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

March 4, 2013


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.


40 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.

    • JWS:

      Randy, if you think the regular R&R is good, seek ye out the Rich & Rare Reserve. It tastes better than that “Crown” whisky, and, depending on where you are, is much less!!!

  10. Nikki:

    We have recently acquired a 1960s bottle of Gooderhams Rich and Rare U 496028. Does anyone have any idea about the quality/taste of this particular batch and/or a value… just wondering if we should like the baby sit for a while longer. I noticed a listing on an antique site, but the listing was pulled. Thanks a lot for your help.

    • Davin:

      If the bottle is sealed and full it will taste quite good. The value, however, has not gone up over the years as there is really no collectors’ market for old Canadian whisky. Open and enjoy!

  11. Reon Holden:

    Where can it be purchased? I live in Mesquite, Nv 89027

  12. Reon Holden:

    Where can it be purchased?

  13. Roger Alan Kobus:

    Just found your great website! I drank R & R back in the 1980s, converted to Scotch and just last year bought a fifth of Rich and Rare to mix with Ginger Ale. I forgot how good it tastes straight! In Dallas, it is inexpensive to say the least. I like Canadian Club, but for the money I will be buying a lot of R&R!

  14. Clinton Deiters:

    Love ur whiskey my problem plus many others is you rebate program it actually does not deliver the rebates I have done a study over the last 3 months I do not see a linitation to your rebates my investigation acutaly started a year ago but now I pay special interest are they claiming they sent the money and not or just keeping it in the last threee months along never mind the last few years they seem to not do the rebates, recently I seen you had a rebate for $5 on ur Reserve bottle of R and R, what ur rebate company has failed to realize like I have been watching I have and average of at least 20 to 30 dallors a month well over a year I did not recieved, I request all my friends and I do mean like 10 you can get back 3$ on the big bottle well they also have not gotten the rebate? Why, are we limited to how many bottles a month it should say so on ur rebate coupon, I am also sending this to the BBB, as a reminder to all whiskey drinkers and my friends!

  15. Clinton Deiters:

    Fire Your Rebate Company I Believe they do not do ur job at all, when I send in at least 4 to 8 rebates every month never get a dime is fraudulent and will take it to the next placed, I have also been recording these rebates! Only for the BBB! Get Them straight get caught up the have recieved these request and I do Mean My Postal Office Guys! Now like I said b

  16. I’ve been consuming R&R for a number of years. I just bought a bottle two days ago and I am surprised at the different flavor. It certainly does have a distinct different flavor and I am not sure it is for the better. It may take a while to get use to the difference. Anything you can say that would explain the distinct change in flavor. I may be giving up on the product. It tastes like it has to much caramel in the recipe. Anybody else notice the difference?

    • Davin:

      The caramel comes from the oak barrels.

  17. melvin nethercutt:

    Been drinking for 3 years. Good stuff. Last week purchased a 1.75 ltr bottle and not much would come out pour spout. it was plugged up with paper. Haven’t gotten return call from sazerac

  18. Greg:

    R&R always reminded me of the taste of watered down whiskey. Never liked it. Just tried some today and I have to say I am pleasantly surprised. It has strong notes of vanilla to me. Tastes a lot like Pendleton whiskey to me. I have been a JB fan a longtime, but for 2/3 the cost of my Bourbon, I may have to visit this Canadian more often!

  19. Tyler:

    I’m very curious if anybody else has tasted a huge difference in r@r lately? Tastes really weird… this has been are go to whiskey for years until something happened about a year ago.. now we’re on a black velvet kick.. just kinda curious if u guys changed your blend or what the hell is going on..!??


  21. My first choice is a single Malt Scotch Whiskey, which can be very pricy in Chicago, Illinois. In place of it, I sometimes go with the Canadian Rich & Rare Whisky. It does have a unique flavor and taste that makes it a worthwhile substitute for the single Malt.

  22. Glenn:

    Is this a blended whiskey

    • Davin:

      Yup, but in the Canadian sense of the word, that is, all whisky.

  23. Victoria Eyler:

    i have a unopened bottle of R &R from 1976…been in the back of a cupboard, will it still be good?

    • Davin:

      Yes, it will be good and as it has no special value go ahead and open it and enjoy.

  24. t:

    where can i purchase this whicky in Canada? or where can i order it and it is shipped to Canada

  25. I am a big Jack Daniels fan, and it is a good product, but I cannot justify paying nearly $50.00 for a bottle. I found Rich and Rare in the State Store for under twenty dollars, and decided to give it a try. It has a very rich and smooth taste that I enjoy sipping by itself at night when I am relaxing. Don’t ever change, because I plan on making this my number one whiskey from now on. It is a fine product at a great price!

  26. John Fristoe:

    I am kind of surprised. I introduced my twin brother to R & R probably 20 years ago and we have enjoyed it (too much ;) . I see that others have noticed a distinct change in the flavor a few years ago as my brother and friends have all noticed. Why won’t the makers answer the several queries in previous post’s? Both my twin and our friends have given up re- trying R&R since the heavy caramel flavor and have moved to Seagrams 7 but miss our old stand by. Can you comment????

    • Davin:

      I have heard that they have changed anything.

  27. Bob Sensel:

    Have been drinking R&R for 8 years now. Was a CR drinker for a very long time. A friend turned me on to R&R and I’ve never looked back! The flavor did change few years back and so did the label, use to say Canadian Blended Whiskey, the blended was dropped , [with natural flavors] was added. At first I was a little pissed, but I think it got a little smoother! I prefer it straight up, no mix and no chaser. I go through a 1.75 liter a week. I also buy the 1.75 by the case. What I would like to know is how long it is aged. Rest & Relaxation to all!!

  28. Keith J:

    Bought a 750ml bottle of R&R whisky at Target in Seattle for $9.95. After taxes came to around US$14 or C$17.50. Still 25% less expensive than regular rye in B.C. Has a mild, smooth taste with somewhat pleasant distinct flavour. Well worth the price, probably close in quality to Corby’s Royal Reserve.

  29. [...] the White River Amphitheater. Drinking whatever booze we managed to accumulate from our parent’s liquor cabinet on the way, we could have driven across the country and none of us would have noticed. We [...]

  30. Gary:

    Started drinking R&R after a local store here in my area of Northeast Wisconsin had a sale. This R&R sells very well in my area for a Canadian Whiskey. Just as the overall review said it has a flavor and smoothness that seems to be a little but good different. I say different in a good way, as I like it for sipping straight and also over the rocks and tastes great. Touch of oak, and spice just enough to let you know R&R is here. Overall I have drank a varieties of Canadian Whiskey and to be frank, for the money spent its a hard to beat this whiskey hands down. Try a bottle and see what you think as you will walk away with a few extra bucks in your pocket, verses the extra spending of more of your dollars on the other varieties.

  31. Crystal:

    Why don’t you sell this in Canada
    I live in Edmonton Alberta and have to wait till I travel to get it
    Love the flavor Also great on ice alone

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