Ever wonder how rare those whiskies touted as being made with disappearing stocks really are? In the case of Crown Royal XR (for Extra Rare), one component was in short enough supply that the Canadian whisky maker was recently forced to reformulate.
The selling point behind the original XR, debuted in 2005, was that the blend contained some whisky made in the shuttered Waterloo, Ontario, distillery, a component that recently ran dry. To replace it, the hyperpremium XR now showcases spirits made at its LaSalle distillery on the Island of Montreal. However, that distillery, too, has stopped operating (1993), and its whisky will one day also run out.
Master blender Andrew MacKay, who created both versions, says that the new approach demanded that he create a whisky of markedly changed character, but comparable quality. “We knew it would be different,” says MacKay, noting that he fashioned the new XR around the spicy rye flavors of the LaSalle portion. He spent two years creating the new formulation. “I knew it wouldn’t become [a copy of the original], so I didn’t even try.”
By comparison, the blender describes the Waterloo component of the earlier release as “meaty and doughy.”
The LaSalle edition holds a special place in MacKay’s heart as it was at that distillery that he apprenticed in the chemical lab. His father also served there as production planner.
LaSalle was also the first facility built by Seagram’s, the creator of Crown Royal, soon after that company incorporated in 1924. Seagram’s later passed into the hands of spirits giant Diageo.
MacKay recalls that when he created the original XR, he was asked to create “the best we can make.” When it became clear that stocks would run out, he was allotted two years warning to blend the next permutation. “They gave me a bit of time to think.”
He adds that the blend is made up of “some very old bits and pieces,” the bulk of which are Bourbon-style components from the Gimli, Manitoba, distillery. That facility makes whiskies that follow the same regulations as corn-rich Bourbon made in the United States, but since they are distilled in Canada cannot be labeled as Bourbon. The newest XR is packaged with a blue motif as opposed to the reddish velvet bag and neck label of the original.
As for the length of time the new blend of XR will last, MacKay points to the fact that the first did not last the eight years that marketers projected. “It depends on how well you sell it.”
(Tasting notes and cigar pairings on next page)
Crown Royal XR—LaSalle, (80 proof or 40 percent alcohol, $129.99)
APPEARANCE: Dark color with slight green of olive oil, quick, tight legs.
NOSE: Comes out with dried fruit and follows with toasty and faint vanilla notes.
PALATE: Subtly moves from an opening dry fruit note (especially pears) to dominating spiciness with a toast flavor of doughy bread. Shows a lot of finesse.
FINISH: A crisp finish that reports the flavors of the mouth sensation with sweets, salts and spices. No bitterness whatsoever.
My Father Flor de Las Antillas Robusto (to be scored in August issue of Cigar Aficionado)
This box-pressed number, a Nicaraguan puro with spice and nuts makes an interesting partner to the whisky. The pleasant, but unsuspected, combination belies the spice-on-spice expectation with a very smooth texture.
Cuban Partagás Corona Senior (to be scored in August issue of Cigar Aficionado)
A cigar that comes off very fresh, becomes more savory and leathery with the whisky. The XR’s spicy qualities of spice are downplayed by the partnership, while its fruits become more prominent.