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Rich & Rare 40% alc./vol. (80 proof)

March 4, 2013

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Butterscotch, sultanas, pepper and smatterings of oak bathe in a mouth-filling, quintessentially smooth whisky. Creamy caramel lends a softness to tones of cedar, ripe fruits, and hot, hot pepper.  Ends in a classic citrus zest.  A mixer, but worth sipping.★★★☆

The Rich & Rare name appeared on many a whisky bottle long before the New Orleans-based Sazerac Company gained ownership of the brand. It all began with one of the Prohibition era’s most successful Canadian whisky entrepreneurs, Harry Hatch, who owned the Gooderham and Worts distillery in Toronto. It was there that R&R was first distilled. Hatch called it Gooderham’s Rich & Rare in those days.

In the 1950s Gooderham and Worts stopped distilling whisky in Toronto, and turned to rum. Hatch moved R&R to another distillery that he also owned: Hiram Walker’s in Windsor, Ontario. And though the production of R&R had shifted to a different distillery, stewardship of the brand and its recipe stayed the same, and the label proudly continued to proclaim the Gooderham name.

The 1980s were turbulent years for the whisky industry world-wide. Vodka sales were on the ascent while whisky sales declined dramatically, creating a glut of mature whisky that came to be called “the whisky lake.”

With the diminishing market for whisky, a number of distilleries were sold, merged with others, or simply closed. A few ended up being converted, ignominiously, into fuel-alcohol plants. Canadian whisky makers were not spared the downturn and many popular brands were dislocated, with their production dispersed among the few distilleries that survived. Hiram Walker’s distillery was one of those survivors and Rich & Rare turned out to be one of the brands that carried on unperturbed throughout it all, just as it does to this day.

Sazerac will not divulge exactly where in Canada R&R is distilled these days. However, once it is ready for bottling, the mature whisky is filled into tanker trucks, and shipped to a bottling plant in Frankfort, Kentucky, never to return to its mysterious Canadian roots.

Nose: Rich caramel, fudge, sweet and sour sauce, and over-ripe fruit with spirity overtones. Rye spices mingle with hints of oak, and red cedar sawdust.

Palate: Weightier than expected. Sweet butterscotches balance lime juice and pulling citrus pith. A vague woodiness and the scent of lime evolve into the flavour of sweetened lemon juice. The flavour is milder than R&R Reserve, although still loaded with pepper and pleasing oaky tones that stray into red cedar shakes. Boisterous, yet the very definition of smooth with a creamy richness that coats the tongue. Golden sultanas poke out from a basket of over-ripe fruit. The palate, although soft and creamy develops quite some heat. A simple but tightly balanced mixer.

Finish: Medium length. Sweet, hot and fruity with persistent citrus notes and toffee.  Fades to a pleasing citrus pith.

Empty Glass: Very sweet with fudge, caramel and toffee.

Recommended. ★★★☆

Rich & Rare Reserve is reviewed here.


Comments

11 Responses to “Rich & Rare 40% alc./vol. (80 proof)”

  1. I have been drinking this as an affordable weekday whisky for over a year. In Washington State it ends up being about $16 and, if shelf space in store is any indicator, I would not be surprised if it the best selling whisky in the state(it might actually be the best selling spirit in the state). Thanks for the thoughtful review, I feel R&R is on par with much more expensive whisky, a definite bargain

  2. Earl Lutz:

    We have noticed a change in the taste of R&R. There is a distinct stronger taste that resembles Crown Royal which we do not like. We like more of the Canadian Club and Black Velvet taste.

  3. john steel:

    Rich and Rare is a fine sipping whiskey especially straight out of the freezer does go well with cola but why waste a good taste of whiskey with cola.

  4. Mark Harsch:

    Just bought my first bottle of R&R. Really enjoy it as mixer. Not as much with a ice cube or two straight.

  5. Cheryl Schindeldecker:

    Heard that R&R is being discontinued for sale in Minnesota. Is there a reason? I’m not a real fan of the Reserve. It seems a little too sharp if I remember it correctly. R&R was a great taste with an affordable price.I would like to know why we can’t get it in our liquor stores any more. I bought the last two on the shelf and the employees confirmed it was being discontinued except for the Reserve.

    • Davin:

      I heard that too but have no idea why. They are still making lots of it.

  6. Jon:

    By far the most underrated on the list. Nicer finish than its more expensive ‘Reserve’ version. No harshness like others in this category.

  7. JWS:

    Davin, at your review, I tried the Reserve. I intend to try the “regular” ASAP. Your site is a GREAT resource for someone who drinks on a budget. Thanks again for all your great info!!! If it’s a lighter version, then I expect that I will enjoy it as well….. :)

    • Davin:

      Thanks for your kind words. I am glad you find the site helpful.

  8. JWS:

    Davin, I find your site an invaluable resource to get an informed opinion, when it comes to the particular libations you review. I DID buy a “tenth” (375ml, 1/2 of a fifth) bottle of regular R&R on Friday, having tried a store I know of that carries a wider selection of those small bottles than most near me. That’s some GOOD stuff for its price!!

  9. Randy:

    I have been drinking Crown Royal for many years and just had the pleasure of trying R&R a few days ago.I come from a long family tradition of Canadian whiskey drinkers and we have had a small town tavern in our family since the early 1940′s. I can’t wait to share R&R with some of my family to get their opinion. Needless to say going forward with both taste and price in mind CR will be taking a back seat to R&R.


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