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The Ultimate Guide To Crown Royal Whisky

Crown Royal is the best-selling Canadian whisky brand in the world, known for its exquisitely smooth blend and iconic purple velvet bag. The brand’s Signature range includes blended, rye, and high-proof whisky expressions, alongside the well-aged ‘Master’ series, flavored whiskies, and even canned cocktails. 

The brand’s growing popularity is evidenced by record sales of 7.9 million cases worldwide in 2019, earning Crown Royal the award of the World Whisky Brand Champion 2020.

Exploring the origins, production, and different expressions – this ultimate guide provides everything you need to know about Crown Royal whisky.  

What is Crown Royal?

Crown Royal is a blended Canadian whisky brand, originally created by Seagram in 1939. The brand was first introduced by Samuel Bronfman, a Canadian spirits entrepreneur and president of the Seagram Company Ltd, in celebration of the Royal Tour of Canada in 1939. 

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth made history by becoming the first reigning monarchs to visit Canada for a royal tour, traveling across the country by train. Bronfman allegedly experimented with over 600 blends before presenting the royal couple with the first bottle of the future Crown Royal. The whisky was in a cut glass decanter, wrapped in a regal purple velvet bag decorated with gold stitching. 

This quickly provoked rumors about a new unrivaled whisky which was ‘Fit for a King’.

George VI and Queen Elizabeth on their Royal tour of Canada in 1939.

The brand was only available in Canada until 1964, when the brand was introduced to international markets including the United States, quickly becoming America’s best-selling Canadian whisky. 

The brand was purchased by Diageo in 2001, when the Seagram portfolio was dissolved. Its range of expressions (all packed in different colored velvet bags) continues to grow including the high-proof Black in 2010, and Northern Harvest Rye in 2015. 

The Crown Royal Master Series features whiskies aged between 18-30 years old, experimenting with cask finishes such as Cognac. 

The pioneering Flavor Series has introduced an expanding range of flavored whiskies since 2016, including apple, vanilla, peach, and the new limited-edition blackberry flavor in 2024.    

Is Crown Royal Whisky or Bourbon?

Crown Royal is a multi-grain blended whisky created using 50 Canadian whiskies. While the majority of Canadian blended whiskies contain a large percentage of corn spirit, this differs from legal requirements for American bourbon, specifying the spirit must be produced using a grain mash mixture that is at least 51% corn. 

Typically, Canadian distillers mash grains individually and then combine them as different whiskies. As Canada’s regulations stipulate whisky must “be mashed, distilled and aged in Canada […] aged in small wooden vessels for not less than 3 years” – there is no legal rule regarding grain quantities.

Canadian whiskies, such as Crown Royal, are most often blends comprised of whiskies produced using a single grain, primarily corn, rye, or barley. Mash bills of multiple grains can be used to create flavoring whiskies, while single grain whiskies provide the base for blends. 

The flavoring whiskies used for blends are primarily rye whiskies – however, this does not mean Crown Royal can automatically be categorized as rye whisky. While American rye whiskey must legally contain 51% rye, Canadian blended whisky may contain zero, some, or over 50% rye. As for Crown Royal, the exact percentage of rye (or any grain type) in the blend is a mystery.

An exception is the Northern Harvest Rye expression which is made with 90% rye and became the first Canadian whisky to be awarded World Whisky of the Year, in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2016.   

Where is the brand produced?

Crown Royal whisky is produced on the shores of Lake Winnipeg.

The Gimli distillery, situated on the shores of Canada’s Lake Winnipeg, in Gimli, Manitoba, is the production home for the whisky. 

The Gimli distillery site stretches across 360 acres, with 51 warehouses storing approximately 1.5 million barrels of whisky. The whisky’s production uses rye, corn, and barley grains (with approximately 80% sourced from the local Manitoba region), combined with water which is naturally filtered through the limestone beneath Lake Winnipeg.

The Gimli distillery is equipped with twelve uniquely sized column stills, using five different mash recipes to produce the 50 individual whiskies that comprise Crown Royal. 

Each whisky is aged for a minimum of three years, in either new or re-use charred oak barrels. The casks are blended to create the whisky, and are also bottled, in Amherstburg, Ontario.

How much is Crown Royal?

The average price for a 750ml bottle of Crown Royal Fine Deluxe is currently $31 on Wine-Searcher. If you’re based in California, the best place to find the Fine Deluxe expression is Hi-Time Wine Cellars, Costa Mesa for $17.99, closely followed by the Bottle Barn, Santa Rosa for $18.99. In Illinois, the best place to purchase Fine Deluxe is Chicago’s oldest wine and spirit merchant, The House of Glunz for $19.99.

Crown Royal’s Signature Series core range also includes the Northern Harvest Rye and higher-proof Black expressions. The award-winning Northern Harvest Rye’s average price for a 750ml bottle is currently $33 on Wine-Searcher. Crown Royal Black’s average price is currently listed as $32, for a 750ml bottle through Wine-Searcher.

Is the whisky gluten-free?

If you’re gluten-free, please note that Crown Royal does not claim the brand is gluten-free, or that its products have been independently verified as gluten-free. While distillation is technically supposed to remove gluten proteins from the rye, corn, and barley grains used to distill the brand, Crown Royal advises consulting a doctor if you have any concerns related to consuming the brand’s products.

How is Crown Royal best enjoyed?

The most recent addition to the Flavor Series. Credit: Crown Royal

Crown Royal is a versatile whisky, with a distinctive smoothness and balanced flavour profile. It can be enjoyed neat, over ice, or as the perfect base for any cocktail. The brand’s website includes a library of cocktail recipes that can be created with each whisky expression. 

In March 2021, the brand launched a range of ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails, with flavors including Whisky & Lemonade, Whisky & Cola, Peach Tea, and Washington Apple. 

Mark Bostock

Since joining Mark Littler LTD as a freelance article contributor in 2019, Mark Bostock has become an integral part of our UK content writing team. His enthusiasm for whisky, particularly independent bottlings, drives him to deepen his knowledge through frequent attendance at tasting events and the thoughtful expansion of his own whisky collection. This dedication not only fuels his passion but also enriches his contributions to our platform, blending expertise with a genuine love for the subject.

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