Of all the phrases relating to the parting of a man and his money, few are more gratifying to use than “worth every penny.” Those three words communicate the idea that, “Yes, I spent — perhaps more than I had originally intended or am traditionally comfortable with. But in the end, I was smart enough to realize that the item I was purchasing would be worth it. And I was right.”
It’s a good feeling, and one we’d all like to have more often. And thus we bring you “For What It’s Worth,” a content series in partnership with our friends at Crown Royal in which our editors examine items that, due to their rarefied nature, superlative construction, and storied pedigree, are worth opening up your pocketbook for.
In this edition, we take a look at Crown Royal XR, the second edition of the storied Canadian brand’s Extra Rare series, crafted from one of the final batches of whiskies saved from the renowned La Salle distillery, opened in 1924 and closed for distilling in 1993.
Hailing from our friends up north, Crown Royal is the best-selling Canadian whisky in the U.S. for good reason — these are rich and smooth blended whiskies, sophisticated enough for more discerning consumers (there’s a reason Crown Royal XR won the Chairman’s Trophy at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge in 2019, the highest honor in the industry).
They’re also eminently affordable. Which makes the Crown Royal XR release an anomaly — its suggested retail price is $140, or over twice the average CR release.
What differentiates the XR (which stands for “Extra Rare”), now in its second iteration? And why is this the year — more than any other — when you should snap up a bottle?
We have four good reasons.
The Crown Royal Extra Rare Whisky Series started in 2006 when the initial XR release utilized whiskies from the historic Waterloo Distillery north of Winnipeg — that distillery burned down in 1992, leaving just a few precious barrels. The latest XR release includes a small reserve of whiskies saved from the LaSalle distillery.
LaSalle, located on the island of Montreal, was opened in 1924 by the same family who would create the original Crown Royal in 1939. LaSalle actually closed in 1993, but its reputation lives on — the full-body and richness of its whiskies was attributed to the fine water surrounding the island.
“Every distillery has its own personality and characteristics,” says Stephen Wilson, the Director of Whisky Engagement for Crown Royal. “A majority of the remaining whiskies from our LaSalle distillery were traditional rye whiskies. Crown Royal has always produced an exceptional rye as a component for our blends, and our blenders were able to craft a unique whisky using these remaining liquids as the heart and soul.”
The LaSalle site remains a bottling operation and a warehouse, where the final barrels were hand-selected by Crown Royal’s Master Blender, Andrew MacKay, for inclusion in the new XR release.
Interesting side note: Choosing barrels from the LaSalle site marked a career full circle for MacKay, who began his whisky craft as an apprentice at the former distillery.
Remember the “Rare” part of the title? LaSalle isn’t making whisky anymore, so when its extremely limited stocks run out — which they’re estimating will happen within the next year — this release is finished. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
A smooth and full-bodied sipper, for sure (that’s the Crown Royal trademark). Here, the amber spirit imparts aged oak, floral hints and some honied pear on the nose … a note you’ll also find on the palate, along with tones of dried apricot, raisins, caramel, cocoa and brown sugar. As well, Wilson notes the LaSalle distillery influence in “the sweet and spicy notes of Canadian rye that really shine through,” he says.
No wonder the judges at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge called the spirit “deeply pleasing,” with a lush palate and a long finish.
All great whisky should be shared, right?
From a whisky drinker’s perspective, Crown Royal XR is an ideal gifting option. Outside of its backstory (and scarcity and great taste), the packaging alone is a conversation starter: The unique bottle shape features a deluxe glass stopper and arrives in the brand’s iconic velvet bag (which you can personalize by embroidering), changed only for this release to a royal blue to “echo the regal nature” of the whisky.
That last part isn’t meant to be pompous: The history of Crown Royal begins when King George VI (yes, of The King’s Speech) and Queen Elizabeth visited Canada in 1939 and a special whisky was commissioned in their honor. That whisky was Crown Royal.
So really, you’re drinking (and more importantly, gifting) a spirit meant for royalty.
Please Drink Responsibly. CROWN ROYAL XR Blended Canadian Whisky. 40% Alc/Vol. The Crown Royal Company, Norwalk, CT
Photos courtesy of Crown Royal