Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye 45%

November 19, 2015


Crown Royal Canadian Whisky

Icing sugar sprinkled gently on apple pie, with hints of roses that develop tingly spices, crispy wood and typical rye fruitiness. Smooth vanilla pudding with a buttery finish. ★★★★★

Nose: Baking spices, apple pie, vague floral notes, old lumber, vanilla, allspice, rye bread, dusty grain and dried dark fruits.

Palate: Saltwater toffee sweetness, Granny Smith apples and orange zest that dips in and out of citrus pith. Hot invigorating spices in a full-bodied vanilla custard. Peppery heat and spicy warmth under that typical rye fruitiness. Oak lingers in the background creating a framework for the broad palate to rest on. So complex, yet tightly woven into one.

Finish: Long lingering spices with Crown Royal’s signature buttery smoothness.

Empty Glass: Gentle beach rose petals, orange liqueur, aged barn boards and hints of grain. Plums and clean oak.

From Day One, more than 75 years ago, Crown Royal has remained the quintessential example of the whisky blender’s art. More than 50 different whiskies, all from the Gimli, Manitoba distillery are carefully mingled together to create Crown Royal. Little wonder this is Canada’s best selling whisky.

For Northern Harvest Rye, Crown Royal master blender, Andrew MacKay took a different tack. Still the seamless blend that is the keystone of the Crown Royal range, this whisky prominently features one of those 50 component whiskies. It is still a blend, yes, but 90% of the whisky that goes into this blend is made almost entirely from rye grain.

Rye grain is not like most other grains. Sure, it will thrive in rich agricultural soils to yield the fine spring ryes that bakers love for making bread. However, on the extreme margins of its growing range rye becomes the remarkable whisky grain we have come to love. Here farmers must plant a different rye – rugged winter rye.

Winter rye thrives in the most arduous Canadian agricultural zones, places with climates that would kill many other crops. For instance, shortly after they sprout, late in the year, the young rye plants must endure a bitterly cold winter. Spring comes late on Canada’s Prairies and in rye-growing regions the short summer that follows is parched and desert like. The resulting grains are scrawny and twisted with very little starch in them. And though they are not suitable for baking they make the most robustly flavoured whiskies. Parts of Canada and Northern Europe are the only agricultural regions inhospitable enough to grow such flavour-packed rye. This is the grain Crown Royal uses to make its whiskies.

Still, as rich and robust as it is, Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye is a versatile whisky that reveals layers of flavour when sipped neat. On a hot summer day add several ice cubes and sip slowly in the shade of a tree or beach umbrella. Like all rye whiskies it also makes a whisky-forward cocktail. Versatile it is, and oh so scrumptious.

Very highly recommended. ★★★★★


79 Responses to “Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye 45%”

  1. George Jetson:

    I just saw this yesterday on the shelves in Houston. Compared to other high-rye content CWs this is a nice cocktail whisky. I am an unabashed Canadian Club fanboi, but no more will I pour the CC and ginger. It is CRNHR and ginger from now on. I still prefer Alberta Springs as a sipping rye, but the added abv and punchy rye profile of the the CRNHR is a new fave for cocktails.

    • Davin:

      Good to hear from you, Geo! I love this whisky and its spiciness makes a good choice for rye and ginger. Have you tried the Crown Royal Coffey Rye yet? It goes in another direction altogether while still remaining Crown.

      • George Jetson:

        Hi Davin,

        I saw the Coffey Still version, but didn’t pick it up. The CRNHR is almost drained, so next time I’m in the flagship store of Spec’s downtown, I’ll grab one and give it a try.

  2. Bob Caron:

    I’m glad this one was available in a 50ml sample because I will not buy a 750 if it tastes like that little one. I had high hopes for it since I love the hand Selected Barrel but this one just seemed like a high rye Bourbon.

  3. is this coming to Ontario?

  4. George Jetson:

    Off-topic; I followed through on your suggestion Davin and snagged a bottle of the Spec’s “Made For Texas” Coffey Rye. Wow! I haven’t been this impressed by a CW since that old CC Founder’s Reserve bottling many years past.

  5. Saw the ad for this in the latest issue of Whisky Advocate, was curious as to what it is like. Thanks for the detailed review, it sounds like a winner.

    I too hope this comes to the LCBO soon, would love to try it!

    • Davin:

      I like it. A bulked up version of Canadian whisky.

  6. LCBO will likely have it in the Fall/Autumn. Love to try CC 100% RYE vs. CR Northern RYE vs. Alberta Premium 100% Rye.

    • Davin:

      That sounds like a great head to head tasting, These are three very different whiskies and you;ll quickly learn that the percentage of rye is just one of many factors that determine the flavour.

  7. Toronto Tim:

    Beautiful ! Oh, the nose is just right for me at 45%ABV. Lots of dark fruits. That CR signature on the palate, with candy-hard aroma. LIKE !

  8. Yousaf Shaikh:

    It’s O.K. but nothing to write home about. I love Crown Royal drinks but this one and their Maple left a chemical-like aftertaste in my mouth.

    If I want Rye whisky I’ll drink Canadian Club – Chairmans Select 100% Rye. Otherwise I’ll stick with good ol’ Crown Royal original.

    Cheers, from Brampton, Ontario.

  9. paddockjudge:

    to use a baseball analogy, you went seven grueling innings, pitching Canadian Whisky, staying the course and giving your team a chance to be in the game. David Broom was the set-up man and JM closed it out.

    Your visit to Grimli was definitely the catalyst which activated the Crown Royal revival.

    My, oh my, oh my goodness gracious!

    Who saw this one coming? WWOTY 2016.

    A delicious whisky and worthy of this title.

    I can’t wait for the results in Victoria.

    • Davin:

      What kind words. Thank you.

  10. The LCBO has plenty now, but say it’s made in Ontario and bottled at 35% ABV. O well!

    • Davin:

      Hey, it’s LCBO.

    • Dan L:

      Apparently that’s a mislabel on LCBO’s site. Their image says it’s the 45% standard version.

  11. Dave Waddell:

    I’m not a baseball man, but think I understand – and agree with – Paddock’s analogy. Davin, you’re the main man here. Here’s to the Portable exceeding Bible sales(!).

    • Davin:

      You are too kind, Dave. Thanks.

  12. Dave Waddell:

    … main man ably assisted by the mighty Broom, of course…

  13. Excellent whisky notes and supporting narrative on the winter rye. Thank you.

  14. moretears:

    Davin, in an article on the UK’s Times website about CRNHR being named Jim Murray’s World Whisky of the Year, Charles MacLean is dismissive, saying that “Canadian whisky allows for all sorts of additives, such as prune juice to sweeten it.” I have read what you have written about the 9.09 percent rule, but I thought the additives allowed under that rule had to at least be alcohol. Is MacLean off the mark about the prune juice?

    • Davin:

      They always wheel that one out when they feel threatened by the enormous popularity of Canadian whisky, but ignore the reality that Scotch is flavoured with wine and until recently was flavoured routinely with paxarette. I am beginning to liken those who dismiss Canadian whisky as a category by using anecdotes, to those who insist that Obama was not born in America. They are wrong, but you’ll never change their minds.

      • moretears:

        Okay, thanks, but just to be absolutely clear: Is is accurate to say that ONLY other types of alcohol can be added to Canadian whisky, up to 9.09 percent? No juices or other non-alcohol? What about caramel colouring?

        • Davin:

          No juices. Caramel yes, just like Scotch single malts. Allowed does not mean they do it though.

  15. whiskymack:

    Just curious Davin, what is the other 10% comprised of? Just corn?

    • Davin:

      It is a blend.

  16. Mike:

    I was told by some that they used fruit juices such as prune as the other 10%. Is this rumor true?

    • Davin:

      That is not true. It is a myth often spread by people who should know better.

    • Davin:

      No, this is not true despite what troublemakers may say. Ignore them.

      • Mike:

        It is the best rye whisky I have ever had neat. Hats off to the great job they did.

  17. Ken C:

    I’m more than a bit surprised this won WWOTY, but it’s a very nice offering worthy of a place on any whisky lover’s shelf. I’ll be curious to know how it is priced around the world after the award.

    Great meeting you at the NB Spirits Festival, Davin, your book and website have been a valuable resource for me for years now.

  18. [...] Jim Murray, author of the annual Whisky Bible, nominated the Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye 2016 whisky of the year! [...]

  19. JB:

    Hey Davin
    Great to see the CR NH take such a huge step for Canadian Whiskey in the global market !!
    Hope to see you in Victoria again, any hints on the Canadian Whiskey of the year …?
    Spirits Canada

    • Davin:

      It’s a secret!

  20. Alberta Premium Dark Horse is far superior to Crown Royal Harvest Rye. The Harvest Rye has a lot of young whiskies in it and tastes a wee bit hot. The Dark Horse beats it with deeper rye flavors and no young raw notes.

    • Frank:

      I concur Dark Horse is considerably better, frankly Harvest Rye is competent but nothing special.

      For something truly special, one hundred percent independent Canadian owned Stalk & Barrel from Concord Ontario: their Cask Strength pot-distilled 61.4% non-chill filtered without E150a is fantastic. No age statement; however, it’s 3 years old, 750ml bottles from a first-fill Bourbon cask. I’ve only seen it available in Ontario and Alberta price range $75 to $95 and well worth it in my view.

      • tim:

        Keg n Cork here in Edmonton bought all the Stalk & Barrell 100% rye they could get their hands on. It is quite amazing.

  21. Noel Alsop:

    Lucky enough to find some this week. I loved it. I was amazed at the finish. I would say one of the finest ryes I’ve had, but not better than some of the scotches I have had. I prefer single malt to blended so I may not be the best to judge a blended whiskey.

  22. mr Jcthepc:

    Best whisky not sure would sure like to taste the others. It is nice though can’t say its a bad product. Definately worth a try. Defiantely can taste the richness and complexity rye gives. Congrats to CR

  23. JWS:

    Hello, Davin, it’s me again. I got to try this one on our recent trip to New Orleans. A very good rye. A little out of my range to be a regular tipple, but still, I enjoyed it…..

  24. Dylan:

    Hi Davin, great review – I love the extra kick and blend with some Canada Dry.

    I’m stuck in the ether of Toronto – any ideas for getting my hands on a bottle of the Coffey Rye you helped craft? I’m DYING to purchase one!!

    Since I was old enough to drink it’s been Crown as my go-to, and your review of the Coffey sounds absolutely delightful!

    Let me know thanks so much!

    • Davin:

      There is none of my cask for sale. However, there were bottles from other barrels in New Hampshire a few months ago.

  25. I see this is 35% at the LCBO. Is that correct or is it an error on the website?

    • The 35% Crown Royals are the flavoured whisky. So most likely then not, you mistook the apple for the northern harvest

  26. Michael Campbell:

    I enjoy whisky neat. Am a bit of a snob. In my mid 60′s with good disposable income I tend to buy the expensive single malts or for every day use the JW Black. When I heard Canada produced this years world best I had to have a taste. And for 30 bucks and change a bottle what whisky lover wouldn’t. So it sold out immediately. Couldn’t find a bottle anywhere and no word when… But tonight my local LCBO had two bottles on the shelf and I took both. (One for the cabin at the lake, one for my liquor shelf).
    It is not my grand dad’s crown royal to be sure but honestly the world’s “best”? Apple pie and vanilla custard? Was that reviewer on mescaline? The nose is a bit like rubbing alcohol. Taste is pretty good rye. The 45% a bit harsh on the throat but not a bad sipping whisky 3 ounces over good ice. A good value drink and nice for Manitoba but I was not knocked out. Let’s see how it tastes in front of a good smokey fire when it is 10 below out and the world is hushed by the snowfall.

  27. I have to say, I’m rather shocked about this one. I usually find our palates similar, Davin, and trust your notes and expertise, but on the Northern Harvest, I’m left scratching my head. Young, far too solvent-y, not nearly the complexity I was expecting. I don’t think I’ve had a Canadian whiskey, $20+, that I wouldn’t prefer over this one. I’m left wondering if I’m off, or if my bottle is off…I know Murray’s off, but still. It can’t be a matter of preference. What’s in my glass is a very mediocre whiskey by any standard.

    • Frank:

      Your bottle is not off, no one knows what you desire in a whisky better than you, just like music or a painting. Trust your palate and discernment.

      • That’s absolutely true, Frank. On the other hand, when one has a lot of experience with music, you know when an orchestra plays music well and when a orchestra plays poorly. There are things that a matter of taste, and then there are simple markers of quality that are obvious to those who know them. The whiskey that I have (in the right bottle) is an average community orchestra, played with no sensitivity or nuance, conducted without passion. There is nothing about this whiskey that an experienced appreciator would say is exceptional. My appreciation, of this whiskey, or lack thereof, is not based on taste, it’s based on obvious standards of quality.

        • Frank:

          I like your orchestral analogy. If you’re able to acquire it the Stalk & Barrel single cask Rye is beautiful music at least to my palate; an excellent score well rehearsed with impeccable timing.

          • Thanks, Frank. Don’t see much from S&B here in Minnesota. I have reviewed three of their single malts, casks 1, 3, & 5, and was generally impressed. I think they’re making good spirit. I’ll have to keep an eye out for their rye.

    • Frank:

      Peter, I’m not sure how distribution works in MN, regardless the Crown Royal Hand Selected barrel is excellent. I’ve tasted it three times and look forward to a few Canadian retailers buying selected casks for bottling sometime in 2016.

    • James:

      I understand your initial response, but I suggest you get yourself a really good loaf of rye bread, not the pseudo-rye you buy at a superstore, but real rye bread and compare it to the solvent-y odor you describe. It may be you just dont like rye grain. Do you like other pungent flavors like cilantro, saffron, fennel seed?

  28. Michael:

    @Peter may be you poured the wrong bottle? ;) I couldn’t describe it better than Davin as I sip mine.

    Dark horse is fine as my cheap go-to whisky, but no where near this, This $30 bottle can stand next to a bottle 10x the price.

    • Peter:

      I have tried it again and it is not bad.
      However, doing a side by side against Lot 40 and Wiser’s Legacy, CRNHR does not stand up against those 2. Also tried it against High West Rendezvous Rye, sorry CRNHR not even close.

      Yes, they are a little more expensive but certainly not 10x.
      Oh, Murray scored the 2015 WLW #2. Well I was lucky enough to win one in the recent LCBO lottery and trust me when I say that is world class Whiskey not this CR Rye.

      Cheers and Merry Christmas to all

  29. will crown royal keep making this whisky like they do with their regular ones? Or once it runs out, they’re gone for good?

  30. Omineca Greg!:

    I got a bottle of this two weeks ago. It’s awesome! Great whisky at a great price.

    I was just looking at the BCLDB website, and there’s only nine bottles left in the province. When I got mine, it was widely available everywhere, so they’ve moved a lot of units.

    In fact the on-line product listing has a warning, “DUE TO HIGH DEMAND, PLEASE CALL STORES TO CONFIRM AVAILABILITY.” I don’t remember ever seeing that before.

    Anyway, absolutely fabulous stuff.

  31. Rob:

    The price of this will be raised shortly. I can’t imagine it staying so cheap with the demand so high thanks to Jim Murray. My fried has three cases. Likely to spin for a higher price at a later date.

  32. [...] Expert, first published by McClelland & Stewart in May 2012, wrote a piece on his blog (Canadian Whiskey) about the Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye. It makes more sense to let the expert take the stage, [...]

  33. Tom:

    I missed the boat again by five minutes, so people even lined up since 6:45am waiting for the store to open! How is it compares with AP 30yrs or AP 25yrs?

  34. Manny G:

    Sold out in Ontario, but managed to score a bottle. Better than the regular CR, but not a 97.5 / 100 as scored by Jim Murray. Bit disappointed, given all the hype. I score regular Crown Royal at 75 / 100. This Rye I score 80 / 100.

  35. Davin, While I’m sure that’s what Crown Royal and Diageo wants everyone to believe, there’s a lot of mis-information about “winter rye”. Winter rye is a rather broad term that covers nearly all cereal rye grown. Pretty much all whiskey made with rye, be it Canadian, straight rye, bourbon, whatever, is made with winter rye. It’s also grown all over the world, not just in Canada and parts of Northern Europe. If Crown Royal used some specific variety of winter rye grown only in Canada, that might be worth noting. To say that the use of winter rye makes this mediocre whiskey special, is false and misleading.

    • Davin:

      Hi Peter,
      Yes, most distillers use winter rye. It has the best flavour. Yes, you can grow winter rye anywhere crops will grow. However, the most flavourful winter rye grows in the most extreme climates. This May, in Kentucky, two famous bourbon makers each volunteered that they use Canadian rye because it is the most flavourful. One went so far as to say that they can’t grow good rye in the U.S. To say that Canadian grown rye contributes elements to the flavour that other ryes would not is neither false nor misleading.

  36. Davin, Thank you for the response, I definitely welcome the discussion and respect your expertise. I’m not doubting that Canadian-grown rye offers something to distillers, indeed your comment that two famous bourbon distillers prefer Canadian winter rye rather proves my point. If other distillers prefer to use the grain used in NHRye then what makes NHRye unique isn’t so unique after all. That’s what I find misleading.

  37. Charlie:

    The blender that created this was Joanna Scandella in their Montreal lab, not the fellow mentioned in the article.I had some last night but wasn’t all that impressed, neither were my guests. I’ll give it another try. The only thing missing from the article was aging info. Nothing beats 10 years in oak.

  38. I ended up buying a bottle (or 4) and I have to say, I’m not crazy about it. I wouldn’t put it on my top 5 list of canadian whiskies and I might not even put it on my top 10.

  39. Rob:

    Davin is the true ambassador of Canadian Whisky. Have a signed version of his book. I take a different approach. Check out my review of this whisky on my YouTube channel Whisky in the 6

  40. [...] WOTW – Whiskey of the Year Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye [...]

  41. Tom:

    I was able to acquire a bottle of CR Northern Harvest Rye for a mere $21.99 at a central IL Jewel store. Normally the cost is $29.99 locally.

    Not a big Canadian fan but like many I was attracted to Jim Murray’s review and for …$21.9 plus tax…low risk.

    It was good and it was solid but world’s best? Not sure about that one. I have some higher proof Willet 5 year old which is a much better, bolder rye.

    I’m a fan of bold whisky like Islay style whisky, high proof bourbons and wheaters like the Antique Series from Buffalo Trace. But the CRNHR was smooth and tasted better than it’s nose. I’ll let it sit with the cap off a few days as I find many whiskys taste better after they breathe a bit. I did notice the nose was better with less alcohol after sitting for 10 minutes.

    I’d rate in an 87 with a couple points due to the relatively low price for a solid if not great whisky.

  42. Miles D.H.:

    I finally got around to tasting this, and expected to be disappointed. I was surprisingly delighted, but perhaps because I’d lowered my expectations.

    If Crown Royal varieties were the only things available at my local store (and not Lot 40), I’d probably go for this one every time. It can stand on its own and still mixes well.

    Say what you will about Jim Murray, you can easily do something far worse than this bottling for the price.

  43. Bob D:

    I was VERY enthused once I heard about Jim Murrays recommendation for Crown Royal Northern Harvest. In fact, I rushed off to buy two bottles,,,one for me, and one for a friend. With that in mind, allow me to recommend that Jim Murray books an appointment with either his psychiatrist,,, or, his favorite tongue-transplant surgeon. I’ll be returning my friends’ bottle as well.

    Jim, good Lord, what were you thinking? If I had just crossed the Kalahari desert on foot, and awaiting me on the other side was a bottle of CRNHR and windshieled-washer fluid, I’d gladly opt for the latter. Terrible as a sipping whiskey,,, hopefully some redemption as a ‘mixer”,,,, Unfortunately, a complete waste of time and money. A cross between hay, and hydrogen peroxide. Yuk!!!

    • Davin:

      I highly recommend you avoid winshield washer fluid. It can cause blindness or death. There are many different whiskies available at your liquor store so why not try one of the others? I am sorry you did not enjoy NHR. I find it very flavourful and most elegant, and I enjoy it very much. This is one of the great things about taste. We each have our own.

      • Bob D:

        Hi Davin,
        I had truly hoped to enjoy a more “enhanced” product when I tried CRNHR,,,an improvement (not that this was required) over Crown Royal’s regular bottling.(which I also very much enjoy)

        I have pretty varied tastes when it comes to whiskeys, and I generally try to appreciate each bottling for its own unique and specific character. I like Dark Horse for example, and I wouldn’t attempt to suggest that it’s “better” than Crown Royal. It’s simply “different”, and I’m OK with that.

        Over the last couple of years, I’ve rebuilt my home bar to include quite a variety of spirits, including many whiskeys, imported and domestic.(roughly 200 bottles now) Along the way, I’m always looking for that “bargain” which truly distinguishes itself. I’ve found a few, but unfortunately for me, CRNHR is not among them.

        “Best Whiskey(whisky) in the World” is a lofty claim indeed. I’ve struggled with a few of Jim Murrays previous annual selections (Amrut Fusion for example). In fairness, I’ve returned to some of those from time to time, and the second experience was certainly much better than the first.

        My current whisky favourites include Ardbeg Uigeadail, Highland Park 18, and Talisker D.E. (1999 batch # TD-S;5-MY), each being completely different from the other. Hopefully, I’ll find a Canadian whiskey that can rub shoulders with those, but for now, the search continues. For myself, the quality (development and duration) of the finish is probably “the” determining factor.

        • davindek:

          I have to agree with you on the regular Crown Royal. I really enjoy it a lot. My current favourite is Crown Royal Cornerstone Blend.

          • Bob D:

            Thanks for that tip Davin. I’ll keep my eyes open for the Cornerstone Blend. My current Canadian whiskey stock is modest to say the least. Selection here in south-western Quebec has been quite limited, but thanks to recently available online ordering at S.A.Q. and LCBO, it’s getting better. I’ve just picked up a JP Wiser 18 YO, a Gooderham & Worts Four Grain, and a bottle of Pike Creek 10 YO, and looking forward to giving those a go.

            Davin, thanks again for this wonderful website. It’s been a terrific resource. Cheers!

  44. Daniel A:

    Overhyped crap. Nothing compared to a bottle of lot 40, stalk and barrel or forty creek. Hell I’ll take a 25$ bottle of Alberta Premium over this crap

Leave a Reply to Davin