Crown Royal XR Extra Rare Canadian Whisky

Crown Royal XR – Extra Rare (40% alc./vol.)

February 15, 2012

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A rich, weighty, hugely complex and skillfully structured whisky displaying ripe red fruit, fresh-cut oak, hot spices, dry grain, and violets. Rich & Oaky. ★★★★☆

Joseph Seagram’s old, and now largely demolished distillery, in Waterloo, Ontario, still has quite some cachet. In 2006, when it was announced that whisky from the last remaining barrels was to be released for sale, whisky aficionados took notice. A custom bottle was designed in honour of this end-of-an-era whisky, just as Sam Bronfman had done back in 1939 when Crown Royal was first created.

The loss of Seagram’s silent Waterloo distillery, in part to a devastating fire, has long been lamented by Canadian whisky aficionados. But it’s only fair to explain that loss to whisky lovers on both sides of the border, especially those less familiar with the Seagram’s story. So the front label on those bottles of Crown Royal XR destined for the USA makes it very clear that this is definitely the last of the Waterloo whisky. But examine the label as closely as you like, you won’t find the Seagram name anywhere, although the whisky itself is very reminiscent of older whiskies from Seagram’s.

To make XR, whisky that may well have rested in the warehouse pictured above, is masterfully blended with whiskies from Diageo’s Gimli, Manitoba plant and the resulting whisky really is one of a kind. But Crown Royal is a decidedly Diageo whisky now, and this elegant, perhaps even stately example is simply—and appropriately—called Crown Royal XR – Extra Rare.

Nose: Closed at first, the nose opens to hints of fresh lumber, cedar, sweet licorice, floral and perfumed rye notes, then hints of pine. Dry grain, mash, hayloft, then sweet cigarette tobacco follow. Light, but also rich and complex, with many intermingled essences yet no dominant notes. Among the many aromas are corn, sweet ether, mucilage, vague peppermint, hints of canned peaches, some sultanas, then a whiff of something just slightly citric.

Palate: Begins with mild toffee, like faintly floral corn whisky, and surprisingly, it tastes a bit salty. It’s sweet, but not cloying. Sweet rye baking spices show themselves right away then after a lot of other action they come back with hot flashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and generic ‘rye’ spices. Glowing white pepper notes along with hot peppermint create quite a warming sensation. An early bitter lemon-peel zestiness balances a rich, creamy, weighty mouthfeel, keeping the palate responsive.

What starts out as a hint of dry grain or cereal soon becomes real rye and rye bread. Freshly cut wood wafts in and out with red cedar winning in the end, even though on the tongue it’s only mildly tannic. Although it has an almost fragile delicacy, this is a hugely complex whisky, and a very skillfully integrated one, beautifully balanced with no dominant notes. Supporting this intricate structure, a foundation of ripe fruit flavours, more fruit, in fact, than wood, keeps everything in its place until it all simply melds into one. And that’s just as it should do.

Finish: Longish, peppery, and warm, with bitter zest in the middle, then hot and vaguely sweet with hints of toffee. Fragrant rye flowers, like waking up in a flower shop, then peppery, fading into hints of rye spices and fresh-cut wood. This unique lumberyard finish is just so nostalgically Canadian.

Empty Glass: Not much, but some toffee, violets, lilacs, faint hints of something sweetish, aromas of ripe fruit, peaches, and again, hints of sweet cigarette tobacco. It’s quite mild, but with lots of fresh-sawn wood.

The last barrels of Waterloo whisky were filled in November 1992, making the whisky about 14 years old at the time the first bottling of XR was made. Additional batches have since been blended to meet demand. One of the techniques Canadian whisky makers use in making their finest whiskies is to take advantage of the interplay between the mature richness of long-aged whiskies and the vibrancy of a more youthful one. “Time works wonders” was a Seagram’s motto and the original Crown Royal recipe in particular called for a blending of very old whiskies with others that ranged in ages, some of them quite young. Still, the impression that XR is seemingly made entirely with very old whisky did influence some bloggers who would have exalted its fresh luxuriant oak in a whisky perceived to be much younger.

If these reviews influenced you not to splurge on a Canadian whisky that’s at the top end of the price scale, you might want to think again. Among the 1.4 million barrels in the Gimli warehouses, only a few barrels of Waterloo whisky still remain. The stocks are dwindling. For now, Crown Royal XR is still available from a limited number of retailers. More than just history in a bottle, it represents one of the finest expressions of the blenders’ art.

At LCBO Crown XR sells for $180.00

Highly recommended.

★★★★☆

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

Press release for the new version of Crown Royal XR which includes whisky from the old LaSalle distillery in Montreal.


Comments

60 Responses to “Crown Royal XR – Extra Rare (40% alc./vol.)”

  1. George Jetson:

    Davin,

    Great review of a very good Canadian Whisky. I very much enjoyed your research and historical tidbits. I happened upon a “member’s only” sale at Sam’s Wine Warehouse just before they were sold to Binny’s and bought a bottle of the XR for a song. It definitely holds a place in the Canadian Whisky pantheon at the vaults at home. I find myself turning to this one when I want to recreate the enjoyment of my old CW favorites from the 80′s, like Schenley’s Order of Merit.

    • Davin:

      Thanks for your comments George. Yes, XR really is quite a special whisky.

      • michael sevilla:

        To make XR, whisky that may well have rested in the warehouse pictured above, is masterfully blended with whiskies from Diageo’s Gimli, Manitoba plant and the resulting whisky really is one of a kind. But Crown Royal is a decidedly Diageo whisky now, and this elegant, perhaps even stately example is simply—and appropriately—called Crown Royal XR – Extra Rare
        This statement is a bit misleading,with may have rested.
        my son gave me a bottle for my birthday this month, ive yet to open the bottle.So does it become more valuable unopened or if they need more . will they sell at as may be the coveted blend when mixed and sold

        • Davin:

          Hi Michael,

          The warehouse pictured is one of several that were used by the Waterloo Distillery. I know that some of the whisky in XR was distilled and matured in Waterloo but I cannot be certain which warehouse and since others have been demolished I took the picture in front of this one, in Waterloo.

          The whisky may go up a bit in value over time, but not so much that it is worth keeping it closed. I say enjoy it and thank your son for his generosity.

  2. Michael Furmaniak:

    I think that the biggest problem of Canadian and American whiskey is that is not really associated with a place, history etc. Moving a distillery from Waterloo to Manitoba is like moving Laphroiag to France and expecting to maintain whisky quality and support of those to consider Laphroaig to me their favourite whisky.
    There are numerous examples of North American whiskey that does not belong to a place and cannot create the same emotions as Scottish single malt(Pappy van Winkle and Buffalo Trace Antique Collection come to mind).
    The classical case of this lack of “belonging” is the the recent case of WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey.
    I tried to get excited about Canadian Whiskey (I am Canadian after all) but it is difficult. I know that many would say that the only important aspect of drinking whisky is the taste but for many (me included), there is much more to it.

  3. Davin:

    Hi Michael,

    There certainly is an element of romance to the idea of old distilleries, like Hiram Walker’s, even though it has been completely re-built over the years. At the same time, the way Canadian whisky makers separate the distillate into streams, age them separately, then re-constitute them, makes it much more likely to get consistency (assuming you have a good blender).

    Like you, I am curious about where WhistlePig came from, but I also kind of like the idea of an aura of mystique. I spoke to the guy who made Bush Pilot’s once, and even though it was off the market by then, he refused to disclose the source saying he wanted to maintain the mystique. I kind of like that, despite my burning curiosity.

  4. Michael Furmaniak:

    Hi Davin,

    Thank you for your reply. I am wondering if you can clarify for me the following part of your recent post:

    “the way Canadian whisky makers separate the distillate into streams, age them separately, then re-constitute them, makes it much more likely to get consistency”

    Is it always the case? I thought that Canadian Club 30YO, for instance, was aged after blending new makes(different grains) and not blended later.

    Thank you,
    Michael

  5. Davin:

    Hi Michael,

    There are exceptions to every rule and in making whisky, often more
    exceptions than rules. You are correct, all of the Canadian Club
    whiskies are “barrel blended” meaning the spirit is blended before it
    is put to age. There is a little tweak on that sometimes – see my
    upcoming review of Canadian Club 10 year old. Black Velvet also
    blends before aging, but they too have their own twists, which make it
    different from the CC process.

    Thanks for reading the website and for your comments.

  6. George Jetson:

    I’d like to follow up on Michael’s comments. CW, in general, doesn’t have the big mystique of “place” built around it like the Jack Daniel’s marketing campaign, for example. However, I think you’d be mistaken to assume that not everyone seeks out certain “Holy Grail” distillery output.

    The Canadian Club that came out of the Okanagan distillery near Kelowna, B.C. is legend in the tiny circle of CW enthusiasts. I’ve done some dusty hunting in California for old stocks of Canadian Club Classic and I can assure you that it is not the same as it’s contemporary counterpart from Windsor.

    Waterloo was another, Valleyfield also has a history of excellence. I think what you may be reacting to is that the industry would rather you think that no matter where your Crown Royal comes from, it will always be the same. Also there are very few books written on the history of Canadian whisky-making, so the “lore” surrounding it is not as a colorful as some Scottish or US distilleries. There was an excellent book written about 10 years go by a female author as part of a project to celebrate a milestone on Canadian whisky. Maybe Davin could enlighten us?

  7. Davin:

    Yes, George, I’m with you on this. It’s just that most people don’t know what whisky came from where.

    The Canadian Club distillery in Kelowna (actually it was just up the road in Winfield) was build to the same specs as the distillery in Walkerville. They had the same equipment and so on, but the whisky aged a little bit differently because it is so arid in the Okanagan. They also used western rye which tastes slightly different from that used in Walkerville. Nevertheless, they were able to replicate the Walkerville flavour profile pretty well in the newly-blended spirit and in the 6-year-old mature whisky. But you are correct, many people say it tasted different from the Walkerville bottles.

    On the other hand, at one time consideration was given to having Valleyfield produce flavouring whisky for Crown Royal, but they could never get it past the quality panel. That is one of the great things about the way they make Canadian whisky. Every component is tasted blind, over and over, and if it doesn’t pass it doesn’t get used. And with virtually no independent bottlers, the less-desirable just whisky gets re-distilled and never makes it onto the shelves.

  8. JJ:

    While the XR is good, Michael would benefit researching the Bourbon county Kentucky whiskey distillers. The history is deep and storied, the bourbon…unsurpassed and amazing. They don’t move around, you can trace these whiskeys to their impetus! American excellence.

  9. Davin:

    Hi JJ,
    Yes, you are right, there are some really wonderful Bourbons out there and their stories are known because almost all of them go back to 1933 and no further. Anything earlier than that is often just that, a story. The Bourbon industry and its production methods were completely overhauled after Prohibition. The post-Prohibition distilleries rely almost exclusively on column stills, which just goes to show what great spirit you can get from a column. Whatever they are doing, they certainly are making some wonderful whiskies.

  10. Yello to Mello:

    It seems the XR is being discontinued at the LC…

    Cask no. 16 is being discontinued as well….are you working on a review for this one for the near future Davin?

  11. Davin:

    This might just be the LCBO working things through the system.

    As far as I know, at current sales volumes in Canada and the U.S., Diageo has enough whisky left for about two years’ supply of Crown XR. Cask 16 is also still in production. They do a new batch every February. Eventually I plan to review every Canadian whisky I can lay my hands on, but in the next little while I have Caribou Crossing, Canadian Club Sherry Cask & 30 year old, and 4 Glen Bretons in the queue. Yes, I will review Cask 16 as time allows. I probably have enough tastings already to write a review of it.

  12. Yello to Mello:

    Thats good to know Davin, and reviewing those whiskies in that queue would indeed be better to do first.

  13. Greg:

    Davin – just completed a cruise where they served the XR in a number of their bars and sold it in their duty free store. I enjoyed a dram one evening in the cigar lounge and was impressed with the whiskey. I ended up picking up a bottle in St. Marteen for a reasonable price (along with other whiskey goodies).

  14. Davin:

    Greg, you are a lucky man indeed! Supplies of XR are starting to disappear.

  15. Yello to Mello:

    I tried this on Canada day. A friend of mine found a single bottle in texas for $120. It was very good from what I remember…unfortunately I was too many beers deep at the pool party….hehehe but I tried to remember this.

    My friend claims to know a Diageo rep and alhough (as Davin mentioned earlier here) that they have 2 years of XR from Waterloo they are changing it up and rebranding the whisky they used for the XR. The rep didnt know what profiles they plan on making with some of the leftovers or how they are going to do it.

    • Davin:

      That sounds like good new to me. I haven’t spoken to them about their plans for XR recently but I do know it was running out more quickly than theyhad expected.

  16. morgan:

    its so good u can get it at the liquor store near me winthrop liquors for 125$ a bottle..its a great deal!

  17. Rob:

    Just noticed the lobo released a large batch od XR. I had to add it to my collection so I bought myself a bottle for 180. Just wondering if this is older than the last batch of XR? Hopefully it is. How old is this stuff anyway?

    • Davin:

      I do not know. However . . . The last whisky was made in Waterloo in November 1992 so some of the whisky in XR could be 19 years old. There may also be some that is a lot older than that in the blend as well. Seagram’s blended to taste rather than by a strict age formula and Diageo has continued that practice, since they bought the brand. There probably is some younger whisky in there as well to maintain the flavour profile. But, as I said, I am just guessing.

  18. Paul:

    Bought my bottle of crown xr today. think i will choose x-mas eve for my first tasting of this canadian classic.

  19. Paul:

    ok. i’m weak. confession i tasted it tonight couldn’t hold out. it was as great drink still savory it’s richness unable to describe. one comment on bottling. the plug used is very tight and caused me to spill a tiny bit when removing. all be it precious little i found the force needed excessive/ unexpected.no angles shares gonna escape this bottle.
    absolutely heaven in a whisky glass.
    Paul

  20. Mary S:

    I just received as a gift a bottle of CR XR made from the last batch of whiskeys from the ledendary waterloo distillery . still in original box, seal not broken. I was curious to know of it’s worth. I didn’t know if I should open it and enjoy or save if this will be a collectors item today or someday. I love my crown but have never drank anymore than the black.

    • Davin:

      Hi Mary,

      Old Canadian whisky does not go up in vaue very much so there is no worry abut drinking a future treasure. Right now that bottle is worth a bit less than $200 in Canada and about $130 in the .S. I doubt it will go up very much.

      Davin

  21. Mary S:

    Thank you, I will break the seal soon for a special occasion. If nothing special comes up I will just make one up. ;-)
    Thank you for the information.

  22. Trevor Dell:

    I bought a bottle at the Vancouver airport duty free before I returned to Australia. Being a dual citizen and having grown up in Calgary I will probably just keep it for that “Special” occasion. I had worked at Alberta distileries in Calgary when I had released from the Army,
    and loved Tangle ridge and Alberta Pure Rye whiskey but unfortunately, now, I do not find it appeals to my pallet any longer. Which is sad. I have alot of fond memories from the plant….

  23. Maurice Guillette:

    I have a bottle of Crown Royal Dated unsealed 1973 (#B5505214) as I received it as a gift somewhere around that time. It has evavaporated about 1 inch is this still drinkable.

    • Davin:

      Yes, if it is still sealed and has never been opened it should still be good to drink, and that is the best thing to do with it as it is not worth very much money.

  24. Dave:

    I miss the Waterloo distillery as it was the original home of Seagrams and was a great place to work at. Now it’s just a museum that I hardly ever see people at. I feel that we made a great product and that the big wigs in the Toronto head office never cared about. We took pride in every barrel that we produced for quality and taste and now it’s just a mass production to make it cheaper and get more profit

    • Davin:

      Hi Dave,
      Yes, I still have some old Waterloo bottles and the whisky in them is really something else.
      Did you ever meet Mr. Sam? He revolutionized whisky blending right around the world.

  25. brandan:

    I have a bottle of XR red unopened what would it be worth now ? any help would be great . Thank You .

    • Davin:

      About what you paid for it, maybe a bit less since it is so difficult to find a buyer.

  26. Wade Ballard:

    I bought a red bottle of Crown Royal XR in Hawaii last week and paid 226.00 after taxes. Was that a good buy? I also heard the red bottles that were made in Waterloo are pretty hard to come by. I don’t know a lot about any of this I just thought it would be nice to safe for a special occasion.

    Wade

    • Davin:

      As long as you are happy its a good deal. It’s great whisky so enjoy it and don’t worry about bargain hunting.

  27. Darrell:

    A customer just brought by a 750 Bottle of Crown Royal and the label said from the Waterloo distillery. The bottle is unopened, in the original box, with a small pamplet describing the product. He’s had it over 50 years. Got any idea of the value?

    • Davin:

      $50 to$60. Unfortunately, there is no collector’s market and these older bottles are really quite common.

  28. Ray Abraham:

    Had the opportunity to pick up a bottle in Michigan on vacation. It is far and away the best Canadian whiskey out there! Royal Canadian Small Batch is just about equal to this as far as taste profile. It really blew me away how many different tastes it had going on. So smooth also!
    Dangerous stuff!

    • Mike D:

      I’m looking for unopened bottle of Crown Royal XR RED for sale for my collection. Please let me know if you can give the name of the place you bought your bottle from?

      Thanks,
      Mike

      • Davin:

        I bought it at LCBO in Ottawa.

    • Eric:

      Where in Michigan did you find it? Was it the red bottle?

  29. Loren:

    I have 5 unopened in my collection, bought them over 2 years ago..on 2 of the boxes there is no French anywhere? I presume these were headed for the us? On the plus side I can’t find a bottle of this stuff anywhere, maybe went up a little in value?

  30. Jeff Tillman:

    I’m looking for Crown Royal XR Extra Rare red box. Anyone know where I can buy one?

  31. Mike:

    I may have a bottle I may part with.

  32. Renee:

    Hello:) where can I buy a bottle if the xr red in the states? Or online?
    Thanks!

  33. Jordan:

    I have a few unopened new bottles as well I would consider parting with, make me an offer.

    • Joshua:

      Happen to still have any?

  34. Chris:

    I have a couple bottles as well, make me an offer Chris.l.cheney@gmail.com

  35. I have a couple of bottles for sale as well. I see them going for $600 in some places. Make me an offer though.

    email me here

  36. Joshua:

    I’m also looking to find an unopened box of XR red. If anyone has one they are willing to part with or knows of somewhere I can order one from, it would be much appreciated.

  37. Bob Caron:

    I had been seeing the Blue LaSalle XR in many of the NH liquor stores that I go to and it sells for 130 USD and I have one of those. I just happened to be in the South Nashua NH store today and spotted the red Waterloo XR at the same price so I picked one up. It’s funny that the NH liquor stock list on line doesn’t differentiate whether the XR at any given store is the Red or the Blue but I know where to get the Red now. I love the fresh lumber that Davin speaks about. I think of it as pencil shavings and it’s that same quality that I like about Wiser’s Red Letter. Tomorrow, I will compare those three head to head.

    • Bob Caron:

      Next Day follow-up. Awesome Level 1, XR LaSalle Edition / Awesome Level 2, Wiser’s Legacy / Awesome Level 3, XR Waterloo Edition / Awesome Level 4, 50-50 blend of XR Waterloo and Wiser’s Legacy / Awesome Level 5, Wiser’s Red Letter. Nothing yet can beat Red Letter but the 50-50 blend of XR Waterloo and Legacy sure comes close.

  38. Adrian:

    I have two unopened botxes of extra rare red. Wondering what one box is worth.

    • Bob Caron:

      New Hampshire is selling it for $130.00

      • Joshua:

        Would you happen to know where?

        • Bob Caron:

          The only NH liquor store where I’ve seen the Waterloo edition is at the the Southgate Plaza in South Nashua. You can’t locate the Waterloo from the website because it is considered the same whisky as the LaSalle so you never know which one is in which store.

          • Dawn Hoglan:

            Would anyone be willing to purchase a bottle and ship it to me. I have been searching for my 70 year old father. Willing to buy 2 and you keep one.


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