My Very Own Crown Royal

October 5, 2016


Crown Royal Truck at Gimli Distillery

A truck load of luscious butterscotch chocolate bars oozing onto dark ripe fruit, lively spices, clean crisp oak, simmering white pepper and citrus zest. Big, big whisky.

A year ago, when Dave Broom and I traveled to Gimli, Manitoba to see where Crown Royal is made, we had no idea what awaited us. Our host, Dwayne Kozlowski led us on an extended tour of the distillery then asked if we’d like to taste some of the more than 50 whiskies that go into making Canada’s best-selling blend.

What really got our attention was the Coffey rye – rye whisky distilled in North America’s last remaining real Coffey still. Rich, spicy, fruity and floral, it was stellar.

“This is so great you should bottle it on its own,” we enthused when Diageo’s Canadian Vice-President, Pauline Rooney popped in to say “Hi.”

Pauline has gone on to become a bigwig in the US Diageo organization and chairwoman of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. Before she left Canada, though, she passed on our love of Crown Royal Coffey Rye to her brand managers.  By December they had launched a single-barrel pilot project in Texas, and they chose to release this special whisky at 103 proof – 51.5% abv. Yes, barrel strength Canadian whisky.

The whisky, dubbed “Hand Selected Barrel,” became an instant success. So much so, that what was intended as a reward for Crown Royal’s most loyal customers in Texas, is spreading right across America. As the name suggests, Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel is sold in barrel lots to individual liquor stores. Since it is single barrel whisky, each store’s version is unique.

I was feeling pretty good to have helped come up with the idea, so imagine my delight when I was invited to celebrate the success of Hand Selected Barrel by picking my own barrel for distribution to media. On a cold Gimli day I was back at the distillery tasting samples Kozlowski had pulled from various barrels in three warehouses. I nosed carefully and sipped slowly, both at full barrel strength and with the whisky diluted to about 23%. They all were great but I had to choose one.

In the end I picked a barrel that was filled to brimming with butterscotch, fruit, zesty spices and searing pepper. I’ve not given it a score. It’s my barrel and I feel a certain ownership that could influence my objectivity.

A huge thank you to Crown Royal. As an independent reviewer, I don’t accept payment for experiences like this. It is part of the learning that feeds my work as a whisky writer. I am very grateful, however, to the people at Crown Royal who valued my input and provided a great learning experience for me and I hope for themselves too.

Crown Royal Hand Selected=Thanks to Mark Gillespie at for the bottle photo.


18 Responses to “My Very Own Crown Royal”

  1. Great story Davin. I’d love to have a glass of that.


  2. Dwayne Kozlowski:

    Great to have had you at the distillery Davin. Come back soon.

    • Davin:

      Thanks you, Dwayne. You’re a great host and you showed us a really enjoyable time in Gimli.

  3. Great story with a mega happy ending almost “Hollywood style”
    Rock on!!!

  4. Bob Caron:

    I’m very pleased with the barrel that was selected for New Hampshire. I bought a case so far – I may get another.

  5. Gerard:

    I hope that “spreading right across America” soon leads to it spreading right across Canada!

    • Davin:

      Me too! So much depends on the liquor boards though, and their convoluted purchasing policies and processes.

  6. This is great – I was excited ever since I heard about this bottling. I’m glad to see more and more “hidden” rye be released out of Canada. let’s hope the trend continues, and that stock is kept high!!

  7. Glad to hear we’re producing a new high proof whisky, and a good one at that. Shame it’s only in the States at the moment. Those “convoluted purchasing policies and processes” you mentioned are too often the reason we can’t have nice things in Canada. Still, I hope this one makes it north of the border someday. Very cool story, Davin.

  8. Peter:

    If this “Canadian Whisky” is not released in Canada then why is everybody so excited?

    Would Heaven Hills or Buffalo Trace make a Canada only special release Bourbon?

    As a Canadian Whisky supporter I am extremely disappointed.

    All will be forgiven when this shows up at the LCBO (at double the US price of course)

    • George Jetson:

      No, they wouldn’t. But there are many bourbons produced in the U.S. that are “export only”. Some notable Four Roses super premium bottlings that go straight to Japan. Same domestic jealousy here about those.

  9. paddockjudge:

    Will we ever get this on the shelves in the True North?
    It is much easier for distributors to deal with Independent or Private retailers. Public monopolies stifle the creative flow of artisanal and hand-crafted expressions with endless red tape. Government should stay out of our churches, bedrooms, and whisky cabinets.

  10. [...] Davin De Kergommeax’s Review on [...]

  11. Martin Harvey:

    Heard on Air. So can we get in Ontario?


  12. Frank:

    A little bird told me we’ll see some bottlings available in Canada sometime in 2016, as retailer casks. I’ve had a few samples of Davin’s Hand Selected and it was stunningly good, one to anticipate.

  13. John Foubert:

    Where in Canada can I source this fine Whiskey?

    Thank you.

    • Davin:

      It is a U.S. exclusive.

  14. Zac_100%TrueTexan:

    As a Crown Lover here in Texas, I was very upset tonight when I found out I no longer can get the Texas Crown Club bag due to some lawsuit. Is there any hope in y’all releasing a new Texas flag Crown bag. Id be willing to design a new label for the bottle if that was the issue as well. But please bring back that Texas Flag bag.

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