The most discussed bottle in whisky next year will likely be Canada's Crown Royal, thanks to famed sprits author Jim Murray, who selected the brand's Northern Harvest Rye as the 2016 World Whisky of the Year.
Murray's annual tome, The Whisky Bible, houses notes and information on thousands of bottles, and is perhaps the leading resource on all things brown and distilled. His 2015 pick, the Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013, started a run on an already short supply of Japanese whisky in the U.S.
The same thing might happen with Canadian whiskys. After taking a backseat for years, it seems America's neighbor to the north is in the game again. So perhaps it's time for a reintroduction. While Crown Royal is a household name, its newest blended whisky is a somewhat unknown. Here are five key facts about the northern export.
1. Murray, who admitted he considered demoting Canadian whisky because of of its once disappointing quality, gave this blend 97.5 points out of 100 on his scale. "Crown Royal Northern Harvest pops up out of nowhere and changes the game," he said. "To say this is a masterpiece is barely doing it justice."
2. Though it's made in Canada, Crown Royal is a huge part of the American whisky market. The brand is second in U.S. sales, behind only Jack Daniel's. In fact, the U.S. was actually first to get its bottles of Northern Harvest before Canada. And Crown Royal has more than a decade of partnerships with the Brickyard 400. Hard to be more American than NASCAR.
3. Northern Harvest Rye isn't 100 percent rye whisky; 10 percent of it is corn and malted barley. Crown Royal's portfolio of whiskies includes blends of corn, rye, and malted barley, like bourbon, and Crown Royal Black actually meets many bourbon requirements.
4. The Crown Royal brand was created in 1939 as a welcome gift when the Royal couple King George VI and Queen Elizabeth became the first reigning monarchs to visit Canada. The first blend contained over 50 whiskys, many of which were used to blend Northern Harvest Rye 75 years later. Learn a little more about the history here.
5. At the moment, the distillery (located in Gimli, Manitoba, about an hour from Winnipeg, and basically in the middle of nowhere) isn't open for tours, so organizing a trip to visit the winter whisky wonderland is out. Luckily the company's entire portfolio is fairly easy to track down, and Northern Harvest Rye is available for around $30 plus taxes.
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