Monday, January 26, 2015

Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel

This is the newest expression from Crown Royal, a single barrel whisky bottled at 103 proof.  Most Canadian Whiskies are blends, and while there have been some single barrel bottlings by independents, this is one of the first by one of the major Canadian distilleries.  Canadian Whisky guru Davin DeKergommeaux covers all the details over at Whisky Advocate, though American readers should be aware that he uses the term "rye" in the Canadian sense, to mean any Canadian Whiskey.  This Crown Royal is actually majority corn with rye as the secondary grain. 

Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel, 51.5% abv ($55)

The nose has a sort of soapy bourbon note. The palate has some nice rye spice along with those soapy bourbon notes; the different notes alternate through the tasting.  The finish is spicy on the palate but soapy on the nose.  With some air, the soapy notes fade a bit into just a vague sweetness.

While I'm glad to see a single barrel, high proof Canadian Whisky, this one doesn't excite me much.  There's just not that much to it.  Of course, I'm not a huge fan of Crown Royal, so I suppose it makes sense that I wouldn't be impressed with one of its component whiskies.  That being said, these are single barrels, so the barrels will vary.  This one came from a store owned by the Goody Goody chain in Texas.

Crown Royal Hand Selected is mostly available in Texas now but should see wider release soon.


Anonymous said...

Good review.
A soapy note is a good thing like a glue note is a good thing in JD, not. This single barrel sound like a bit of a misbegotten effort. I've generally steered clear of Canadian Whisky because of their additives. I think I'll continue to do so.
Keep up the good work!
PS. Gross notes in bourbons/whisk(e)ys are just gross. When I see reviewers say something like, "Well, it has glue notes and rotten garbage notes in the nose, but I use those terms not in a negative sense, my b/s meter goes a ringing!

sku said...

Ha ha. Soapy is definitely not good. Rotten garbage not good. Bitterness or medicinal notes can go either way.

Anonymous said...

I've seen too many reviewers say something like "There is some bitterness and medicinal notes in the nose, but that's not necessarily a bad thing." Well, yes it is!
I'd think that the master distiller would do everything that he/she could to eliminate any kind of off note. I consider bitterness and medicinal notes to be "off notes." And once bottled, I'd think that the MD would say to him/herself, "oops."
If not, the assumption is that the MD purposefully strove to include those notes. Why?

sku said...

It's a matter of taste. Bitterness is an essential element of some brandies; medicinal notes play a big role in Islay Scotch. There is a way to use these notes to contrast with other flavors, particularly sweetness, to create a more complex and balanced whiskey. That doesn't mean everyone will like it, and it's totally valid not to, but I don't think those notes are always bad, though it is risky because it can go overboard.

Soap, however, I never really find to be a good thing.

MattO said...

I know a lot of people can't stand Campari, but I can't think of anything else that makes the case for the utility of bitterness in a spirit as explicitly. It's not just that the contrast between the sweetness on the front palate and the bitterness on the back is enormous, it's that the back palate bitterness acts like a brake on the sweetness and keeps it from becoming cloying (if you don't find it cloying, that is). If you think it tastes like bug spray, though, I won't argue with you.

Alex said...

Tonic water is bitter, so a gin and tonic is a common example. Tannins can be bitter, so consider all whiskey and aged rums and tequilas. In food, consider broccoli, cabbage, greens, and other foods. Bitter notes can be palate cleansing and make a person want to take another sip/bite to start the wave of flavors all over again. Chefs and food scientists often aim for something bitter to keep you enjoying and eating a food.

When I say that Laphroaig smells like asphalt, tar, and diesel fuel, but in a good way, I do mean in a good way. Unexpected and complex flavors can be very interesting and pleasing, but there is a reason these aren't considered "beginner" malts and there's also a reason President Bush doesn't like Brussels sprouts.

Alex said...

As another example, consider cilantro--many people think it tastes soapy, and many other people love it. It can add an extra dimension to salsa and guacamole with its bitterness (as can various chiles, some of which are more bitter than others).

Curt said...

Lets face it, we all have different tastes, and a different taste experience. So when someone describes a flavor or profile to the best of their ability and experience, I usually withhold judgement until I can form my own opinion. Unless I hear someone using a term like soapy or metallic. Its the inorganic flavor descriptors that keep me from even trying the product.

Anonymous said...

The "bitterness and soapiness is a good thing" argument is really difficult for me to accept. I appreciate that everyone has their own pallet and that's fine, but any hint in the flavor of the machinery involved in the manufacture of the spirit, to me, is a negative. I also can't stand the medicinal notes that are found in the islays. Those completely turned me off to that type of scotch.

Gary A. Turner said...

Nice review - thanks sku! I picked up a bottle from another retailer, and it is definitely unique. I want to revisit it not to see if "soapy" catches something I couldn't put my finger on.

I also agree with your comments - bitter and medicinal isn't necessarily a bad thing (I LOVE Laphroaig, which has enough "medicinal notes" to be a hospital symphony). The reader has to understand if THEY like or dislike those qualities or not.

And those closet soap-lovers out there (you know who you are!), doing your best to describe the smell/taste without immediately writing it off as "bad" is the most anyone can ask for. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Is a soapy note a consequence of the distillate and/or its interaction with the wood? If not, where does it come from?

And, if it's not, how can it be anything other than a fail? And, even if it is from the distillate interacting with the wood, why would that be considered anything other than gross?

There is no drink I prefer drinking be it wine or bourbon or scotch or water that has a soapy note. A soapy note to me is a fail.

I am just a bit confused as to how some whisk(e)y folks find it anything other than bad. Some find soapy notes in their drinks good? I don't get it.


Anonymous said...

Is "soapy" too much tails in the distillate and "medicinal" too many heads ?

If yes, is it just a Distillers'fault or is it more companies which are trying to increase productivity by making large cuts ?

sku said...

I believe this was made on a column still so heads and tails would not be a factor.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm a person with different tastes or maybe the barrel that was selected for New Hampshire is just plain fantastic, but after buying one to try, I'll be getting more for back-up. I compared it side by side with Wiser's Red Letter and there are close similarities. The Crown is a bit sharper and with a drying tartness in the finish but that just makes you want to have more. I'll be doing some blending experiments with other 40% ABV Canadian whiskies to get the total down to 45% ABV to see if I can find the right combination to match the Red Letter which is at 45%. The defining character that I love about these whiskies is the smell and by association, flavor, that reminds me of pencil shavings. Fresh cut dried wood and the mineral aspect of the graphite. There's a hint of this Hand Selected Barrel in Crown Royal's XR but I feel that they stopped too short and left the XR a bit too wimpy. At 130 dollars, it should have been much more beefy. It's also a shame that the XR is bottled at 40%. -Bob Caron

Anonymous said...

I made a Canadien Whisky Blend so scandalously close to Wiser's Red Letter, I have to call it Bob's Scarlet Letter. It involves another Canadien blend I made with 3 parts Pike creek/3 parts Canadian Club Classic 12 yo/4 parts Crown Royal Reserve. Take 1 part of that blend and 8 parts of the new Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel for New Hampshire and 1 part distilled water. It even comes in at 45% ABV like the Red Letter. I've never made a vatting for regular use where I added water but this is perfect. -Bob Caron

Capn Jimbo's Rum Project said...

Speaking of Canadian Club Classic 12 Year, at the Project we have decided to add Canadian whiskies to the Master Sugar List, in which nearly 550 rums have undergone hydrometer analysis for sugar content. These tests have been performed by ALKO (Finland), the Swedes, Drejer and a number of other independent webmaster/testers.

The results for rum were not shocking (about half of them are indeed altered by unlabelled added sugar). Since a number of readers were concerned about Canada's 9.09% rule, tests have now started on Candian whiskies.

They are:

1. Canadian Club Classic 12 Year: 7 grams of sugar/liter.

2. Forty Creek Barrel Select: 1 gram.

FWIW, it has been estimated that wood extractives, in time, may account for 1 - 2 grams. However, CCC12's 7 grams far exceeds this. Taste tests reveal that even a couple grams are detectible tastewise, and anything over 5 grams definitely alters the taste profile.

That CCC12 tested at 7 grams of sugar does not bode well for this release.