Northern Lights – Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye 40%

This wasn’t the 1st, 2nd or even my 3rd time sampling this particular whisky.  However it was an exceedingly apt way to kick start our Whisky Ladies evening exploring whiskies with a Northern Lights connect.

As soon as the bottle came out, a fellow Canadian couldn’t help but recall her youthful follies with a quintessential Canadian drink – Rye and Ginger aka ginger ale.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye 40%

  • Nose – Maple, very sweet, light rye yet accessible, sparkling cider, juicy fruit gum
  • Palate – Ginger, sweet, bit spicy then  back to sweet
  • Finish – Short, sweet, light wood

It made us think of making a terrific Old Fashioned or Manhattan.

Whisky Ladies Northern Lights:

You can read about other tasting adventures with the Northern Harvest Rye here:

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Northern Lights – Crown Royal, Flóki, Mack

It can be a lot of fun playing around with a whisky theme. With the right combination, you can discover something different even in a familiar dram, or appreciate nuances in a spirit you may otherwise dismiss.

It was one of those kinds of sessions, held together by a distinctly “northern” theme. So while it it was swelteringly hot outdoors, we retreated to the cool ac of indoors and enjoyed our Northern Lights evening of:

While none would be considered outstanding, yet each was unique and as a set, enabled us to appreciate their different dimensions.

Talk turned to affordability… these days in the quest for something special, prices can become daunting. This was a terrific reminder that in the right company, context and frame of mind, there is no need to spend a “bomb” to obtain something quite enjoyable.

Case in point, when we looked up prices discovered:

  • Northern Harvest Rye $32
  • Mack $42
  • Flóki $52

From our perspective, these are all eminently affordable for quite affable drams.

What was even better was the tales of how each made it from their respective locales to Mumbai… details coming over the next few days!

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“O Canada!” Crown Royal Canadian Harvest Rye 45%

When Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye sky rocketed from obscurity to celebrity hood… it was hard to believe my home province of Manitoba produced a dram that flew off the shelves around the world.

While rumour had it the original idea was to have it be a ‘one time thing’ (though high volume), given its popularity it didn’t take long for Crown Royal to pump out more.

And this particular bottle? While I can’t guarantee its from the same batch that led to it becoming the World’s Best Whisky of 2016, it certainly is from around that time and purchased in Manitoba…

So what did we think?

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye 45%

  • Nose – Fresh honey, lightly roasted spices, a zest of lemon, tobacco, caramel, fresh polished furniture, pineapple (with a debate on whether it is more like tinned pineapple than baked or honey glaze roasted), candied orange, very sweet, beneath it all a bit of white chocolate
  • Palate – Initial swig was very rye, some wood, spice, a bit tingly, then started to take on other qualities like Japanese pickled ginger, it was clearly young but not the least bit harsh, and while a bit bitter, this simply gave it some character
  • Finish – Bitter cereal finish, then sweet
  • Water – Just made it even smoother, not needed but can certainly continue to hold its own with a splash

We hadn’t thought we would find this whisky so interesting – yet every minute the aromas shifted. We all found it most enjoyable… even those who tried Northern Harvest Rye previously were pleasantly surprised.

And as a start to our evening? A perfect pick!

Pst My father picked this up in Winnipeg for under $40.

What else did we have in our “O Canada” 150th Celebration?

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Whisky Archives – Cracking open the cabinet…

Another from the tasting archives… this time from Sept 2011. Rediscovering these notes brought a flood memories of my previous Mumbai flat… that had a fabulous cabinet in which all my whisky was stashed… now replaced in our current home by a larger storage space waaaaay up high in our kitchen pantry.

We broke with tradition and merrily abandoned all pretense of blind tastings… instead settled down for a sampling of various bottles. It became a  popularity contest between different regions and geographies as small pegs of multiple whiskies were sniffed, swirled, swallowed, savoured and yes – much discussed!

Samplings from earlier sessions - all quaffed at one occasion!

Speyside‘s dominated the evening with:

  • Aberlour’s cask strength Abu’nadh batch 32 (sampled earlier) and batch 31 were compared. Batch 31 was a clear winner and a hit of the evening! Bold yet with an extraordinary warm finish… with layers to discover and enjoy.
  • Aberlour 10 year held its own with slight smokiness and butter, however was overshadowed by it’s cask strength cousin.
  • Cragganmore 12 year was softer on the palate and a nice contrast to the Abelours
  • Glenrothes 12 year (also sampled earlier) gained appreciation for its smooth fruity aroma, sherry note and oak, medium slightly spicy finish.

Islay‘s were represented by a few familiar friends:

  • Bunnahabhain 12 year 40% is a regular favourite with several folks
  • Caol Ila is also well-known and after the last drop of one bottle was polished off, another was opened… Need one say more?
  • Lagavulin 16 year was also a familiar friend but neglected with all the other options…


  • Dalwhinnie from the highest distillery in Scotland was a delightful gentler ‘everyday’ favourite


  • Suntory’s Hakushu 18 year…. In a class of its own with hints of forest, moss, nuanced, with a divine finish – simply exquisite. It remains one of my favourites!


  • Crown Royal from Gimli, Manitoba (my home province) certainly added a different element with rye, however alas outclassed by single malt companions

Naturally what’s expressed here is only one interpretation based on snippets of conversation and personal bias. Would love to hear others opinions on any of these whiskies…


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Road trip anyone?

An exciting development with my Canadian trip is an opportunity to go on a whisky distillery tour.

After a year of writing about whisky many folks are surprised to learn that I’m a distillery tour ‘virgin’. Yup!


I received confirmation the tour is set up and they shared a wee list of ‘guidelines’… which sounded vaguely familiar to Inver House’s global marketing head Karen Walker’s fashion advice to Mumbai’s Whisky Ladies!

  • Close-toed shoes
  • No skirts
  • No large pieces of jewelry
  • Please bring your ID
  • No photos are allowed on the tour

As for where we are going?

Let’s just say I’m proud to share that my first tour will be in my home province of Manitoba, Canada… and delighted to be hopping in the car for a little road trip from Winnipeg…

Gimli (Photo: Clarina Taylor)

Gimli (Photo: Clarina Taylor)

Those who haven’t figured it out yet don’t know their whisk(e)y!

PS Photos all courtesy of a dear friend living in Gimli – Thanks Clarina!

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Murray makes Manitobans proud!

Speaking as a proud Manitoban gal, I’m always delighted when anything from my home province makes its mark positively beyond its borders.

However as a whisky explorer, I must admit Rye has never been my thing and the humble Crown Royal from my old backyard Gimli, Manitoba took a back seat long ago…

That said, I’ve begged family and friends to pretty please snag me an extremely reasonably priced bottle of the Northern Harvest Rye from the local Manitoba liquor store to be collected on my next trip to Canada… I’m always open to have my scepticism refuted! And happy to bring the novelty of Manitoban whiskey to Mumbai, Maharashtra.


So what is all the fuss? Skipping merrily past many marvellous Scotch whiskies, Mr Murray has established a clear non-Scottish top 5 with:

  1. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (Canada) – £47  (Manitoba sells for only CND 32.99!!)
  2. Pikesville Straight Rye (USA) – £33
  3. Midleton Dair Ghaelach (Ireland) – £180
  4. William Larue Weller Bourbon (Bot.2014) (USA) – £65
  5. Suntory Yamazaki Mizunara (Bot.2014) (Japan) – £45

As for the Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, here is what Mr Murray has to say along with his rating of 97.5/100:

Rye, that most eloquent of grains, not just turning up to charm and enthral but to also take us through a routine which reaches new heights of beauty and complexity. To say this is a masterpiece is barely doing it justice.

And here are what the folks over at Crown Royal share:

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye combines the distinctive flavor of Canadian rye grain with the unmistakable smoothness of Crown Royal for a truly exceptional Canadian whisky.

  • Nose – Baking spices, cereal, light wood spices
  • Palate – Gentle oak note, rich butterscotch, spiced vanilla, develops into soft peppery notes
  • Finish – Smooth and creamy

So there you have it folks. As for this Manitoban? My father managed to ‘score’ a bottle from our local liquor store… which has wound its way back to Mumbai for an upcoming session with the Whisky Ladies.

I also had a chance to sample this whiskey:

Check out the other Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2016 winners here!

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