Royal Canadian Small Batch Canadian Whisky

Royal Canadian Small Batch (40% alc/vol (80 proof))

November 29, 2011


A very sweet fruit smoothie with earthy rye, hints of fresh oak, hot pepper, baking spices, pickle juice, spirit, and refreshing bitter notes. Fruity & Spicy. ★★★☆

The old familiar Royal Canadian blend has a loyal following. In Michigan and the south-eastern states, Sazerac’s ever-popular Royal Canadian blended whisky sells strongly. But now, a new arrival is garnering even more attention, and earning solid sales nation-wide as well. You see, there’s a new Royal Canadian and it’s older, just a little bit smarter, a lot better looking, and about as robust and flavourful as you could want a mixing whisky to be.

Royal Canadian Small Batch is an all-new, richer blend of Canadian whiskies packaged in a sleek, substantial, custom-designed, tall, clear bottle with a distinctive label that is screened right onto the glass. And along with the beefed-up flavour and the striking package, the price has been given a $10.00 upgrade as well.

Although it is made in Canada, and by Canadians, Royal Canadian Small Batch is not yet available north of the 49th parallel. It has been on store shelves in the U.S. since spring, but plans are just coming together now to introduce it in British Columbia and Ontario early in 2011. Perhaps the enthusiastic reception it has received in the U.S. has prompted Sazerac to expand its reach. Like its stable mate, the premium Caribou Crossing Single Barrel, Royal Canadian Small Batch has exceeded sales predictions and is already into its second small-batch release.

The nose behind these new whiskies is Sazerac Master Blender, Drew Mayville, who came to Buffalo Trace after 23 years with the Seagram’s organization. Mayville, in fact, was Seagram’s Master Blender when the firm was sold. This is an important detail. Seagram’s was a trail-blazing spirits company all through the 20th century – and especially in the era of the enigmatic “Mr. Sam” (Bronfman to you!). Well, something of that pioneering approach seems to have rubbed off on Mayville. He has set his sights on nothing less than re-defining the Canadian whisky category. Such brash talk could only come from someone who has walked in the shoes of “Mr. Sam”.

“Canadian whisky is a misunderstood spirit,” Mayville said, as he introduced Royal Canadian Small Batch and Caribou Crossing Single Barrel at the Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans this past July. “We think this category is unlimited,” he enthused. “This is going to be an explosive category and we’re starting the trend.” Well, we haven’t heard any explosions yet, but signs are everywhere that the connoisseur is beginning to take notice of Canadian whisky. So, kudos to Mayville and to Sazerac for recognizing this niche and supplying it with whisky.

Buffalo Trace, which is owned by Sazerac, has amassed a diverse inventory of over 200,000 barrels of Canadian whisky through several acquisitions from leading Canadian distilleries. This gives Mayville a wide range of choices when he selects the barrels for his Royal Canadian Small Batch. And the success these whiskies have had in the marketplace already, has encouraged Mayville to use this broad inventory to create even more new whiskies, Stay tuned!

“The Single Barrel and the Small Batch are the beginning of a long-term strategy for Sazerac to raise the bar for Canadian Whisky,” says Mayville. There’s Mr. Sam talking again. But Mayville’s plans to foster a greater appreciation for Canadian whisky are well-rooted. Not only did he spend 23 years at Seagram’s, Mayville also went to school in the same town where the legendary “Mr. Sam” created the ultra-successful Crown Royal, 1.6 million barrels of which sit maturing in the Crown Royal warehouses at any one time.

With more new releases on the way, and Caribou Crossing still to review for these pages, let’s get started with a close-up look at Royal Canadian Small Batch, the mixing whisky which serves as the entry point to Sazerac’s new range of premium and ultra-premium Canadians.

Nose: An over-the-top fruit smoothie made of tangy green fruit, pink lemonade, and a whole range of citric fruits – some sweet, some sharp. The sweet generic fruitiness is punctuated by rich dark fruit, including dried dates, figs, and prunes, candied baking fruits, ripe black cherries, and some berryish notes. But there’s more fruit! Cantaloupe, ripe red wine grapes, and white wine. This multidimensional fruitiness starts clean, but soon loses its distinct notes in a blended synthesis. Although the fruit clearly dominates the nose, other more interesting notes also poke through. Earthy rye spices, oily rye, vague hints of pickles, fresh-water plants, suggestions of fresh-cut wood, and hints of sweet baking spices reassure us that this is indeed aged Canadian whisky. A heavy, oily, almost waxy aroma deftly counterbalances bitter walnuts, citric zest, and a generous dollop of spirit. Hints of anise, and a slight oakiness add more interest to this fruity mixer.

Palate: Very sweet and sugary, with burnt sugar and caramel that become somewhat cloying in the throat. Winey, with lots of fruit, including over-ripe dark plums, dried dark fruit, dried oranges, and a fruity bitterness. Rye spices in the sweet-baking-spice range, including most notably, cinnamon, cloves, and glowing hot white pepper which is reinforced by hot ginger. As the heat intensifies some bitterness develops in the middle. The most interesting feature of this whisky palate is a refreshing bitterness which combines hints of lime peel, citric pith, bitter lemon soda, and something reminiscent of tonic water. Just little hints of red cedar bounce off the dominating peppery notes. In the end, this is not so much a complex whisky as a complicated one. It is quite flavourful, although as a sipper it has some watery patches, but these would never be noticed in a mixed drink. What starts out simple and a bit thin improves significantly as the body develops substantial weight thus improving the overall enjoyment of the whisky. As well as substance, the body has lots of texture, including a slight oily-waxy feel, a slight mealiness, and a touch of tannic grip.

Finish: Medium-long and fading. Hot tingling pepper, hot spices, citric bitterness, cut cedar, sweet fruit, sultanas, and sweet caramel.

Empty Glass: Caramel, hints of fresh-cut wood, dry wood, hints of ripe fruit, prune juice, dry dates, dry grain, hints of beer.

$25.00 in selected U.S. liquor stores.

Recommended. ★★★☆

Caribou Crossing Single Barrel is reviewed here.


17 Responses to “Royal Canadian Small Batch (40% alc/vol (80 proof))”

  1. I am speculating, but isn’t the reason this and several other Canadian whiskies are available in the US only is because the demand is so great south of the border, that it dwarfs demand in Canada? In fact, I think Americans consume more Canadian whisky than Canadians or any other nationality for that matter. Not necessarily a bad thing, just an interesting factoid. Provided I am correct. Lemme know if I am off on this view point.


    • Davin:

      Hi Jason,

      Yes, you are correct. The U.S. is far and away the largest market for Canadian whisky. We consume a lot of it up here but nothing like they do in the U.S. In fact, there are states that purchase as much Canadian whisky as all of Canada does. The American palate is also a little different from the Canadian when it comes to Canadian whisky and the flavour of the stereotypical Canadian whisky is slightly different above and below the border.

      I think when they are introducing a new product, such as Royal Canadian Small Batch, they want to focus on a manageable market before they expand globally. Sazerac is a U.S.-based company with a healthy distribution network in the U.S. so it makes sense that they introduce a new up-market whisky close to home. However, now that Royal Canadian Small Batch is firmly established they are expanding the market and will have it available in Ontario and B.C. by spring. Incidentally, Crown Royal Black is also such a huge success in the U.S. that it too will be coming to Canada at an as yet undisclosed date.

      • It got released in the October 15/2011 Vintages release for Ontario. $37.95 for a bottle is a pretty good deal for a sweet fruity blended treat. Interesting how it’s almost $13 buck more over the US prices……

  2. Glenn Timmons:

    A great whisky on sale in PA liquor stores for about $18.00. Very smooth and flavourful.

  3. BrianL:

    I was very disappointed. This has been my least favorite Canadian to date.

  4. paddockjudge:

    Great piece of Canadiana rolling Mayville and Mr. Sam into this review.
    A most enjoyable treat, it left me wanting one more, the review and whisky.

    This was my choice as a stocking stuffer this year.


  5. Jason:

    I just got a bottle on clearance at my local Woodmans (in southern Wisconsin) for under $13. A steal? I haven’t tried it yet.

    • Davin:

      Yes, that’s a great price.

  6. Frank Smith:

    Sorry but I’ve been a Crown Royal drinker for a long time. I’ve had all of their products. I have also had and enjoyed Wiser’s products. I think your small batch taste weak and watered down.

    • Davin:

      Hi Frank,
      It’s hard to go wrong with Crown Royal and Wiser’s. I enjoy them as well. Still, to my personal taste Royal Canadian Small Batch is a welcome addition to the line-up of Canadian whisky, well suited to many occasions.

  7. William Murphy:

    Royal Canadian, excellent beverage. I’ve been savoring Canadian whisky’s all my life (now 61 years young) and I’m more than satistified with Royal Canadian. May become my favorite.

    Whisky Bill

  8. Jimbo:

    Just picked up a bottle in Pennsylvania, on sale $15, great stuff.

  9. Phil:

    I came across this whiskey in Portland, OR and I love it. For $19 no other whiskeys compare. I am a huge Crown Royal fan, but I have now found my new best. Nicely done!

    • Davin:

      Great to have two go-to whiskies, isn’t it?

  10. Ray Abraham:

    I tried this whiskey lastnight. Let me start out by saying I have darn near sipped on every Canadian whiskey to date. The only whiskey I can place this on par with is Crown Royal XR! No other whiskey even comes close!
    I drank a little more than I should have with no hangover at all. Royal Canadian Small Batch to me is my newest go to whiskey after a hard days work! Anyone who knows their stuff will agree. It is rich in the nose, rich on the palate and has a long finish with multiple expressions of flavors. It is truly multi-dimensionable. I would rate it at a 98 out of 100!!!

  11. Adam Ross:

    I have bought two bottles now and I absolutely love this whiskey. The quality versus price has won me over. I really enjoy whiskey and this whiskey is a mix to me a southern/Canadian mix. Its the best of both worlds. Great to sip child or mix with your favorite mixers. I hope I can buy this for the great price I have been getting it for. Cheers thanks for this great whiskey.

  12. Kevin:

    I just recently came across this Whiskey. I am a fan of Crown Royal anyway, so I figured I would give it a try. I gotta say, I like it alot. There are more expensive whiskeys out there that don’t taste as good as this does at around $20 a bottle. I am officially a fan!

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