Crown Royal

I’ve had a bottle of Kirkland Signature Blended Canadian Whiskey sitting on my liquor shelf for a while, and I’ve been looking forward to trying it. But, when I was about to open it one day, I realized that its royal purple label with gold accents was meant to resemble Crown Royal whiskey, what is probably the single biggest brand of Canadian blended whiskey in the US. Having never tried Crown Royal, I didn’t want to taste Kirkland’s take on the category until I knew what they were comparing themselves to.

Having more than a few bottles waiting to be tasted, written up, and photographed, it’s actually been a few months until I’ve had a spot in my budget, time to shop for, and an opportunity to taste the so called “legendary import” that is Crown Royal whiskey. Since I’ve really been looking forward to that Costco bottle though, I knew I couldn’t put off trying out Crown any longer.

Box Logo
The simple exterior packaging of Crown Royal

Everything about Crown Royal tries to impress upon you that it is, in fact, royal. It comes in a royal purple box with gold and red accents. The box its self eschews any busyness, except an embossment of the gold trim to make it resemble a rope. There’s no cluttered text, no excess of logos, slogans, or other gimmicky advertising hoopla to be found. The manufacturer has kept the box just about as simple as possible, as if to try and keep the buyer from being distracted. Once the box is open though, things start changing.

SackHaving never had Crown Royal, I was a bit surprised to find in the box not a bottle, but a cloth bag cinched with a golden yarn. Like the box, the bag is royal purple, with gold stitching, and the Crown Royal logo stitched into one side. It’s made of soft cotton cloth, using a weave that looks like canvas but is much more supple and doesn’t seem as tough.

GlowIn the bag, the bottle is the exact opposite of the box. The labels have a splotchy background meant to look like yellowing parchment, and are completely packed with imagery and text. The front label has pictures of curtains with tassels, a crown on a pillow, a logo, calligraphic font slogans, and a scroll. The back is filled with all the various legal, corporate, and advertising texts you’d expect a liquor bottle to have, but the label its self is rather small, so it seems to be swimming with text. The bottle is sealed with a mostly clear plastic seal, but around the bottom a purple ring is adorned with golden crowns all the way around. The cap is a heavily molded plastic monstrosity meant to look something like a crown (but which doesn’t really succeed in doing so.) Even the glass of the bottle its self is almost completely covered in an angular filigree.

The whiskey its self is medium golden brown amber color. Poured into a brandy snifter, it somehow seems darker in the glass. The scent is rather indistinct; you can tell that the whiskey was aged for some period of time in wood, but there’s no indication of how long, what kind of wood it was, or any flavor that the wood may have imparted. There’s no discernible grain scent of any kind. The strongest odor is that of alcohol, but even that seems somewhat mellow.Glass and bottle.PNG

Taken neat, there’s not much more to the flavor than there is to the scent. There’s a nondescript wood flavor, but it’s not especially strong. There is the taste of alcohol, and it is thankfully not overpowering. Other than that, there’s not much. I don’t taste barley, wheat, or corn. There’s not fruitiness from a cask, nor are there flavors of nuts or spices or toffee. There is a sort of a toasty finish, but it is very, very mild, and on the occasional sip I’ll get a very very vague hint of another flavor, which I’d like to say it rye, but it’s so weak I can’t really be sure.

The whiskey is very dry, with no sweetness to be found anywhere, but also nothing savory, sour, tangy, or bitter, either. There’s no smoke, no earthiness, no salt. The one good thing to be said about the mild mannered nature of this spirit is that it’s also very smooth; there’s just enough burn that you can feel it on the edges and back of the tongue, but just so. It certainly doesn’t reach the point of being unpleasant, but there’s also not enough there to really enjoy the sensation either.

After being open a while Crown Royal does come to life a bit, but all the new flavors are still just whispers of hints. Everything that developed as this whiskey oxidized has to be described with I think. I think I may have tasted corn at one point. I think I tasted some cinnamon. I think I tasted some oaky flavor one time. One of the only things that I know I tasted was the beginnings of nuttiness, which often comes from the heated surface of a whiskey still. That particular taste’s time in the spotlight was short lived though, as as the flavor evolved it developed the little that it did and then faded away. The same is true of a flavor of spices that waxed and then waned.

With all the guff one hears about blended whiskey from the cork sniffing peanut gallery among single malt fans, I think it may be safe to say that the mild nature of all the flavors in Crown Royal could be due to the fact that it is blended for consistency overall, and not to enhance any particular set of flavors within it. I am curious however about what I’ll find after my palate has developed and I come back to a new bottle (this last drops of this one are nicely filling a tumbler as I write this.)

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Sauza Silver Tequila

It is with some trepidation that I look towards this bottle of tequila to drink. I’ve only had tequila once before, and it wasn’t the best experience I’ve ever had. It went straight to my Bottle.pnghead, and lingered for a long, long time. I had it at a bar, and when out in public I make it a point to drink more water than I do alcohol. I usually stop after two, but decided on a third, and it was a margarita. I drank it and fell into a stupor, and ended up just sitting like a lump with my head down on the bar. The bar tender, whom I know, got worried because she’d never seen me in such a state before.

I sat at the bar for another hour or so, drinking more water the whole time, and had some food as well. I got up to leave, and was outside with my keys in my hand when I realized I was still drunk. The tequila hadn’t worn off, and it was another 30 minutes before my head cleared. It’s no mystery why there’s a little ditty that goes “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor!,” or tequila is sometimes call “t’kill ya.” So that’s the baggage I carry while I look at a glass full of Sauza Silver Tequila.

I will say that Sauza come in a handsome bottle: It’s very square, with coat of arms embossed on the back. I also like the shiny blue rooster under the label. But, I dwell on these to delay drinking, because I’m not really sure what will happen. Opening the bottle, the stuff smells rank. It has the smell of something rotting, which, I guess is how you get alcohol in the first place, but other drinks don’t smell like this. It seems almost like it’s started to turn to vinegar.

Its flavor is not much like the way it smells. It definitely tastes like a plant. If you’ve ever been to a farmers market and seen someone selling agave, the smell of that plant is what this tastes like, which I like. Tasting it, it almost makes me feel like I’m out on a farm among the agave. It seems like this drink carries with it the history of its making, the story of its origin. While I wouldn’t say it’s sweet, it definitely has the flavor of the plant’s sugars as well. There’s an earthiness here, and a pepperiness as well.

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A blue rooster adorns the front of the bottle

Going down its a little different from other drinks I’ve experienced. You definitely feel the alcohol, there’s a little bit of burn, but its also smooth at the same time. There’s no rough edge to the burn, it just lets you know it’s there and then fades. It’s unusual, and I like this as well.

On the rock, its character is totally different. Iced down, Sauza Silver becomes a ghost. Its flavors fade until they’re just barely perceptible, even the flavor of the ethanol is almost untastable; the pepperiness is gone. There’s no burn, no warmth, almost no sign physical sign of the alcohol at all, except a mild tingle in the chest and the feeling of the alcohol drawing hydration out of the lips and tongue. If you like the taste, you’ll have to breath out from the throat after a large sip.

I also mixed some of this tequila into a cocktail that I’m dubbing the “Güero.” It was inspired by an old style White Russian, made from three parts Sauza tequila, two parts whole milk, and one part crème de cacao, combined and shaken over ice. The flavors of the ingredients sat evenly with their proportions in the drink. The strongest taste was the sharper part of the plant flavor of the tequila, the the creaminess of the milk, with the chocolate flavor of the crème sitting subtly underneath. Drinking this, I did come to understand why White Russians have come to be made with coffee liqueur instead of chocolate, but I would add some in instead of making a substitution with this drink. As for using milk instead of cream, I’m not sure whether cream would be better or not, so in the future I’ll certainly be trying it that way, and may even try out both. Maybe I’ll give an update once I have.

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An impression in the glass, on the side of the bottle

Just as a beverage, Sauza Silver Tequila put my worries about past experiences with other tequila to rest. It soothed my trepidation and won me over with its rugged goodness. As to the qualities of its intoxicating effect, it didn’t leave me in a sludgy drunkenness like other tequila. It imparted feeling of lightness with its buzz, and left me feeling relatively clear headed.