Bottom Line: Should You Buy Crown Royal Vanilla Whisky?
|How We Tasted It||Ratings||Reviews/Notes|
|As A sipper||“It’s for the ladies… a guy would be embarrassed to have this unless he splashed it in secret on the side.”|
|Vanilla Old-Fashioned||“This is a great gateway to a real drink.”|
|In Root Beer||“Put a splash of Montenegro in this and it’s spectacular… just root beer, no.”|
|Chocolate Martini||“It’s indulgent. But you can’t go wrong with something this decadent.”|
|From the Box||“Someone shoot me.”|
|Overall!||We might recommend a small bottle for strategically specific purposes—or if you’re sneaking in the closet for some reason—but otherwise, no. Absolute best use is root beer with the splash of Montenegro Amaro (but you have to use the Montenegro).|
For the Whisky Nerds
Crown Royal impressed us with their Regal Apple flavored whisky. Bold! Impressive! Fun! We were glad to see they followed that up in 2016 with a vanilla flavored whisky.
For all that, we also have to say this: we have kind of a dim view of new flavors on the market… it’s very, very crowded in that space. It seems like no brand can be truly happy unless they have between 5 and 15 flavors of stuff crowding the shelves. In our opinion, that’s generally bad policy and just intimidates the buyer.
We also have to say this: vanilla as a flavor in any spirit seems to struggle a bit. Vanilla has some hardcore fans but no one spirit has been able to get firm purchase and control the market despite repeated efforts. Crown Royal (Diageo being the owner) has a pretty steep uphill climb ahead of them to make this a hit with the drinking public.
Happily, vanilla flavored whisky seems to be a peculiarly Canadian product. There are only 5 other vanilla whiskies in our database of over 10,300 spirits (and counting!) and 3 of those are Canadian-born. This in stark contrast to the scores of cinnamon, apple, spiced, honey, cherry, peach and whatever else is percolating out of the minds of marketing departments.
One of the reasons for this might be the barrel aging itself! After all, caramel and vanilla are the common flavor notes that come naturally out of the barrel in any decently aged whisky. We suppose some purist out there feels like vanilla flavoring is trying to disguise the fact that the whisky spent no significant time in any sort of respectable barrel! Nonetheless, that plus a little flavor and spice allowed in Canadian whisky makes this a plausibly enjoyable product.
From the website, we expect something more liqueur-like. They suggest that there are only “delicate hints of oak” and the taste is “creamy vanilla” with a “light whisky finish.” This doesn’t exactly scream whisky-dominant flavor. So we’ll compare it to some whisky but we’re also interested to see how this performs against regular old vodka and other vanilla forward spirits.
Special note: we received our tasting sample (thanks Diageo!) in the form of a co
cktail tasting kit (see picture). It came from an outfit called Cocktail Courier by Shakestir. It’s gorgeous. Neatly packed in a clever box, it contained bitters, “wood boiled cider,” 2 bottles of Fever Tree club soda, a jar of honest-to-god-grown-in-dirt dried vanilla beans, a bottle of Hella Cola cocktail mixer, and a (somewhat disappointing in size) 375ml bottle of the Crown Royal itself. That place is definitely worth checking out. No advertising exchange for this comment—we just thought it was awesome and are passing that along.
Crown Royal Vanilla: Sipping and Getting to Know it Naked
|Summary: it’s a bit sweet for our panel… it’s creamy and good but not terribly intense and not terribly distinctive from a garden-variety vodka. As one person said: we expect more out of whisky.|
Crown Royal Vanilla vs Crown in an Old Fashioned Cocktail
For any complaints we might’ve had about an honest whisky taste, Diageo recommend a classic whisky cocktail right out of the gate in the Old Fashioned. Nice courage! They call for a quarter-ounce syrup, dashes of Angostura and orange bitters, and whisky. That’s a very elegant and classic version. We took them at their word and compared to the identical drink made with regular Crown Royal.
This minimalistic version in the regular Crown is decent verging on good but wants a little more robust whisky. The Vanilla was much sweeter and interesting. Our tasting notes include: “The smell of the traditional is fresh but I wouldn’t drink it;” “It still tastes like a sorority drink, not a proper Old Fashioned;” “It’s sweet… I have to wear a tutu when I drink it but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it;” “I didn’t get any vanilla… it just tasted sweeter to me. I might try it without the syrup;” “The sorority girl with her head in the toilet would be happier if it happened because of the vanilla flavor;” “It’s sweet but not dumb sweet… there’s a little sophistication.”
|Summary: the vanilla adds an interesting and not unpleasant flavor. But the Old Fashioned enthusiast is going to be upset with the level of sugar. Our best recommendation is that this is an additive with regular whisky in an Old Fashioned and perhaps a replacement for the simple syrup.|
Crown Royal Vanilla in Root Beer vs Captain Morgan Spiced Rum in Coke
Okay, put your classic whisky cocktails away because the impatient and untutored Millenial set has no time for your dusty old craft cocktails. They crave corn syrup soda with their booze and the penultimate teacher of this seminar is Captain Morgan Spiced Rum. Crown Royal dares to take them on by recommending their whisky for Root Beer. We tried both in ratios of 2 parts soda to 1 part whisky.
The Captain and Coke is a lot better in these ratios (that’s a pro-tip for you Millenials) but still a little bitter on the finish. The Crown and Root Beer started out awesome. The first taste is like a Keanu Reeves “Whoa!” moment but something happens on the back end. The vanilla is confused with the root beer. Our notes include: “M. Night Shyamalan got involved with the ending: it didn’t go as expected;” “I liked the Captain better… “ “The Captain It tastes like Daytona Beach, the Crown like a bus stop;” “The Crown has a weird aftertaste… bitter;” “The Captain is comfortable, familiar, predictable… just like an old lover. The Crown is thicker and sweeter… you can’t drink this all night. Not this much sugar;” “The Captain has more complex tastes;” “Loved the idea of vanilla root beer… but the taste is just wrong;” “This might be better if they put ice cream in this glass.”
As a trial, we added a dash of Montenegro to, we don’t know, help the aftertaste. This is more interesting! Brought out some cola flavors from the root beer. Bonus note: “I love it!” “It’s good!” The Montenegro add definitely saves this drink.
|Summary: our panel found the aftertaste pretty miserable despite the allure of vanilla and root beer. BUT! Add a splash of amaro liqueur and this becomes an outstanding drink.|
Crown Royal Vanilla vs Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka in a Chocolate Martini
One of our favorite party cocktails is the dramatic and decadent Chocolate Martini. We only do it if we can drizzle chocolate syrup in the martini glass first. We used 2oz of Somrus Indian Spice Cream liqueur (which is awesome!), 1oz of vanilla vodka or vanilla whisky depending, and 1oz of Godiva Chocolate liqueur. This is an incredible dessert drink.
First of all, there’s no hating on something that tastes like a milk shake. Even if you bench press 300 pounds, compete in America Ninja Warrior, or hunt big game, this is just good. In the event, both versions were very good and very close—hard to tell the difference in some cases (and that wasn’t surprising with so much stuff going on). Our tasting notes include: “It’s a close call but I like the Crown better… it has more depth; the other dissipates;” “It’s yummy and the Smirnoff I’d drink fast. The Crown you want to savor a little more;” “Crown better, I concur;” “The Crown has staying power. Stamina;” “The Smirnoff is more intense up front but after a while, the taste goes off.”
|Summary: close call but we give the nod to the Crown for this drink. For whatever reason, the creamy, vanilla punch is just a little bit better.|
Crown Royal Vanilla and the Cocktail Courier Box
This is the moment we’ve been waiting for: the Box!! We got all these cool ingredients and it’s time to use them. This called for 1oz of the special cola cocktail syrup, 1oz of whisky, 2oz of Fever Tree Club Soda, stirred with the dried vanilla bean on ice. For the record, vanilla beans are really cool but they make really crappy stirring sticks. We compared it to the Smirnoff vodka for the vanilla comparison.
It’s effing horrible in the Smirnoff. It’s horrible but better in the Crown. That cocktail syrup: wow. It’s a killer. The taste is tonic water but more like sucking a quinine fruit if such a thing existed. Despite the Crown making it better, our tasting notes still said: [Many redacted cuss words]; “Tastes like it’s got a lemon lozenge in it;” “The smell has a nice cola flavor… but holy cow the taste is bad;” “I don’t mind tonic water so I don’t mind this taste… but I wouldn’t order another one” (that was the nicest thing anyone said… the rest were cuss words).
|Summary: the drink is awful… still, the mark of a good spirit is that it makes bad drinks better. On that score, the thing was definitely better with Crown and it wanted to be interesting. Failed effort.|