’d like to try the Limited Edition before the Black – < $35.

  7. [...] Award of Excellence – Brand Extension: Crown Royal Black When a distiller can’t keep up with demand everyone takes note. This new, more robust version of Canada’s best selling whisky, Crown Royal Black was welcomed so enthusiastically by American whisky drinkers that Diageo was faced with the challenge of having a truly runaway success on their hands. To the average American whisky drinker, Crown Royal Black was THE big whisky news of 2010. [...]

  8. Darko Vusir:

    Wow! I love this whisky.

    My brother brought me a bottle from the US, and I tried it side by side with the LE. Wow what a difference. LE seems lame compared to Black.

    OOps, I spoke too soon. What a difference a few moments make. It seems CR Black is more like a high school boy during his first time. It’s good to begin with, but doesn’t last long. LE is like Ron Jeremy. Not much to begin with, but lasts and finishes well!

    • Davin:

      Heheheh! Yes, they are both good, but very different from each other. Of the two, the Limited Edition is my favourite also.

  9. Chris:

    I love Crown Royal, but thought the Black was just so-so. It lacked the smoothness of regular (or Limited) Crown and the stronger taste seemed to be unneccesary. Not bad, but I won’t go looking for another bottle.

    • Davin:

      Hi Chris,
      Crown Royal Black is certainly not what you’d be expecting from Crown Royal. It is a much bigger whisky and very robust in its flavours. People who prefer more elegance in a whisky do seem to prefer the regular Crown Royal De Luxe.

  10. Darko Vusir:

    Now available at the LCBO!!!

  11. I’ve always been a CR fan, so I take exception to the marketing guru’s trying once again to milk more $ out of brand.

    To me, CRB is not CR.

    • Davin:

      Hi Vee,
      In terms of sales volume, Crown Black was the most successful new spirit in the U.S. in 2010 and sold twice as much as the number 2 new entrant, so A LOT of people like it and came back for more. I agree with you that this is a new profile for Crown Royal, and yes I like the regular versions, but they are still available so it’s simply a matter of providing more choice to suit more palates.

  12. Irishperv:

    OMG! We love Black. We can’t wait for it to come in a larger bottle. We buy a bottle every 5-6 days. We usually buy at Binny’s (in the Chicago, IL area.) Please tell us when it will be available.

  13. Keith Gardner:

    Was disappointed with Crown Royal Black and agree in general with other dissenters. It is taste preference and the clear ROBUST is not my preference–perhaps for BBQ sauce, but not whisky.

    So many more to try!

  14. kjarsit:

    Tried it neat first and was not impressed. I’m a huge bourbon fan so it takes a lot to impress me. Poured over ice improves the taste immensely. A fair whiskey, but the original is better neat. In my opinion the Canadians try very hard, but just can’t quite match a fine American (Kentucky) bourbon. A distillery tour of Kentucky’s bourbons is on my bucket list. Jack’s Old No.7 is just as smooth and pleasing to the palate. Might as well tour that too in Tennessee. They don’t call it Kentucky STRAIGHT Bourbon Whiskey for nothin’!

    • Davin:

      Yes, there are a lot of great bourbons out there. One of the nice things about living in a free country is that I don’t have to choose between one style of whisky and another. I can enjoy some bourbons, some scotches, Indian whisky, Irish whisky, and still like a whole lot of Canadian whiskies too.

  15. idealpragmatist:

    too much unwhiskey in it. I was fond of wisers small batch for a while after being a loyal gibsons boy for a number of years. small batch has a little bit of flavoring added. With cr black the flavoring is front and center. It is not an unlikeable flavor, really it looks and tastes like rye with a little coke already in the bottle. And that is how i have decided it is best enjoyed – with coke it makes a seamless and savory flavor combination.
    Now if it only was about 10 bucks cheaper a bottle, it would be a regular buy. But fine sipping whiskey it is not.

  16. Alec:

    Hi,

    how does the crown royal reserve (light brown cardboard case) compare to this and regular crown?

    • Davin:

      Hi,
      Crown Black is unique among Crown Royal whiskies. The profile is much different from the rest. Reserve is more like a richer an more robust version of the regular Crown. I quite like Crown Reserve

  17. Alec:

    also,is it worth the extra dough for the reserve above regular? i found the blacks finish to be bitter and unpleasant (possibly b/c of the e150)

    • Davin:

      Curses to the guy who started the story that you can taste e-150 in whisky. There is so much natural oak caramel in nearly all whisky that tasting e-150 is impossible. It’s like saying you can taste a drop of bottled water in glass of tap water. It was just mischief on the part of someone looking to become an authority and now everyone believes it.

  18. Roger:

    hi all,

    i am not going to go into details like you see with all other reviews – nose, palate, burn, finish – things like that – because i don’t understand them all so well to give a review – but i have been drinking scotch for a long time, blended and single malt and i love lagavulin and also ardbeg and green label and suntori and 100 more and so i am open to all and i don’t like jack daniels – nor Jeam Beam regular but Devil’s Cut – yes – i love it very much and also George Dickel and Four Roses – everything i am mentioning here has to be taken neat or with a little water – and i love bourbon – based on that you will love this CRB more than CR – if you like Forty Creek or Wiser – you won’t

  19. Roger:

    i am kind of right on the money – Kjarsit loves JD # 7 and i can’t drink it neat or with water – what do you say – each to their own – no one is right or wrong – but people who don’t like JD neat might like to go for this – again comments are not based on drinks mixed with coke or ginger ale – but ice or water

  20. Alec:

    how does the reserve compare to pendleton 1910?

  21. Dave:

    I procrastinated in trying this for a couple of years because it can be quite overpriced south of the border, but I got a good deal on it recently.

    This really is a big departure from the regular crown royal. It actually reminds me of some 10 year single barrel bourbons I’ve had, but with even more spice. Is that due to that famous Canadian rye mash bill?

    Great review on a solid whiskey!

  22. Sailor Joe:

    This will be added to my shelf to increase my available flavor options. It does have an appeal for which this is easily well suited. Davin’s review looks consistent here.

  23. Hi Davin, I tried this on the weekend and really liked it. so I guess they used charred oak for aging?


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