Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Whisky

Originally posted in The Brandon Sun - November 23, 2018

Over the years, I’ve reviewed many beers that were well regarded as being some of the best beers on the planet, many that I feel that have been considered underrated, while many that were well regarded as the best of the best by organizations such as the World Beer Awards. For the past three years, there’s one product that I’ve wanted to review but only after the hype finally die down - the product was so sought after that Liquor Marts and rural liquor licensees were selling out the very second it came in.. people of all (legal age) demographics were looking to buy it even if it was something they wouldn’t typically purchase.

Well, if you didn’t know what I was talking about by now, it was Gimli, Manitoba's Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye Whisky. In November 2015, UK based whisky critic Jim Murray wrote that Northern Harvest was his choice for the best whisky in the world for the 2016 Whisky Bible. Murray is considered one of the top critics in the field of whisky so it was no surprise to see Liquor Mart shelves bare when he announced that a product made in Gimli, Manitoba was his top choice for the year.

When the news that Northern Harvest was the number one whisky in the world, I sent Canada’s top whisky critic, Davin de Kergommeaux a message on Twitter asking if he thought the review was valid. He told me that he absolutely enjoyed the whisky, giving it a 5/5 star rating on his website ( but was surprised for it to make it to the top of Murray’s list.

Aside from hype, I don’t know why it took me so long to review this whisky. Perhaps it's my stubbornness? Perhaps it’s the price tag? Perhaps I’m worried that I’ll do a horrible review? Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above.

You may recall in last week’s First Draught I did a review of three Belgian-style Witbiers all made right here in Manitoba; This week I want to keep it up with the Made in Manitoba theme to review Northern Harvest. One thing I learned about Diageo’s Crown Royal Distillery is that the majority of the cereals/corn used in Crown Royal’s products are grown right here in Manitoba and surrounding regions.

Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye Whisky pours light golden orange in body. The aroma has a great deal of oak that gives it a woodiness with a light to moderate amount of vanilla to it. There’s notes of rich rye to give it a toasty yet spicy presence to it which is a presence of a bit of wood and a bit of a peppery presence to it. Aside from that, I’m also getting a nice sweet presence of apple, a bit of a syrupiness and a light presence of rye bread. I’ve spent approximately five minutes just trying to pinpoint the aroma in this whisky.. that’s longer than any beer I’ve reviewed in the past.. well, actually.. only the past week.

The tasting profile of this whisky starts off with the barrel itself - it has a rich, incredibly oaky presence to it with a hint of vanilla to it. There’s an incredible sweetness taking place here that’s giving off notes apple, caramel and a hint of citrus. The rye isn’t over the top here, it does give off a bitter, grainy and peppery presence to it, but it’s not overpowering and it certainly doesn’t give me shivers like most Whiskies, including compared to Crown Royal’s own standard De Luxe. I’m finding there’s a tad bit of a buttery/butterscotch presence in here that’s especially noticeable for the aftertaste, and still a definitely boozy heat.. but that’s something to expected for being 45 percent ABV.

I sampled this with some soda earlier before sampling it on its own and I found that it pairs really well with a ginger ale or a cola, it’s not as over the top for aroma or flavour, rather it’s giving off more of a spiciness from the rye, so it works really well with a ginger ale, and still works well with a cola.

I still remember when the hype was happening for this whisky, there would be customers at any Liquor Mart I went to asking for the spirit, only to be told it’s sold out. Aside from a trip to Vermont, I’ve never seen a beer in demand by the general public as I’ve seen this one whisky. Actually - the only place I saw the whisky during the hype was at one small liquor store in Montpelier, Vermont, I was intrigued on buying it but I already had too much beer to lug home. It’s absolutely amazing to see something made right here in Manitoba that’s made with ingredients sourced with our own grain being showcased all over the world. This is how we should be treating our food in the first place, we should be sampling more products made right here in Manitoba - I suggest a pairing of Manitoba cuisine featuring La Cocina chips, Bothwell cheese, local meats, vegetables and bread, Smak Dab mustard, local beer and and many of the other products made right here in Manitoba.

Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest is widely distributed throughout Manitoba at most Liquor Marts as well as at rural Liquor licensees. 375mL bottle of Northern Harvest is $19.29, while 750mL bottle of Northern Harvest is $35.49. 5/5 Pints

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