Crowning the King
I have a friend who works in the industry and is just nuts about Crown Royal. He's on the distribution side and has access to all the samples he wants—Ardbeg, Lagavulin, even Port Ellen—but all he ever truly wants is Crown Royal. He's always on my ass to bring it into K&L. We were at the Motley Crue farewell concert this past summer together and he offered to buy me a drink. He came back with two plastic cups filled with Crown Royal. "Jesus, really?" I asked, expecting a nice cold beer instead. But I did my due diligence and drank my cup of Crown. "This actually isn't all that bad," I yelled over to him, trying to cut through the scorching guitar riff of "Dr. Feelgood."
"Why would you think it was bad?" he screamed back. "It's Crown Royal, dude!"
Why did I think it was going to be bad? Because I was one of these guys that Davin de Kergommeaux was talking about in the interview the other day—I thought Crown was just sweetened grain neutral with a bit of young rye dashed in. By the time I had finished my glass, however, I was curious to know a bit more about Canada's most famous blended whisky. Unfortunately for me and my education, that curiosity would get sidetracked a few months. When I heard that Crown Royal's new Monarch was set to hit California, however, I knew I needed to get back on track with my Canadian whisky studies. I had read Davin's Whisky Advocate review from August (the one where he gave it 96 points and the magazine ranked it just ahead of the Four Rose's 2014 Single Barrel for that issue), but I wasn't sure when the whisky would arrive in the U.S.; and even when it did, I wasn't sure I'd have the proper context to understand what made it great. Would my basic whisky understanding be enough to help comprehend the flavors? Would I be able to see where the Monarch stood in comparison to other Canadian whiskies?
In addition to my own studies, I wanted to see what other people were thinking, so I asked around to both my customers and friends at K&L. I was surprised by how many people had tracked down a bottle of the Monarch after reading that same review. Everyone seemed to really like it. I also looked at another reviewer whose opinion I've come to respect over the last year: Geoff Kleinman, a Whisky Advocate contributor who started his own site called Drink Spirits. I discovered Geoff's reviews when they started showing up in my inbox each week (I'm assuming Geoff volunteered my email for his RSS feed, as many other booze-related companies do). At first I just deleted them as I do other unwanted spam; banishing them to the trash box. After a while, however, I noticed that he was reviewing products I was interested in, so I began taking a look at his writing just out of curiosity. A few summaries later, I realized that Geoff's taste was very much in line with my own, and I appreciated the fact that he wasn't giving out scores or grades; rather using a few underlined sentences at the end of each review to drive home his overall impression of the product. He also had tasted the Monarch this past summer and greatly enjoyed it (his review is here).
After hearing Davin gush about the Monarch in our recent conversation, I realized I was going to have to track down a bottle myself and give it a go. Yesterday, I finally got my hands on one. And what was my impression? Delicious—in the same way that the regular Crown Royal is just an easy-drinking, tasty whisky. Yet, there was more underneath. I could taste the rye spice, smell the grains, and really isolate each component as the mellow wave of vanilla and toffee notes rolled over my tongue. If you're unaware of the story surrounding the Monarch, it's a celebration of the whisky Sam Bronfman first made when King George and Queen Elizabeth visited Canada seventy-five years ago. It's a limited release that—at least at this point—isn't going to be a permanent fixture in the Crown portfolio. It's this year's Tanqueray Malacca for Diageo, and like the Malacca it's both gimmicky and awesome. It's not going to convert anyone over to Canadian whisky, so if you're an interested Bourbon or Scotch drinker don't think this is the bottle that will change your mind (because it definitely is not that bottle), but it will put a smile on your face if you like good hooch.
But David, you might ask, what good is your opinion if—like you've said—you don't know anything about Canadian whisky? Great question! You're absolutely right. My opinion isn't all that valuable here, other than the fact that I think the whisky tastes delicious. That's why I wanted to set the primer with Davin—the world's leading authority—before going any further. Believe it or not, I don't get paid to write this blog. I get paid to make deals happen. So how will I contribute to this conversation? By doing my part: I'll make sure you can try the Crown Royal Monarch for the best price possible:
Fifty bucks. That's $25 below the normal asking price, and a good deal cheaper than any of my competitors. I can't promise you you'll have the positive experience I had with the Monarch, or that Crown Royal's new release will inspire you to drink more Canadian whisky in the future, but I can make sure that your experimentation comes at as low of a price as possible. I'll eat the profit so that we can all try this thing together.
Now that's something to get excited aboot, eh?