Canadian whisky hasn’t exactly been high on my radar. Most commercial brands tend to be of the blended variety, where neutral grain spirit is mixed with more traditional whisky, watered down, and sold in various bottle sizes to the masses. Scotch crowds could talk your head off about the woes of this production method, but at the end of the day, it sells. One doesn’t even need to be a whisk(e)y nut to guess that Crown Royal lead this charge when it comes to Canadian distillate. Other than their baseline expression and some of the flavored offerings (in my early drinking years), I haven’t given the brand much thought. I’d occasionally glance their more premium selections, but never experienced anything other than fleeting curiosity.
Despite these reservations, Canada is frequently praised by enthusiasts for their rye-based distillate, thanks in large part to Alberta Premium. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, but Whistlepig does, then there you go: Whistlepig currently sources Alberta Premium for their rye whiskey portfolio. Given my thoughts on Whistlepig thus far (removing price from the equation), it’s safe to say I have higher hopes for today’s whisky of interest: Crown Royal Noble Collection Rye 16-Year (let’s stick with Noble Rye). This is still labeled as a blended Canadian whisky, but is allegedly comprised of 90% rye whisky, so we might be in for something just a bit more enjoyable than normal. Let’s not waste any more time.
Nose: Leads with traditional rye notes. Lightly candy-like rye spice, grass, cilantro, and lime with a dash of salt. Brown sugar, light caramel candy, lemon, and scatterings of mint and blackberries. Some vanilla, oak, and a touch of menthol.
Palate: Fruit-forward with herbal accents. Cherries and blackberries with traces of mint, cilantro, lime, and mild pepper. Vanilla cream and lime zest. Light caramel holds all the flavors together in a pleasingly delicate manner.
Finish: Mild-moderate. Caramel, mint, lime, and peppers. Lacking in length, but the flavor profile is nice while it lasts.
Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle—this stuff is quite good. I already had a good feeling about Noble Rye from the nose, which delivered a welcome array of rye notes balanced out by a softer, borderline creamy backbone. The palate mostly followed suit, bringing more fruitiness to the table while some caramel weaves through the entire experience. Age is clearly doing this whisky some favors which, along with the rye-dominant recipe, keeps it from feeling too proofed down for its own good. I believe this would make a fantastic introduction to rye for drinkers who are curious but hesitant about the spicy, herbal nature of this category. “Balance” is the word that keeps coming to mind with Noble Rye.
In my neck of the woods, Noble Rye costs around $85, but I’ve heard some have found it as low as $60. Considering the age, limited edition status, and fantastic presentation, $75 feels like a reasonable average price. And the whisky is rock-solid too. Simply put, Crown Royal Noble Rye is a nice, borderline excellent pour that should appeal to a wide range of whisk(e)y drinkers.