Crown Royal Limited Edition Canadian Whisky

Crown Royal Limited Edition (40% abv)

November 11, 2011

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Controlled, elegant, creamy, and balanced with nutmeg, cloves and ginger, hot pepper and peppermint, green and ripe apples, floral bourbon-like vanilla and oak, cereal, and orange bitters. Spicy Rye. ★★★★☆

Like so many Canadian whisky giants, Seagram’s Sam Bronfman made his fortune during the rough and tumble days of American Prohibition. And like many who profited from Prohibition, once it was over Sam Bronfman worked very hard to buy respectability, and perhaps re-write his own history just a tad.  It’s not that whisky making wasn’t a respectable business. But it certainly was the case that many people frowned on it, particularly during Prohibition when some distillers were flirting outside the law. And the whisky makers’ enormous financial success during Prohibition, gave bitter Temperance hangers-on one more thing to disapprove of once Prohibition ended in 1933.

In the years that followed Prohibition, distillers sought all manner of opportunities to improve their damaged image. Over at Seagram’s, Mr. Sam, as he was called, was an expert at this. When he learned that England’s King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth (the parents of Queen Elizabeth II) would be touring Canada in 1939, he set out to develop a whisky to commemorate their visit. As the story goes, and Mr. Sam told lots of stories, he personally tried over 600 different blends before finding the one he felt worthy of royalty. Bronfman managed to get a case of this new whisky, which he dubbed Crown Royal, onto the Royal Couple’s train for their cross-country tour.

If it was good enough for the Royal family, who were renowned whisky lovers, it was certainly good enough for Canadians. Once the Royal Couple returned to England, Mr. Sam promoted Crown Royal across Canada where it was available exclusively for many years. Seagram’s hadn’t thought to release it elsewhere. But in 1965 the demands of Canadian oil workers in Texas were heard, and Seagram’s released Crown Royal in the United States. It was an auspicious decision, for Crown Royal has since gone on to become the best selling Canadian whisky in North America.

Since 1994, Canadians once again have their own exclusive Crown Royal, unavailable anywhere else in the world. That’s when Seagram’s released Crown Royal Limited Edition. But America doesn’t get left out in the cold, for Diageo has recently introduced Crown Royal Black, an America-only bottling. Since taking over the Crown Royal portfolio in 2001, Diageo has maintained the Limited Edition and it’s Canadian exclusivity. Complex, mannerly, cultivated, and understated, it too is fit for a king. The judges at the 2010 World Whisky Awards in London obviously agreed, awarding Crown Royal LE the title of Best Canadian Whisky.

Nose: A bit closed at first, then slowly develops hints of nutmeg and cloves. A mild uncertain fruitiness resolves into traces of apple juice and granny smith apples, which later become sweet and ripe. Spare hints of vanilla are soon shaped into bourbon notes by a slight oakiness. An austere nose indeed, it’s dry and dusty with typical Crown Royal floral notes, again vaguely reminiscent of bourbon. Sweet rye spices are well represented throughout by allspice and cloves, and are set off by vague shadows of anise. Youth and maturity are held in the balance by a certain freshness that speaks of youth, and the combined elements of dry grass, wet grain, pablum, and cereal, that tell of maturity. Though complex and full, the nose is tastefully restrained. It certainly is all about balance.

Palate: Sweet, gingery, and oaky with pleasing zesty orange bitters almost from the start. The rich and flavourful palate is quite complex: fruity and creamy with hot white pepper and an accent of oakiness. It’s balanced, controlled, and elegant. Without question this is the most pleasing Crown Royal palate of the six expressions currently on the market. Although it’s immediately enjoyable, with a bit of sipping time you can tease out all manner of flavours and complex interactions. Added to this is a syrupy, almost slippery mouthfeel which gives a feeling of real substance.

Rich vanilla notes interact with the oakiness, and a slight tannic pull, to deliver a classic bourbonesque Crown Royal. The pepper starts hot and grows hotter over time, but is always under control. Hot peppermint, which dissolves into sweet double-mint gum, complements the hot pepper notes. Both the mild, watery sweetness of barley sugar and the almost bitter sweetness of burnt sugar are clearly distinguishable among ubiquitous toffee notes.

There are many flavours, yes, but they are tightly integrated into a harmonious whole. Hints of oranges and lime peel remind us why orange bitters are so often used to spice up a whisky cocktail. The natural citric bitterness of Crown Royal Limited Edition really does add sparkle, especially in the middle.

Finish: Longish with a creamy fade on spicy hot pepper and wood, and ending on citric zest. It’s just slightly sweet and, late on, there are suggestions of fresh peaches.

Empty Glass: There is almost nothing left next morning but hints: of lilacs and daisies, dust, maple syrup, toffee, mint, wood and wood smoke, and dry grain.

Crown Royal was blended for King George VI and his Queen, and clearly he approved. If I were to present a Crown Royal whisky to their daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, it would be this one, the Limited Edition with its aura of comfort, confidence and elegance, founded in richness, complexity, and substance. And it wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg either. Crown Royal LE is available at LCBO for $39.00.

Highly recommended

★★★★☆

Crown Royal Black reviewed here.
Crown Royal XR – Extra Rare reviewed here.
Crown Royal Cask 16 reviewed here.
Vintage Crown Royal Fine De Luxe from 1963 reviewed here.


Comments

28 Responses to “Crown Royal Limited Edition (40% abv)”

  1. Mike:

    Nice review. I was quite swept away by this whisky when I first tried it. It strikes me as darker, richer, and more robust than CR Deluxe. I wonder exactly how it differs. Presumably it is older (I hear a Crown Royal rep quoted as stating fifteen years somewhere), and the website mentions a higher proportion of “batch distilled” whiskies in the blend, whatever that means. More pot still? In any case, an underrated and often overlooked whisky.

    • Davin:

      Hi Mike,
      Yes, this is very special whisky, especially if you take time to sip it slowly and get all the little nuances. It really displays the craftsmanship that goes into blending. For some of its distillate, the distillery uses a tall copper “column and kettle” still which is quite unique and distills in batches. It is like a pot still with a rectifier on top. In a way, it’s sort of like putting copper trays in the neck of a pot still to increase reflux. They also take spirit at about 80% that has passed only once through the beer still and put it into barrels for ageing.

      We have heard so much marketing talk about pot stills that we tend to forget that the spirit coming from a column still or a kettle and column can be every bit as flavourful. People who use pot stills only, like it when we think that way.

  2. George Jetson:

    Davin, I’d hardly call the Crown Royal Black an even trade for the Ltd. Ed. Out of curiosity I bought the Black, but I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.

    Whenever I make the trek across the Ambassador Bridge, I always pick up a few bottles of the CRLE. At the holidays it is even better, as you can somtimes pick up a gift pack with some nice glasses. The CRLE is my personal fave right after the XR.

    • Davin:

      Like you say, Crown Royal LE is right up there with the XR. Both are very special whiskies. I like the Black, but it is very different from the other Crown Royals, though it does retain the vanilla and the creamy body.

  3. margie:

    how can i place an order of crown royal limited edition

    • Davin:

      Hi Margie,
      This is excellent, excellent whisky but it is only available in Canada at Canadian liquor stores. By law, they are prohibited from selling it by mail order. You best bet is to have someone who is visiting Canada pick one up for you.
      Davin

  4. Jason:

    I represent Diageo spirits products in Minnesota which borders Candada. I get a few requests for Limited Edition a year as people have seen it in Canada on their fishing trips and would like to purchase a bottle or two.

    As far as the Crown Royal Black, it is aged in charred oak barrels and is higher proof than the Crown Royal Deluxe (purple bag and box). The charred oak barrels give the product more of a bourbon finish to them, and it is less sweet than most Canadian whiskeys. This is done to get bourbon drinkers interested in the Canadian whiskey section.

    If you like bourbons then the Black is right up your alley.

    • Davin:

      Thanks Jason, I appreciate your insights.

  5. Howie Loewen:

    Does the CRLE come with a bag and if so what color bag is it?

    Thanks

    Howie

    • Davin:

      I have never seen it with a bag. Crown Royal Limited Edition is only available in Canada. As I understand Crown does not use bags in Canada because they are taxed at the same rate as the whisky is and so add too much to the price.

  6. steve:

    I had 2 sets of the crown royal family display set stolen and cannot find a value on them – can any one help me

  7. Stanislav Ocelak:

    I bought this whisky in 1993 in Canada. It is Crown Royal Limited Edition with numbered bottle.I hope one day I will try it. Used to live in Montreal and it reminds me of my happy life there.

  8. Ben:

    I have 2 bottles of CR Limited , personally I like it, really smooth. However I do have a question. I know very rarely on auction sites they have some that come up in what people call the poker box. Could you tell me when they discontinued that? The only thing I can get is it was when Seagrams owned the company. Also do you know if any bags were produced with LE? I have only seen one with a bag, which came out of Taiwan, which actually had English and Chinese writing on the back.

    • Davin:

      Sorry Ben, I don’t know the packaging details.

  9. Eddie:

    I have a 1976 canadian crown royal with the sealed still in the bottle. It is unopened and bought in the 80s in toronto. What is the value of it now

    • Davin:

      Unfortunately these older bottles do not go up in value a whole lot. You might get $65 for it, probably less. There are lots of bottles of Crown Royal on e-Bay so that’s a good place to do a price check. Also try whiskyauction.com and look in the archives. My recommendation? Crack it open and enjoy it with friends.

  10. Claudio:

    I like to import Crown Royal to Brazil.
    Any idea in how to import direct from the company.
    I had no sucess in emailing direct to their site.

    Thx
    Claudio

    • Davin:

      I really don’t know. You could try contacting a Diageo rep in Brazil. I know they sell a lot of whisky there.

  11. Rocco:

    Fantastic whisky for the price. Does anyone here find a strong resemblence of this whisky to an Elijah Craig 12 year old small batch.

  12. Gerry:

    I have a bottle CR limited edition certification AFG286 I bought in St.John’s Newfoundland & Labrador when I was home on summer leave from the military back in 84. Still have the seal on it that states it was bottled in 74. I know it probably isn’t worth much but I’m saving it for a special occassion: after almost 30 years probably on my deathbed in the very distant future LOL!
    Sgt (ret) Gerry Connors

  13. Jeff:

    I was very surprised with how good this whisky was especially at the price (I paid $25 at the Montreal duty free).
    We opened this during Christams after having tasted Woodford Reserve Bourbon and Maker Mark and surprisingly I like CR LE the most. Very creamy smooth rye – great sipper.

  14. Jayme:

    I’m a very big fan of Crown Royal but I cannot seem to find LE anywhere. Has it been released in the states?

    • Davin:

      Sorry, Canada only. As mentioned in the review above, “Canadians once again have their own exclusive Crown Royal, unavailable anywhere else in the world.”

  15. Greg:

    Hey Davin,

    I know you haven’t published a review of it, but I’m wondering how you feel the CR Reserve compares to the CR LE? The Reserve is my favorite CR product, and one of my favorite Canadian Whiskys, although I have not tried the LE as of yet.

    • Davin:

      I love the Reserve. I just haven’t got to it yet.

      • Greg:

        Do you feel it’s better than the Limited Edition?

  16. woody:

    How does one determine the year it was bottled using only the certification number?

    • Davin:

      Those certificates are marketing materials. As with almost all whisky certificates, I doubt anyone keeps track of the numbers.


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