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Monday, April 1, 2019

The Crown Royale -- 4 Crowns, 1 Noggin

Our lives have been incomplete, until now:

You ask, "No Northern Harvest Rye?" No, no artsy-fartsy crap. Jim Murray's Weird Payoff will get its own post someday. Maybe.

It's Crown Royal vs. Crown Royal Black vs. Crown Royal Regal Apple vs. Crown Royal Vanilla. I received Black, Apple and Vanilla as Secret Santa gifts last year, then I bought the 200mL of Fin De Luxe myself. May that put your mind at ease about the sourcing of these Canadians.

Before I continue, two clarifications:
  1. As one of the most popular whisky brands in the world, Crown has been enjoyed by millions of people for multiple generations. Hell, it sells more cases than Jameson. So this is not an April fool's joke. It's a legit Taste Off.
  2. I will grade Regal Apple and Vanilla as whiskies. If the major whisky industries insist on flooding their markets with artificially-flavored products with the word "whisky" attached, then these drinks should be judged as whiskies.
These four Crowns were first tried neatly via nosing glasses, then they were all served on the rocks and compared again. Here are the results.


Crown Royal (Fin De Luxe), 40%abv
Nose - Sugary and floral with a mild acetone note. Sawdust, vanilla and apples, with hints of malt and rye.
Palate - Grainy Irish whiskey + Johnnie Walker Red + pears. It gets very sweet after a while, all sugar and apples and flowers.
Finish - Warm, short and cloying.

Crown Royal Black, 45%abv
Nose - Sturdier and bolder than the classic Crown. Rye and orange peel. Vanilla bean, cinnamon and clove with a hint of glue.
Palate - Again, burlier and bigger. More American oak, but also more rye. Some good bitterness and dark dried fruits.
Finish - Simple. Sweeter than the palate. Has some of the dried fruits.

Crown Royal Regal Apple, 35%abv
Nose - Oh. Need to sniff from at least 3 inches away, because gross. Spoiled spiced cider, Children's Cherry Tylenol and nail polish remover. Or as I like to call it, Sunday night.
Palate - Chemicals. Cologne. Not apples. Watermelon candy. Candy canes. Children's medicine.
Finish - Aspartame and acetone and candy canes.

Crown Royal Vanilla, 35%abv
Nose - Nilla wafers, bottom shelf Irish whiskey, cinnamon, cherry pie and simple syrup.
Palate - Cream soda, confectioner's sugar and honey.
Finish - Same as palate. Brutal sweetness, but not full of chemicals.



Crown Royal (Fin De Luxe)
Vanilla and apples – how curious. There's also a honey note, but it's not too sweet. Just a slight bitterness.

Crown Royal Black
Its strengths have been neutralized. It's just vanilla and banana pudding. It's better when neat.

Crown Royal Regal Apple
I can still smell the chemical spill. The palate is less stomach churning. Perhaps there's some apple candy, but no whisky can be found. Tooth-rottingly aspartame sweet.

Crown Royal Vanilla
It smells like dog's breath. How does that happen? Then the palate goes all wrong. It's not vanilla. Something woody and not food.


Crown Royal (Fin De Luxe) - I was surprised to find this a full step better than modern day Canadian Club and Black Velvet and Seagram's. It works quite well on the rocks as notes of vanilla and apples come naturally(?) from the whisky. I'm going to keep what's left of my bottle for summer highballs, but I doubt I'll ever buy this again.
Rating - 71

Crown Royal Black - With its shocking 45%abv and use of new American oak, this comes across as actual whisky. It tops all standard Canadian blends I've had. And most standard Irish blends too. But in the $30 price range there are still many bourbons, a few ryes and and an occasional scotch with which it can't compete. Again, I'll keep the rest of my bottle, but I won't be pouring it onto ice.
Rating - 78

Crown Royal Regal Apple - This made me physically ill. Just looking at the bottle photo makes me nauseous. Sub-calvados, sub-applejack, sub-schnapps, sub-apple pucker, sub-Malort Regal Apple is bound to ruin many a cocktail. And everything else. Recommended!
Rating - 36

Crown Royal Vanilla - You know, it wasn't horrible before I put it on ice. I could see how it would work in dessert cocktails. And it was digestible. But if anyone is going to sip this, I'd assume they'd be doing so with it on the rocks, and that's when it goes wrong. Very wrong. But unlike Regal Ipecac, Vanilla can be used for things.
Rating - 59


  1. Thanks for doing this. Regular Crown is something that I used to think somewhat highly of when I first got into whisky while in university, mostly because back then it came in a purple velvety bag and was more expensive as a result. As time went on I realized it was better than bottom shelf Canadian whisky but compared to the broader range of what was available, not something I would buy, so I didn't.

    When I started working in the booze industry I learned that Diageo really did think it was special (maybe only to their bottom line, but whatever) and then they confused me by introducing other upgrade versions like Black, Northern Harvest, Bourbon Mash (avoid), Limited Edition and Special Reserve. Ironically enough, having those carry the Crown Royal name did nothing to make me want to try them, but perhaps that is different for the consumer who thinks the brand is something special, I do not know. Introduction of the Apple and Vanilla flavors struck me as counter to the brand image they cultivated and merely an attempt by Diageo to grab some easy money during the flavored whisky fad. I try to avoid buying anything made by Diageo so these will not be found on my shelf any time soon. As you note, there are many other better choices available at these price points.

    1. Hi Greg. Thanks for your comment! Yeah, I don't really understand the Crown brand anymore. Seems like it's just a name they stick on the label because it was going to be harder for Diageo to invent a new brand from scratch. I will definitely avoid the Bourbon Mash (thank you for the warning) and, well, most things Crown in the future.