Whisky Advocate

Review: Crown Royal Black Canadian Whisky

April 16th, 2010

Crown Royal Black, 45%, $30
Not exactly black. (More like russet, but “Crown Royal Russet” isn’t as catchy.) It’s nice to see the higher strength, and there’s definitely more flavor here than the standard Crown Royal or Crown Royal Reserve. But it’s missing the smoothness and elegance I cherish in other Crown Royal whiskies. Notes molasses and maple syrup, accentuated by burnt fig, hints of Pedro Ximenez sherry, and raisin. There are suggestions of dark rum and bourbon in here. (An alternative to both?) A whisky to drink on the rocks or as a mixer.

I can’t help wondering: Could this be the Canadian equivalent to Loch Dhu?

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 78

37 Responses to “Review: Crown Royal Black Canadian Whisky”

  1. Chap says:

    Aigh! Loch Dhu–The antibooze! The worst ten bucks I ever spent on alcohol. Run!

    By the way, you Would Not Believe how dang popular Johnny Walker Black (more likely the reason for the Crown naming scheme) is amongst…Saudis.

  2. Red_Arremer says:

    And I was really hoping that this would be the beginning of an age of greater focus and quality for mainstream Canadian whisky– Shucks!

  3. Rick Duff says:

    I’m looking forward to trying it. Not sure it will make it though from the reviews etc…
    I’m a little tired of the Black Label marketing going on. Everyone seems to be on it…
    even Planters Nuts has a Black Label product.
    Wonder what the percentage of Rye vs. Neutral spirit is.. especially against regular Crown Royal.
    I’m hoping it’s much higher.

  4. John Hansell says:

    I encourage everyone to try it. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but some of you might enjoy it. I think it’s a polarizing whisky.

    Here’s how I see it: if this is to compete with bourbon or dark rum as an “on the rocks” beverage or as a mixer, then I would rather just pick a nice bourbon or a nice dark rum, of which there are many to choose from.

  5. Alex says:

    I tried this yesterday – it was almost as if the black component was cola infused with the whisky. Like the higher ABV but not much else. Definitely one for mixing withs lots of ice.

  6. Seth Nadel says:

    I’ve had this whisky and I don’t think it deserves a 78. I know everyone has different tastes, but it’s more than worth picking up a bottle. I don’t think it’s meant to compete with bourbon or rum. I just think it’s a bolder and more flavorful version of Crown Royal.

    • John Hansell says:

      Seth, and you are correct. It is bolder and more flavorful. But that doesn’t make it better, does it? Just different. Like I mentioned above, I think this will be a polarizing whisky. Some will like it, some won’t.

      • Seth Nadel says:

        Bolder and more flavorful does not make it better by any means. It is different. I just think it’s better than a 78. I don’t think it’s so great that it deserver to be in the high 80’s or low 90’s, either. It’s not going to blow anyone away, but if you like CR you should not be discouraged by the 78 score.

  7. brian bradley (brian47126) says:

    Loch Dhu– that was a baiting comment if there ever was one. ^_^

    I got a bottle of black, and was pleasantly surprised by the whisky. It has more going on and a better flavor then the standard release. It is hard to turn that down for the cost. I agree it is hotter, and has a touch more astringent burn then I would like; however, for 2 extra bucks this is a good deal, and worth (at the least) a try in your local bar.

    I would not compare the flavors to bourbon, I find it to be more like notes of a talisker or some type of unpeated Islay. It is an interesting flavor that different from both bourbon and scotch.

  8. NCNelz says:

    Your comments are dead on, I love CR reserve. But this just seems like some bizarre attempt to beef up there whiskey , to garner some bourbon consumers. The result is elllaahhhh !!!!

  9. H.Diaz says:

    Well, the box is black in color. Cask 16 is the way to go, even if two or three times the cost. Cheers.

    • BourbonMan says:

      Who, in their right mind, would spend that much money on a product that wasn’t completly made of whiskey? Do you spend more money on a car that is only 40% car and 60% stuff that resembles car parts?

      “Blended” whiskies and tequilas should be outlawed. There is no reason to flavordown a product with vodka(neutral spirits)…just to flavor it back up with flavorings. What a waist of effort, money and time.

  10. Louis says:

    At least it only costs $30, and not 300 GBP.

    • Matt B. says:

      If I saw it at $30, I might consider trying it. However the first and only store I saw it at, had it priced at $42! (Actually, everything in that store was overpriced.) I think I’ll stick with Cask 16 which is still heavily discounted at a nearby store (somebody ordered way too many 375ml bottles so they are marked down to $20).

      • LUTHER B COPPAGE says:

        Cask 16 at that price!!! What store?? Do you have a phone number for them. I really want some.

  11. Whilst Loch Dhu wasn’t everyone’s “cup of tea” as we say over here, it was a favourite amongst many Scandinavian visitors. So much so, the Danish company Mac Y have produced a similar black whisky from The Speyside distillery. The single malt is called Cu Dhub (pronounced “Hoo Doo”), gaelic for Black Dog and is still a favourite amongst my Scandanavian visitors. It is also a novelty for many of my local customers.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      Similar in style or just similar in appearance, Graham?

    • Steffen Bräuner says:

      I’m danish and bought a bottle (20cl I think), tasted it, poured the rest in the kitchen sink…

      When I saw a bottle many years later for 100 or 200 pounds in Cadenheads in Edinburgh I looked like a questionmark at the guy behind the counter and asked why the **** anyone would pay so much for a sh**e whisky and he replied “People are suckers” 🙂

      Not all danes liked the Loch Dhu. If you like Loch Dhu then sure go and purchase Cu Dhub, it’s crap as well


  12. bgulien says:

    John, you’re back from the coldfront.
    I have seen blacker whiskies without being black, like a heavy sherried one.
    Good that you are back reviewing.

  13. John Hansell says:

    Keep in mind that a whisky rating in the 70s from me means “Average”. This whisky is on the high end of “Average” for me, but not (IMHO) high enough so to place in the 80s. This is not something I’m going to be sipping neat like a good bourbon or nicely aged rum.

    What I would like to have seen here is a whisky with the quality of a Crown Royal Reserve or Cask No. 16, with a less-intense influence of whatever they did to give Crown Royal Black its “Blackness”.

  14. Sean says:

    John, your review is relatively positive besides the comment about it not being as smooth as the standard CR or CR SR. My question is how rough is this? You gave the standard CR 88 points and the CR SR 95, but you say this is more flavored and less smooth/elegant. Is there another whisky that you can compare it to as far as it’s smoothness? Any other off notes? Maybe you need to do a three way tasting between CR, CR SR, and the CR Black and see how it holds up.

  15. Brian McHenry says:

    Yeesh, I am more than half-way through my bottle of CRB already and all I can say is thank heavens for Ginger Ale…. I do like the Crown Royal Limited Edition (Canada only) and of course the XR, but I am not a fan of the Cask No.16 nor the garden variety CR, so take that into consideration when evaluating my opinion. I’d have to agree with John’s last characterization, that the CRB lacks elegance and smoothness, Further, the “extra flavor” is not appealing to me, I’m not shy of a robust CW, but even the boost in abv, doesn’t win me over. This is definitely a one-off purchase for me. Now, if Canadian Club came out with a Classic 12 at 45%, I’d probably be all over that.

  16. Diageo add caramel? Never… It does beg an interesting question as to “what”? was added to give the whisky its “blackness”. The laws governing Canadian whisky are less stringent than those for Scotch and many other forms.

    I don’t intrinsically have a problem with Diageo making a heavily caramelized whisky for certain segments of the market–like a Loch Dhu–as some might suspect. But would like to see more natural, cask strength, non chillfiltered and non caramel coloured bottlings from Diageo period!



  17. Kevin says:

    I just got handed two bottles of this. Looking forward to try it. Though it’s ok with me if it’s not great neat because it will make some damn fine Washington Apple cocktails.

  18. Rick Duff says:

    I picked up a bottle last night. My first tastes neat at room temperature go with John’s assessment. Really tasted almost like a bourbon (which it even states on the box’s tasting notes). HOWEVER..
    I was icing my knee.. and put my glass on top of the ice pad… as it cooled down the whisky changed considerably.. and the smoothness of Crown Royal started showing. In fact.. I like it a TON better than regular CR with it slightly chilled. Those that like some ice in their whisky will certainly like this one.
    In my case.. just chilling the glass down worked.. and worked very well.
    Remember.. Canada is cold… 😉
    Tasting this cool.. I’d rate it in the high 80’s.

    • John Hansell says:

      Rick, I’m pretty sure that the whisky was designed to be enjoyed on the rocks or in a mixed drink. I don’t review and rate whiskies on the rocks, but I can see how this whisky in particular would be more enjoyable on the rocks. It would make it less “black” if you know what I mean.

      • Rick Duff says:

        I do know what you mean. I think doing the tastings neat is the proper way.
        It was just really amazing how the grain (smooth) element came out with just a
        little chill to it (and no water/ice added to dilute.)

  19. Ray Abraham says:

    Hello John,
    I just tried the CR Black. I have to admit first off, I would not try it again. I really enjoy the regular Crown, Reserve and the other special bottlings. However, I believe this Black is just a marketing attempt to increase sales. It has no where the taste profile of its siblings. It is truly the “Black Sheep”of the Crown family. Yucky!
    Canadian Club Classic blows the doors off this stuff!

  20. Sean W says:

    Why bother with the Black? I was disappointed.. Crown Royal, at least in my mind, has always been synonomous with smooth, easy drinking Canadian blended. If I want a true blood, I have to head Northwest to Ireland and Scotland for a high end Jameson, McCallen or Laphroaig cask. Of course every nose is different.. That’s just the 2 cents from mine… Slainte!

  21. […] it fairly conservatively—not a lot of risk-taking here. But, I think it’s slightly better than Crown Royal Black (its logical competitor) which has a harsher finish, and you can get it for half the […]

  22. Mark says:

    Let’s be clear. There is no grain neutral spirits in any Crown Royal Blend. Every last drop is aged in cask. I know this to be fact!

  23. Mike says:

    Finally got a bottle of this polarizing whisky. I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It is pretty much as advertised: a more robust, bigger-bodied Crown Royal. I enjoy it more than Deluxe for sure. There is something in the flavour which reminds me of old brandy. The colour is a bit scary but aside from that I think it is a good product. I haven’t tried it on the rocks but I like it with a splash of water.

  24. richard kerr says:

    Haven’t tried this yet, but would like to see a sample bottle attatched to larger bottle of original.

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