The Top Line: Depending on your tastes, Crown Royal’s new maple-flavored whisky is either a rich, mouth-watering maple-caramel treat or a harshly-flavored abomination. After a few tastes tests, I find myself leaning in both directions depending on my mood.
Canadian whisky is frequently the least-loved member of the world’s whiskey styles by connoisseurs. One reason is they are usually blended whiskies (that is, a blend of whiskies made from malted barley and whiskey made from other grains), light in body and flavor.
While there has been a blossoming of artisanal Canadian whiskies in the past few years, the old-line brands like Canadian Club, Canadian Mist and Crown Royal still define the style in America.
Crown Royal’s packaging is iconic: the crown-shaped bottle nestled in a embroidered cloth bag and boxed all reinforce the image as a premium Canadian whisky.
Despite those somewhat corn-ball trappings, regular Crown Royal is really not a bad whisky and it’s more flavorful than big names like Jack Daniel’s. I admire the consistency the brand can maintain by blending different whiskies from different mash bills and distlled in different years to achieve a uniform flavor.
Crown Royal Maple Finished whisky is the brand’s first entry into the exploding market of flavored whiskies. Some flavors (cherry or red hots candy) have been a less natural fit than others (honey).
Maple is a natural compliment for the caramel and vanilla notes that are characteristic of most whiskeys.
Crown Royal is a little mysterious about how it achieves this flavor. It’s described as “adding a hint of natural maple flavoring” to the finished whisky and also as running the finished whisky over “maple toasted oak”.
That last phrase is a little confusing, since maple and oak are both types of wood, but apparently it means the oak chips have been toasted to bring out maple-like notes.
Crown Royal’s phrasing seems to rule out use of artificial maple flavors, but the maple flavor in this whisky is a bit overwhelming, more-so in the nose than on the tongue. The scent is strong, although it’s clean.
It’s also more noticeably sweeter than whiskey should be, although is avoids the sticky and syrupy feel and taste of other flavors like Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey.
After several tastings, my feelings about the maple flavor are split. At times, it seems like a perfect compliment to the vanilla and caramel flavors that make straight whiskey a pleasure. At other times, I note a strange after-taste that seems harsh and chemically.
Ultimately, the maple flavor is strong enough and odd enough that it won’t replace my fondness for the sublime flavors of a straight whiskey.
All this highlights the reality that the impression a whiskey (or other complex beverages like beer or coffee) leaves are ruled as much be mental state, flavors left over from earlier meals, scents in the room, etc.
Overall, I have no doubt that Crown Royal Maple Finished will be a hit. (I can’t figure out what it would mix with…maple and cola sounds disgusting, maple and Red Bull even moreso.)
Note: I’ve alternated between “whisky/whiskies” and “whiskey/whiskeys” above. In general, the term “whiskey” is used for the entire class, but “whisky” is used when speaking specifically of Canadian styles.
Crown Royal Maple Finished Canadian Whisky
Distilled by Diageo at Gimli, Manitoba, Canada
80 Proof / 40% ABV