There are many types of whiskies available, with each one having a unique set of characteristics.  One of the popular whisky products is Crown Royal, a blended Canadian whisky that is enjoyed by millions of drinkers around the world.

Although Crown Royal is called “whisky” it is very different from traditional Scotch whisky and Irish whisky.  This article will take a closer look at Crown Royal and explain how it is in a category all of its own.

What is the difference between whisky and whiskey?

In simple terms, “Whisky” is mostly made from malted barley and aged in oak barrels for three years or more. “Whiskey”, on the other hand, can be made using other grains and can be aged in other kinds of barrels.

There are also variations of Scotch whisky, including:

  • Single malt (100% malt whisky with malt from one distillery)
  • Blended malt (100% malt whisky which has malt from multiple distilleries)
  • Blended whiskies (a combination of malt and grain whiskies)
  • Cask strength (bottled from the cask undiluted, at a very high strength)
  • Single cask (the bottle was poured from one cask)

Whiskey has many more varieties available.  They include bourbon whiskey, which is made with a mash that is at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels, rye whiskey, which is made with a mash that is at least 51% rye, and wheat whiskey, which is made with a mash that is at least 51% wheat.

What about Crown Royal?

Crown Royal is the world’s top-selling Canadian whisky.  The brand was created in 1939 by Samuel Bronfman, president of Seagram, to honour King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s first trip to Canada.  Crown Royal is now owned by Diageo, who purchased the brand in 2000 when the Seagram portfolio was dissolved.

Crown Royal doesn’t fulfil the requirements to be a Scotch Whisky or a Whiskey.  It is a  blended Canadian whisky made from a mixture of corn, barley and rye distillates that are distilled and matured separately.  Each distillate is created using 12-column stills that produce very clean and light-tasting spirits.  Crown Royal carefully blends these distillates together to achieve a specific flavour profile.

The Crown Royal distillery ages their whisky using a wide variety of barrels and casks.  They include virgin oak barrels, charred oak, wine casks, and cognac casks.  By using these different casks and barrels, they can enhance certain flavours and aromas in their various products.  This is a very different approach compared to spirits like Scotch whisky and bourbon whiskey which must use specific types of barrels to retain their name.

Unlike other types of whiskies and whiskeys, there are no strict restrictions on how a Canadian whisky should be blended.  This means that some Crown Royal whiskies will be 51% or more rye combined with corn and barley distillates, while others will contain more corn than rye.  Crown Royal can change how they blend each product whenever they feel like it.

The end result of having complete control over how each whisky is blended and aged is that Crown Royal whiskies have a very wide range of flavours — everything from vanilla and smoke through to dried fruit and spices.

Some of the variations of Crown Royal include:

  • Crown Royal – The original Crown Royal whiskey was only available in Canada until 1964. It comes in a purple felt-like bag with a gold tasselled drawstring.
  • Crown Royal Black – Introduced in 2010, this is a darker and stronger whisky that is sold in a black felt bag.
  • Crown Royal Reserve – Launched in 1992, this version of Crown Royal is aged for a longer period. It comes in a tan, velvet-like bag with coarse gold drawstrings.
  • Crown Royal XO – Introduced in January 2014, this whisky is a blend of 50 whiskies that were finished in Cognac casks from the French Limousin forest.
  • Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye – Launched in 2015, this bled is mostly rye whisky.

[Photo Credit: Keith Survell Flickr]