The world’s whisky industry has become increasingly sophisticated in its selection of wood for maturing whisky. The use of barrels that previously held other liquids, different methods for heating and curing the cask wood and the use of white oak from different parts of the world have all expanded the range or intensity of the flavors found in modern whisky.
The Crown Royal Noble Collection is a multi-award-winning series of whiskies that have been released on an annual basis since 2016. Designed to push the boundaries of flavor innovation, the Collection showcases Crown Royal whiskies with different flavor offerings, by bottling different components of the various whiskies that go into the Crown Royal blend or using different finishing techniques in maturing the company’s flagship whisky.
According to the distillery, “each release has provided an opportunity to highlight the artistry and skill of the Crown Royal Master Distillers and Blenders, who are dedicated to their craft of creating extraordinary whiskies inspired by the brand’s long and rich history.”
According to Nicola Heckles, Director, Crown Royal at DIAGEO North America:
“We’re continuously in awe of our Master Distillers and Blenders’ ability to surprise and delight with interesting takes on whisky, while still maintaining the premium standards of excellence that distinguishes Crown Royal.”
In Canada, whiskies are typically assembled from a combination of base whiskies and flavoring whiskies. Typically, base whiskies are wheat or corn-based spirits that have been distilled using a column still. They are inexpensive to produce, but do not have a lot of flavor. They are then blended with spirts whose mash bills had a large component of rye or malted barley, or in some cases both. These could be distilled using either a column or a pot still.
The individual components of the spirit could also be aged in different combinations of barrel wood in order to create more flavors and nuance in the resulting blend. Prior to bottling, the different whisky components would be assembled into the particular house style. Wiser’s, for example, will always have its trademark spiciness, while Gibson’s will be rich and creamy. Canadian Club has a characteristic fruitiness, while Crown Royal has a distinctive bourbon like vanilla signature.
Crown Royal Deluxe, the distillery’s flagship whisky, is a blend of 50 different whiskies from five different mash bills. The first and third editions of the Noble Collection, Cornerstone Blend and Blender’s Mash, featured special blends of some of the components that are used to create Crown Royal. The second edition featured Crown Royal whisky that had been finished in wine barrels that previously held Cabernet Sauvignon from California.
French Oak Cask Finished is the fourth release in Crown Royal’s limited-edition Noble Collection. This expression took Crown Royal De Luxe Whisky and finished it in toasted, new French oak casks crafted from wood from France’s Vosges Forrest. Oaks in the Vosges region are slow growing and produce wood characterized by a tight grain. The oak is open air-seasoned for a period of two years and then charred using a two-step firing process.
According to Mark Balkenende, Master Blender for Crown Royal:
“We are always looking for ways to experiment with the brand’s flavor profile and with Crown Royal Noble Collection French Oak Cask Finished, it is evident how intentional changes in barrel selection and ageing can enhance the flavor while elevating the signature smoothness of Crown Royal Fine De Luxe.”
Crown Royal Noble Collection French Oak Cask Finished, NAS, 40% ABV, 750 ml, average retail price $60
Crown Royal’s French Oak Cask Finished whisky carries no age statement but is believed to be an average of five years old.
The color is a dark amber. On the nose, the whisky features intense caramel notes, along with aromas of vanilla, some spice, especially cinnamon, and the floral and fruity flavors that Crown Royal is known for.
On the palate, the whisky is very smooth, even more so than Crown Royal’s characteristic smoothness, featuring notes of caramel, cinnamon, dried fruit, with hints of apricot and peach, along with a slight bitter note. The finish is medium length, sweet and slightly peppery.
This is an excellent whisky. Equally useful as a sipping whisky or in cocktails. It underscores the importance of cask wood in shaping the aroma, flavor and texture of a whisky, and how whisky distillers have only scratched the surface of new and innovative maturation techniques.
Appearance 8/10, Nose 27/30, Palate 28/30, Finish 25/30, Overall Score 88/100