By Christopher McCollum
Two evenings ago, Culture of Spirits writer Micah Hanks and I were tromping about around the Linville Gorge area, being recorded by a rather popular broadcasting network. This may end up being talked about more in the future, but for now, let’s just say that it was pretty fun. On the way up to the Gorge, we made a stop at the local liquor store in preparation for what would surely be an enjoyable evening. First things first, we made our way to the Bourbon section and spent several minutes pondering between Woodford Reserve, Jim Beam Black, Bulleit, Knob Creek, and Maker’s Mark.
In my opinion, Woodford tastes the finest, but that comes at a much steeper cost. So as the minutes ticked by, we debated cost versus enjoyment. Considering we were going to be spending our time at a hotel and obviously away from our personal bars, we would not be able to fully enjoy the cocktail experience. We were lacking bitters, garnishes, liqueurs, and even glasses. We knew were going to have to rely upon complimentary plastic cups and hotel ice. That meant we were going to be drinking it straight, unless we were able to grab a bottle of some rough mixer out of a vending machine.
We eventually settled upon the wax sealed bottle of Maker’s, and made our way to the register. My eye was caught by a promotional display at the end of the Liqueur aisle, and I immediately halted. I called Micah over, and showed him my wondrous discovery.
Standing proudly ahead of us, almost seeming to wave a Canadian flag with the utmost sense of patriotism, were stacked boxes of Crown Royal, that hallmark of Canadian Whisky. The price tag read $48, and aside from Woodward, made it the most expensive bottle we looked at. However, it was a 1.75 Liter bottle and flask package. Pretty good deal. Micah and I contemplated, and then noticed the lower package. That one was the 750ml bottle with two rocks glasses, for a mere $24. Our minds were made, the bottle of Maker’s ended up back on the shelf, in favor of the smooth Canuck spirit.
The purchase was made, but we soon forgot about it as we began setting up for filming. Several hours went by, and we finally were able to trek back to the hotel along with several close friends. Myself, Micah, and our old friend Brian were the first there, and the bottle was cracked. This would be a rare occasion for me, as I hardly ever drink Crown. In fact, this would only be the second time. Perhaps this is surprising, but with so many brands on the market, and so many different kinds of spirits, combined with my passion for beer… there is only so much room, and frankly, Canadian whisky took a back seat to Swedish vodka, Puerto Rican rum, and Kentucky bourbon.
Micah poured my first glass neat, using one of the two rocks glasses that was included in the package (fine glass, by the way. Crown Royal etched into the bottom). We toasted, and I took my first experience of neat Crown. Previously, I had it mixed with Coca-Cola, but this time it was pure. Lo and behold, I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I savored the smooth, dark complexion. It was noticeably different, but not distinctly so from other whiskies that I’ve tasted over the years.
It’s easy to see why Crown Royal is the best selling Canadian Whisky in the American market, totaling over $500M USD in 2006. Demand for the product is so high, that the single distillery in Manitoba goes through 10,000 bushels of grain and 900,000 gallons of water every single day. Each liter of whiskey is then placed in one of the 2 million oak barrels that dot the Diageo operated property.
All in all, it amounted to another memorable evening for Culture of Spirits, as the bottle was run through by our eventual group of 8. As usual, stay sophisticated, responsible and cultured.