Gateway Series #11: Crown Royal

Crown Royal Fine De Luxe Blended Canadian Whisky
40% ABV, 80 Proof
Around $25, Widely Available

What The Distiller Says:
The distinct blend of 50 full-bodied whiskies has captivated senses for 70 years and continues to be a staple of our portfolio. Though created in 1939 to celebrate the visit to Canada of King George VI and his Queen Elizabeth, Crown Royal remains approachable and unpretentious to the everyday drinker.

What Matt Says:
Nose: Caramel, hazelnuts, vanilla, and mint. There is also something sour lingering in the background (smells like stomach acid). Water opens up the rye notes (mint and spice) to create something quite lovely.
Palate: Not bad upfront, with toffee sweetness, but turns woody and bitter. Although Richard Paterson suggests holding whiskies “long in the mouth,” I would not suggest doing that with this particular dram. It becomes thoroughly unpleasant, not unlike chewing the shrapnel from a barrel explosion. While water helps the nose, it kills the flavor (which may be a good thing).
Finish: Smooth and oak-y with a hint of mint. Water kills the mint.
Comments: Supplying Redneck high school girls with low cost purses for 70 years, Crown Royal is probably as known for it’s purple velvet bag as for the whisky inside. It is a shame really, Crown Royal is actually capable of producing good whiskies. The standard expression is not one of them though. It is not the worst whisky in the Gateway Series, but I cannot recommend it.
Rating: Probably Pass

What Richard Says:
Nose: The nose seems surprisingly alcoholic for an 80 proof whisky. I get fruitiness on the nose reminiscent of fruit brandies. There is also just a hint of nuttiness that I can’t quite place.
Palate: Peppered oak lollypops? Seriously. Sickly candy sweetness on the front of the palate. As the drink settles into the palate it turns to peppery oak. Not in a good way. The longer you hold it on the palate, the worse it gets. Definitely drink it quickly.
Finish: The finish starts out not too bad but the burn kicks in and punches above it’s 40% ABV. The after taste is rough, woody, and unpleasant.
Comments: My early experiences with Crown Royal really turned me off to the drink altogether. That said, I tried to give Crown the benefit of the double. For my trouble I found all the things that originally turned me off of Canadian Whisky. The only way I’ve found that I can tolerate Crown Royal is in a Red Snapper.
Rating: Probably Pass

Overall Rating: Probably Pass

Crown Royal is really our first major departures from one of the whiskey writers we both most identify with, John Hansell. He gives standard Crown an 88/100. I can’t fathom how. It just goes to show you that everyone’s palate is as individual as their fingerprints.

Event Notice: SMWS Extravaganza 2009 Fall Tour

Hopefully you remember my review of the Single Malt Scotch Whisky Extravaganza put on by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Atlanta this spring. Well I just got a list of their fall tour for 2009. Here’s where you can find them:

Chicago: Thursday, October 8, 2009

Boston: Thursday, October 22, 2009

Washinton, DC: Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Philadelphia: Friday, October 30, 2009

San Francisco: Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Los Angeles: Friday, November 20, 2009

Fort Lauderdale: Thursday, December 3, 2009

For tickets you can call 800.990.1991 or email For additional details and information you can find it on their website at

But wait there’s more! I talked with one of the Society representatives and they graciously agreed to extend a $15 discount to our readers. When you order tickets just mention that you heard about it on Whisk(e)yApostle and the tickets will only be $115 for the first two tickets. Regular price is $130.

And you thought all you got here were reviews and the never ending blather from Matt and myself. See! Money back in your pocket. You can’t ask for too much more than that.

SMWS Atlanta Whisky Tasting

I just received an invitation to a scotch whisky tasting hosted by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. After clearing it with a Society representative they gave me the okay to extend the invitation to our readers. Here are the details:

Where: Buckhead Club, 3344 Peachtree Roead NE Suite 2600, Atlanta, GA
When: Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Time: Registration begins at 6:30pm, Tasting from 7:00pm until 9:00p
Price: $105
RSVP: Please call 800.990.1991 or email to reserve tickets

Additionally, a buffet style dinner is included and they request that you wear business attire (jackets, no denim or athletic wear). I don’t have any more details about what they are pouring but I believe this is a Society event and will most likely include their special bottlings. The invitation I got said that you are invited to “a connoisseurs evening of rare and unique Society whiskies” so I’m pretty confident you won’t be drinking Famous Grouse on the rocks.

This will be a rare chance to try some of the SMWS’s special bottlings without have to join and buy them yourself. My wife and I will be there and I hope some of you can make it too.

Supernova Returns

For those fans of Ardbeg out there I just received a note from Ardbeg that their Supernova bottling will briefly be returning to the states. There should be bottles headed to California, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.

The Atlanta locations that should be expecting a shipment are Pearson’s and Tower.

The NYC locations are Astor Wine & Spirits, Morrel & Company, and Park Avenue Liquor.

If you’re in one of the other states lucky enough to be included on the list and want to know where to get some shoot me an email.


Beauty and the Beist

I just got back from brunch with Dr. Bill Lumsden, Master Distiller of Glenmorangie and Arbeg, at the Brandy Library.  The food was great, the whisky was better and a great time was had by all. Dr. Bill promised to bore us to death and then give us great whisky.  I told him that talk of whisky was never boring.  “You’ve never heard me talk before,” says he.  Needless to say, I was not bored.

One of the things I learned today:  Glemorangie has the tallest pot still in Scotland (16′-10 1/4″).  Dr. Bill also took us through the long journey that the Astar barrels take before holding Glenmorangie (ask me about it or ask Dr. Bill, it’s a long journey).  And we learned how to “release the serpent” in whisky (add water).

The whiskies on the menu were Glenmorangie Original, Astar, Lasanta, Sonnalta PX, Ardbeg Supernova and Corryvrecken.  I was also allowed to sample some Glenmorangie new make spirit.  Smelling and tasting of banana peels, coconut and rum, the new make would make a great cocktail mixer.  Too bad it’s not for sale.

We’ve reviewed both the Original and the Astar (Dr. Bill’s favorite) quite recently, so I won’t rehash those.  Notice there are no age statements…

Glenmorangie Lasanta
46% ABV, 92 Proof, Non-Chill Filtered
Nose: Sherry, cinnamon, ginger, raisins, toffee
Palate: Oily, sticky, sweet, spicy, hazelnut, blood orange
Finish: Oily, long, spiced orange and dark fruits
Comments: Lasanta is finished in Dry Oloroso Sherry casks for two years.  Otherwise, it is basically the same whisky as the Original.  I like what they are trying to do here.  Dr. Bill is one of the engineers of the extra-maturation movement afterall(remember all those old Glenmorangies?).  You still get some of the Glenmorangie character, but with an extra zing.  I like it, but I like the Original better.

Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX
46% ABV, 92 Proof, Non-Chill Filtered
Nose: Everything you find in the Lasanta but bolder, dark chocolate, berries
Palate: Again, like Lasanta on steroids.  Bold, rich sherry flavors with black pepper, tobacco and spice.
Finish: Long and oily, but sharp
Comments: Similar to the Lasanta, but using Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks.  The extra richness of the PX really comes out in the whisky.  This is a great addition to the extra-matured world.  Plus, although this whisky is currently only available at Travel Retail, they will be releasing the Sonnalta PX domestically (in the US) soon due to popular demand.  Whose says the consumer has no control in the whisky world?  (It’s not like Glenmorangie is a Diageo company!)*

Glenmorangie Signet
46% ABV, 92 Proof, Non-Chill Filtered
Nose: Sherry, chocolate, dark berries, coffee, pecan pie,
Palate: Rich, chocolate, oak, spice, blood orange, vanilla, crème brulee, coffee, leather
Finish: Velvety
Comments: I knew that Glenmorangie was using ‘chocolate’ malt in the distilling process for the Signet.  What I did not realize was that the malting process for ‘chocolate’ malt more closely resembles tumble-roasting (like coffee) than traditional floor malting (hand or machine turning on the malting floor).  This is a wicked dram with one of the most complex recipes I’ve ever heard for a single malt.  Just to give you an idea, the Signet contains whisky from ‘chocolate’ malt, first and second fill bourbon cask whiskies (using the special oak of the Astar barrels), sherried whiskies, virgin oak whiskies, and whiskies of various ages (some over 30 years old).  There is no other whisky like this on the market.  It goes really well with dark chocolate and cigars, but you could drink it neat with no food and still be happy.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan
57.1% ABV, 114.2 Proof, Non-Chill Filtered
Nose: PEAT.  I don’t get a lot of anything else.  It’s peat smoke and a lot of it.
Palate: Sweet, rich, spice, tar, nutty, medicinal, creamy, smoky, fresh shellfish and hot black top asphalt.  Incredibly complex.
Finish: Long, earthy and creamy
Comment: This will replace the Airigh Nam Beist, which is being discontinued despite being Dr. Bill’s personal favorite among the Ardbeg range.  I can’t say that I mind.  This is my very favorite Ardbeg to date.  Love it.

Ardbeg Supernova
58.9% ABV, 117.8 Proof, Non-Chill Filtered
Nose: The high proof puts the alcohol at the forefront of the nose.  The peat is surprisingly coy.  Sweet, lime juice and band-aids
Palate: Whoa!  Like chewing on a lump of peat covered in dark chocolate and burnt sugar.  Smoke, spice, lime and band-aids
Finish: I could still taste the peat, chocolate and sweetness after an hour on the subway.  So, yeah, “long finish.”
Comments: The “lime juice and band-aids” comment comes directly from Dr. Bill Lumsden, but he is right on with the description.  I’m not sure that is the best way to sell people on your whisky though.  For being Ardbeg’s peatiest whisky and one of the peatiest on the market, the Supernova is surprisingly approachable.  I like it, but give me more of that Corryvreckan.

Thanks to the Dr. Bill Lumsden, David Blackmore of Moet Hennessy and Ethan Kelly of Brandy Library for putting this together.  I always love a chance to meet a Master Distiller.  It only sweetens the deal that it was Dr. Bill (Glenmorangie is my ‘go-to’ whisky).

*The Glenmorangie and Arbeg are owned by Moet Hennessy.

Drink well, drink responsibly.