Bottom Line at the Top: in this increasingly insane world of sugar and flavors infecting all manner of otherwise credible spirits (along with a large dose of decidedly in-credible spirits), Crown Royal Regal successfully walks the line of powerful flavors without being overly sweet (it is sweet). In certain uses—and most especially in large-group party settings—this is the kind of bottle that brings life to the party. If you're going somewhere, buy it. Mix it with cranberry juice and mix it with other whisky as an additive. While one can be rightly suspicious of the rash of flavored whisky on the market, this is a flavored whisky that we can enthusiastically recommend.
Crown Royal whisky is widely available but still considered prestigious. It comes in a gorgeous, upscale packaging in an iconic bag. It was made, after all, for royalty in its inception and trumpets that fact with its label. So when Crown comes out with a flavored something, one generally suspects that it's trying to set itself apart from the more proletariat spirits in the world. That is to say, there's a lot of flavored "stuff" out there: apple pie flavored moonshine, sour apple schnapps in bright green colors, and even apple pie liqueurs. One would guess that Crown Royal Regal Apple Flavored Whisky using honest regal apples as a traditional infusion might think to stand aloof and apart from these other party spirits. Less sweet, perhaps? More sophisticated?
We'll see... the press release mentioned "fun loving whisky drinkers" (pretentious whisky drinkers would never describe what they do as fun... which is often why the snobs are no fun to be around). On the other hand, the recommended drinks were nothing like the "add sugar and shoot" sort but rather adult-looking styles aimed at flavor. We elected to compare the Crown Apple to very sophisticated spirits feeling that the party-shot crowd was well-served already. This meant a comparison to a Lecompte 12yr calvados (apple-based brandy), which is about as snooty as a snoot can get, and with Absolut Orient Apple flavored vodka, which is a very nice, dry, and cinnamon influenced apple spirit renowned among bartenders making signature cocktails. Crown, we're sure, can hold its own against anything in the party culture but can they stand tall with the sophisticates?
Crown Royal Apple vs Lecompte 12yr Calvados
On the nose, the Lecompte smells intensely of apples; almost like apple cider. It's taste resembles apples but is very, very dry. A little cold water brings out more apple and reduces the heat a bit and accentuating the sweet character of the wood additives and the apple. In contrast, you can smell the Crown Apple from across the room. It does not smell like an apple orchard; it smells like apple snow cone syrup. The Crown apple comes in at 70 proof rather than 80 and the aroma promises candy-level sweetness rather than dry cider. It really couldn't smell more like an apple-flavored hard candy of some kind or other. This made us very nervous. But in tasting, it's very sweet but happily not the diabetic-level sweetness that many other liqueurs and flavored vodkas have. The whisky dries it up a little on the end. It is just barely plausible to sip this on ice, though one might mix a little regular crown with it. In fact, we did just that. Equal parts Crown Whisky and Crown Apple on ice added a layer of subtle apple sweetness to the smoother whisky and made a very nice sipping drink. We suggest blending the Crown Apple with your favorite brand of whisky might be a winning combination in whatever ratios you desire. (One wouldn't dare risk an international incident with the French trying a similar experiment with their calvados).
Crown Royal Apple vs Absolut Orient Apple Vodka
Weirdly, the Absolut Orient smells the driest and least sweet of them all! (Surely a first in the currently frightening world of flavored vodka and a tribute to Absolut's restraint.) As with many Absolut flavors, the flavoring is mostly in the nose and only lightly on the palate. It doesn't carry the oak richness of the calvados but for all that does carry nicely through to a warming finish, especially with a little ice. One would never mix this with whisky, however, because the sweetness isn't there. This leads us to feel like we should treat the Crown Apple more like a well-made liqueur rather than a base spirit. In neat settings, even sipping, the vodka might be a touch better. As a straight shot, if you're going to do that sort of thing (party rockers in the house!), the obvious choice is the Crown Apple.
Crown Royal Apple in a "Crownberry" Cocktail
The Crownberry is a recommendation from Crown Royal that calls for 1.5 ounces of apple whisky and 4 ounces of cranberry juice served on the rocks. This is seems like a bit of a Cape Cod idea (cranberry, vodka, and lime with the sour of the apple standing in for the lime). We love these kinds of cocktails because they're easy and something anyone can do at home. The aroma on this drink is gorgeous... particularly with a hint of lemon if you choose to garnish. It's what an apple really smells like and somehow erases the candied sensation we had when neat. For a rocks drink, the flavors go very nicely together: sweet on the front and drying on the finish with a whisper of heat. This is far, far superior to a regular Cape Cod with mere vodka. Even the Absolut Orient Apple had trouble competing with Crown in this drink setting. Why oak wood and apple go well with cranberry is beyond us but this is a true winner. It's a reason to seek out the Crown Apple whisky. Successful in every possible way.
This drink was so good that, for the first time, we went out and purchased—with our own hard earned money—a bottle of the Crown Regal at full retail price and took it to a party with cranberry juice. It was empty by the end of the night... a celebrated hit for the entire night. The Grey Goose, by the way, was about four-fifths full at the end of the night.
Crown Royal Apple in a "Big Apple" Cocktail
Another Crown Royal recommendation, this calls for 1.5 ounces of apple whisky, 1 ounce of sweet vermouth, and a dash of angostura bitters shaken on ice and served up. Garnished with a cherry, this is exactly a Manhattan cocktail recipe with the flavored whisky used instead of a bourbon or a rye American whiskey. The Crown was less successful in this setting. We're not great fans of Manhattans because we're not great fans of sweet vermouth. The apple flavors did nothing, in our opinion, to change our stance here. In fact, the drink is closer to an apple-influenced Old Fashioned cocktail than a Manhattan due to the sweetness involved. In our opinion, the whisky drinker will be far better served by simply adding a small ratio of Crown Royal Apple to their favorite brand of regular whisky.
Crown Royal Apple in Ginger Ale
Absolut recommends their apple vodka with 1 part vodka (in this case, apple whisky), 3 parts ginger ale, and a bit of lemon. To get really crazy, they suggest muddling the lemon with a mint leaf to make a "Ginger Smash." This seemed like an excellent idea to us... though it's very much a kind of highball with ginger ale or in some circles an apple flavored Dancing Leprechaun (which calls for Irish whiskey and ginger ale with a float of Drambuie). The drink smells entirely of candied apple, which isn't surprising given that the whisky is so aromatic. It tastes a bit like candied apple flavor as well. Perhaps the sweet of the ginger ale with the sweet of the whisky is finally too much sweeet. It reads a bit like a flavored soda without the alchol heat to let you know you're drinking a drink. For apple and ginger ale, we have to maintain that Absolut Orient is the better choice. Once again, though, using your regular brand of whisky with a portion of Crown Royal Regal added could be (and is, we later discovered) much more successful. A little Crown Royal Regal is—not unlike royalty itself—a very good thing but it's easy to get too much.
[Disclaimer: we received a 750ml bottle of Crown Royal Regal for review purposes free of charge. All other products mentioned here were acquired on our own.