Tasting: Crown Royal Northern Harvest

My first tasting post, on account of the Jim Murray-fueled scarcity of this whiskey.

Northern Harvest Tasting

Crown Royal Northern Harvest 45% ABV

Canadian Whiskey; Gimli, Manitoba, Canada

Colour: Rich Orange.

Body: Syrupy. Clings to the glass with an iron grip.

Nose: Restrained. Sherry, woody and cinnamon like from French oak, slightly sour but soft cereal notes. Candied orange peel. Opens up significantly with just a couple of drops of water.

Palate: Very oily. A sweet wash of stone fruits, mostly apricot. Dusty. Remarkably smooth with little heat. Hard to believe it is 45% ABV.

Finish: Warm spices, nutmeg, ginger, and a little cherry as if from a bourbon. Very long. The alcohol is felt here but still feels far less than the ABV suggests.

Overall: Did someone get Macallan in my Crown Royal? The harmony of the flavours here elevate this Crown Royal offering to, ahem, regal heights. Even though the mash bill is 90% rye, the rye character of this whiskey is subdued, resulting in something quite unique.

So…’Best Whiskey In The World’? Truly I think it’s foolish to say that for any whiskey. This is an excellent whiskey, with a rich and unique character. It is rye-like, scotch-like, and bourbon-like, nurturing traits of each of these great whiskies. It is though greater than the sum of its parts and should be enjoyed for the unique character it offers.

Happy foraging!

Forager’s Luck?

While I was out grocery shopping today, I decided to do a quick look in my local LCBO, setting expectations about as low as possible. Earlier this morning I did a check of online inventory and no new bottles of Crown Royal Northern Harvest were showing as released today. It kind of made sense, that there probably wouldn’t be any distribution on Sunday, so there shouldn’t be any new inventory for sale on Monday. However…

LCBO Surprise

There it was, filling that particular allotment of shelf that had been empty for so many days (and would no doubt continue to be empty after these four were gone). And on top of the surprise, the price was even discounted by a couple of dollars! I felt the same forager’s rush like when I’m out in the woods and I stumble across a particularly prized wild mushroom or other wild delicacy.

I suppose that in this case the lack of updated inventory on the website and app was clearly a good thing as no one knew where the new stock would be showing up. So no lineups, no speculators, no bulk buying. Go figure. Right place; right time.

As I was checking out my two bottles at the cashier, the manager explained that the store had received four cases today and this was the last of it. No idea when more would be arriving. I was so tempted to go back and pick up a third bottle, but no, I remained principled and left some for the next guy, just like the person before me had left some.

New to the Collection
The new recruit joins the team. He’s a little short but comes highly recommended.

So later today I’ll open a bottle; the other will go into storage. And although I don’t normally post tasting notes, I will make an exception and post soon.

 

Happy foraging!

 

 

 

 

Northern Harvest, The Fallout

I mentioned in my last post that I would update my LCBO Alerts page as new stock of Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, AKA ‘The Best Whiskey In The World’, became available in Ontario. That may be more difficult than I anticipated. There is still significant stock at the LCBO warehouses and it is being released as we speak, just not in any predictable fashion.

From the LCBO website there were about 1200 bottles released today across the province, about 400 in Whitby and, curiously, 200 in Collingwood. Collingwood is a small resort town of about 20,000 people so why so many bottles would be for sale there is a bit of a mystery. Given that Toronto’s population is about 100 times that of Collingwood, I suppose  that we can expect a proportional amount to be on it way here. Sadly, even if I wasn’t exaggerating, I don’t think that 20,000 bottles would satisfy the insane demand that has been created for this whiskey. Let me explain.

crown-royal-northern-harvest-rye
The only bottle of Northern Harvest I have even seen.

This morning I saw that an LCBO outlet about a 20 minute drive from where I live would release 42 bottles. Okay, if I get there early enough I should be able to grab a bottle or two. I arrived twenty minutes after the store opened to find that they were already sold out. In fact, after talking with the manager, I discovered that there was already a line up at the door when they opened, and one person actually tried to buy five cases of this very limited stock. The store manager proudly told me that they refused him, limiting all purchases to two bottles so that the stock could be shared a little more fairly. Indeed kudos to the manager, but when will the madness end?

I will keep my eyes open for more, and with luck I will be able to sidestep the speculators, the resellers, and the just plain greedy. I hope.

Happy foraging!

 

 

 

 

The Oprah Winfrey of Whiskey

Back when Oprah had her regular television show, she would have a regular feature where she would do a show-and-tell of things she liked. For better or worse, what would inevitably follow was a tsunami of purchasing, the peak in demand created solely by one person’s endorsement. One person’s opinion. Well, it’s now official, the world of whisk(e)y has it’s own Oprah.

Yes Jim Murray, I’m looking at you.

My wife brought to my attention last Friday an article on the CBC website about Mr. Murray’s proclamations for the coming year about what he considered to be top notch whiskies. At the top of the list was a stunner. Like last year when he anointed Yamazaki -as if it needed any more attention- creating a furor that anything other than a spirit from Scotland could possible enjoy such status, he follows suit this year with a Canadian whiskey. Crown Royal Northern Harvest.

crown-royal-northern-harvest-rye

I live in Toronto. We have dozens of LCBO outlets in the city. I’ve tried and enjoyed various releases from Crown Royal, so I decided to go buy a bottle or two so I could try this apparently stellar dram. I failed.

Friday there were many thousands of bottles available in Ontario, according to the LCBO app. Sunday morning there were 1500 bottles available. Today, Monday morning, there are 496, with less than 20 showing in Toronto. (Edit: Tuesday morning the provincial inventory is now 97 bottles, but likely much less than that as most stores show only a single bottle which usually means it has been lost, stashed or broken.)

I’ve talked at length in this blog about supply and demand and the effects on whisky pricing. I dread the thought of what Mr. Murray has wrought. This hitherto humble bottle retails for $32 CDN at the LCBO. Now that the supply has withered, will prices jump? I truly hope not. The idea of a great whiskey at an affordable price, that (gasp!) is domestic just makes me happy. I hope I haven’t missed my chance on this one.

PS: Keep an eye on the LCBO Alerts page of my blog, I will make note when we receive more stock into Toronto.

.

Happy foraging!

 

 

 

The Last Yamazaki 12

yamazaki-12-year-old

Very soon, the last bottles will be purchased from a retail store. Yamazaki 12, an exceptional Japanese malt that is no longer being produced by Suntory, will only we available at auction. But I have a secret…I know a place where you can walk into a store and find some sitting idly, quietly, on a shelf waiting for a collector, or better yet someone eager to open a bottle to taste a dram, or someone who is both and will buy two bottles! Someone who will come by and take them to a good home. Yes, this place exists and if you live near there or are luck enough to live close to there can take advantage of one of the last stashes available in the world. I was even passing through Narita airport earlier this year and for some time now you can’t even get them there. So, where you might ask, is this place?

This of course comes down to the argument I have been making for some time now about local supply and demand. Locally, there is not a deep appreciation of Yamazaki and as a result it has languished on shelves now for years. I have slowly taken advantage of this but the stocks are now low and the price rising quickly. That said, would you pay $USD 84.95 for a bottle of Yamazaki 12? I was lucky to have been buying at $74.95 but just this last week the PLCB has bumped the price to $84.95 as global stocks quickly vanish.

Yamazaki12

True. Only $USD 84.95!

Yes, the same Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board I have written about previously. For some reason, Yamazaki does not appear in their whiskey, whisky or scotch lists so it’s kind of hidden on their app. Only by searching specifically for Yamazaki does the inventory make itself known. I’m not going to list every bottle available in the state of Pennsylvania, but the city of Erie shows 15 bottles available, a veritable treasure trove! There’s a few scattered bottles around Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg as well. But, similar to our LCBO, the PLCB does offer an inter-store transfer service, so if you are in PA, or can drive to a PLCB, call and reserve a bottle, or however many you feel you need.

This is it guys. If there are other states, provinces or countries out there that do NOT show ‘Currently Out Of Stock, Next Availability Unknown’ under their image of Yamazaki of any age statement, please share. I’m doing my public good for collectors by sharing this source, but if there’s others out there, by all means grab what you need then share with us. Yoichi is gone, Taketsuru is gone, Hakushu is gone. No more age statements on these malts will be found outside of pubs and bars. But for the collector who craves this wonderful malt from Suntory, this is it.

Happy foraging!