Crown Royal whiskey is a pretty reliable fixture of any bar or liquor store, almost regardless of where you are. Heading to the bar and ordering a Crown and Coke or a Crown and Seven is a pretty common drink order for many people. Though there are some other whiskey orders that might be a bit more embarrassing, you’re usually pretty safe with good old Crown Royal.
The same goes for those looking for an approachable, easy-to-sip whisky. Shoppers might also want to find just such a beverage on store shelves to later enjoy at home. Crown Royal stands out from the crowd, whether that’s for its iconically short and stout, beautifully detailed bottle or the regal look of its deep purple bag with gold embroidery. Crown Royal continues to rank as one of the top-selling whisky brands in the world. With 7.9 million cases sold in 2019 alone, according to The Spirits Business, it’s certainly at the forefront of the whisky game when it comes to sales, visibility, and general enjoyment from drinkers.
But where does this whisky giant come from, anyway? And what makes Canadian whisky different than the whisky sold in America or anywhere else, for that matter? From how Crown Royal got its distinguished name to the way this spirits company is giving back, we’ve gathered all the details for you. This is the untold truth of Crown Royal.
Crown Royal has been around for decades
While the popularity of Crown Royal may come and go in waves, it’s certainly not a new sipper. In fact, it’s been around for a very long time. The very first batch of Crown Royal was made in Canada in 1939, according to Crown Royal itself, meaning it’s been around for over eight decades now. Fast-forward 25 years after its first debut in Canadian lands and the whisky was finally released in the United States to broaden its distribution. Crown Royal was made available in the United States in 1964, becoming one of the top-selling Canadian whiskies on the U.S. market (via Crown Royal Collectors).
And while you may spell it "whiskey" where you’re from, Crown Royal has a different background. According to Britannica, "whisky" is the preferred spelling in both Scotland and Canada, meaning that the label you see on this iconic bottle is spelled correctly after all.
Since the first product was released, the popular brand has continued to expand, including a number of different whisky lines. The Signature Series and Flavor Series continue to offer approachable whisky options for anyone to enjoy at home or at the bar, while other, more complex and rare options, such as a wine barrel-aged whisky or cognac finished whisky, are offered through the Master Series.
Crown Royal was created for the royal family
Crown Royal certainly has a catchy, appealing title, and as such has become a recognizable, household name throughout the United States and Canada. Who wouldn’t want to sip a whisky that’s truly fit for a royal? It even has a glamorous bejeweled crown on the label, after all. But surely that’s all marketing smoke and mirrors, right? Well, as it turns out, it actually was created for a pair of very real monarchs.
In 1939, says Crown Royal, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom were scheduled to visit Canada. Until then, a reigning monarch had never made the trip to Canada across the Atlantic Ocean, so it was certainly an occasion to celebrate in the eyes of many Canadians. And, as with so many celebrations, the occasion came with the need to raise a glass.
Crown Royal’s developer was tasked with blending and distilling a batch of Canadian whisky fit for the royals. After more than 600 blends, Crown Royal was born. And how did the royal duo like it? Well, according to Crown Royal, all 10 cases of whisky bottled and packaged in Crown Royal’s purple bags were consumed throughout the king and queen’s train journey on the railroad across Canada. Surely that’s a pretty good review.
Crown Royal is made in Canada
Next to other market options such as Canadian Club and Black Velvet, Crown Royal certainly holds strong as one of the most popular Canadian whisky options on the market. Unlike some other brands, which might choose to outsource some of their production efforts, this distilled and aged sipper has continued to be produced in Canada since its inception in 1939.
Today, the Crown Royal distillery churns out delicious whisky in the central part of the country — Gimli, Manitoba, to be specific (via Crown Royal). Located along the shores of Canada’s Lake Winnipeg, Gimli’s population is quite small. Really, really small, actually. As of Canada’s 2016 census, the small town was home to just 2,246 residents. And while it’s not home to very many people, at least compared to Canada’s cities, Gimli is obviously home to plenty of barrels of Crown Royal whisky.
The Crown Royal production facility, spanning 360 acres, is made up of 51 warehouses that house hundreds of barrels of Crown Royal. It has to hold on to those for a while, since the whisky inside the barrels must be aged before it’s bottled, bagged, and shipped throughout the world to waiting Crown Royal afficianados.
Whisky rules in Canada are different than the U.S.
The production of whisky is a bit more complicated than some may think. Plenty can change the character of the finished whiskey, from the ingredients that go into the initial mash, to the barrels in which the liquor ages, to how it’s bottled and distributed. Depending on where it’s all made, production regulations can make the process all the more complex.
In order for a whisky to be considered and labeled a true Canadian whisky, Forbes reports, it must start with a primary base of Canadian grain. In contrast, American regulations allow for the use of a grain-neutral spirit in the blend. In Canada, the whisky must then be aged for a minimum of three years in small wood barrels before it can be removed from the barrel, bottled, and enjoyed. In the United States, says Whiskey Advocate, the minimum time for aging a whiskey is typically two years, with no legal restrictions on barrel size.
And as for its alcohol by volume? Whiskey Advocate reports that a proper Canadian whisky must top out at nothing lower than 40 percent alcohol by volume. That’s actually the same for U.S. whiskey regulations, though American favorites like bourbon whiskey have even more regulations to deal with (via Whiskey Advocate).
A bottle of Crown Royal was once valued at $10,000
How much would you be willing to spend on booze? Of course, the answer to that question depends on quite a few factors, from the exact type of alcohol you’re considering to the state of your finances. While for many, a splurge might be fine from time to time, there are limits. And most of us surely agree that spending $10,000 on a bottle of Canadian whisky certainly isn’t something to laugh about.
According to Insider, in 2007, Crown Royal produced the Crown Royal XR Extra Rare Heritage Blend. It would have gone for that high of a price tag, draining thousands of dollars from someone’s bank account. That is, if it was ever actually for sale.
The bottle was Crown Royal’s way of honoring Queen Elizabeth II when she made a visit to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in 2007 (via Food Ingredients 1st). Just as Crown Royal got its start by hoping to impress the royals, this was a logical modern-day project. It was also quite the honor after the company had created the first-ever Crown Royal blend for Queen Elizabeth II’s parents almost 70 years before. The bottle was a blend of rare, heritage whisky, bottled in a custom-made glass decanter with gold leafing. No word on whether or not the famously rule-bound Queen Elizabeth actually tried it, and certainly no one else seems to have had a chance to sip it and tell of their experience.
Crown Royal can be enjoyed in a huge variety of ways
To tell the absolute truth, there’s really no right or wrong way to drink Crown Royal. According to Leaf, it can be sipped neat or with a large, spherical ice cube (the particular size and shape is meant to help reduce the amount of melted ice watering down your drink). If you prefer to sip Crown Royal on its own, especially if you love the flavor, consider adding a few drops of water to your glass. That small splash of water will help to open up the aromas and notes of a whisky for sipping, enhancing the experience and potentially making you look like you really know your stuff, at least when it comes to whisky.
But that’s certainly not all that Crown Royal is good for. Popular drinks such as a Crown and Soda, a Crown and Seven, or Crown and Coke are overheard at the bar all the time. But it can also make a ridiculously delicious cocktail. Mixing up a whisky sour with Crown Royal as the main player is a total classic, for one, as is the winter favorite made with honey and lemon — the hot toddy. You can also switch up the cocktail creativity by combining Crown Royal with some fruit-flavored liqueurs and soda water for a refreshing, summer-ready sipper.
Crown Royal sends care packages to soldiers in their classic purple bags
Crown Royal has been packaging its short and stout bottles in velvet purple bags since the very beginning. Even that first bottle presented to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth was decanted and then put into that regal purple bag for delivery. It’s become a recognizable symbol of Crown Royal ever since.
But now, Crown Royal is using those classic purple bags for another mission and perhaps something even more meaningful. Crown Royal launched its official Purple Bag Project initiative in 2018. The Purple Bag Project aims to send care packages in the classic purple bag to servicemembers overseas. Bags include items such as food, personal care items, and even handwritten notes to brighten the day of those serving in the military and to remind them that their sacrifice does not go unacknowledged. According to PR Newswire, country music artist Thomas Rhett supported the project as it’s helped distribute over 1 million of these packages not only to active duty military personnel, but also to people affected by natural disasters, and all by the end of 2020.
You can get canned Crown Royal cocktails
Canned cocktails are certainly not a new concept on the market anymore, what with the rise of canned wines, mixed drinks, and their close cousins, the hard seltzers like White Claw. For many consumers, the ease of being able to pop open the top of a can and take a sip of a cocktail is as refreshing as can be. With that appeal, canned cocktails have continued to increase in popularity exponentially, with new releases each season. With a 20 percent jump in canned cocktail market growth from 2016 to 2019, as Yahoo Finance reports, Crown Royal recognized it was time to officially jump on the bandwagon.
As of March 2021, Crown Royal officially got in the game with its line of canned cocktails, introducing three flavors. Now, grabbing a Crown Royal Whisky & Cola is more convenient than ever. A Peach Tea flavor, made with Crown Royal, peach flavoring, and tea, along with a Washington Apple flavor has hit the market as well.