Created in Gimli, Manitoba, in 1939 for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s visit, according to the distiller itself, Crown Royal was founded on and continues to symbolize "the hardworking and genuine nature of the Canadian people." That enormously flattering (and obviously true) reference aside, its original rye whisky quickly became a quintessential cocktail standard in North America. Not only is it clad in royal purple robes and a crown-like cap, but more importantly, it remains so popular because it’s such an easily sipped liquor. And then there’s its reputation as a standard ingredient in mixed drinks, like the ubiquitous Crown and Ginger — the cocktail served at every decent Canadian party, indoors and out. Because of the mid-range price and genuine approachability, the truth of Crown Royal is that the company continues to be one of the top-selling whiskies in the world.
For all of the true whisky lovers out there, we want to clarify something before we begin. We’re aware, and you should be too, that these are all flavored whiskies, meaning, for the most part, that each has had a specialty flavor added after the distilling process rather than being part of the distillation. And if you’re a Crown Royal collector, there are still a handful of discontinued specimens to be found in the wild. Read on to see which ones are worth the search and which ones just aren’t worth the hype.
Honestly. What can we say about this limited-edition, wood-cloaked, mesquite-infused offering? According to Whiskey Reviewer, Crown Royal has an enormous fanbase in Texas, so we assume it just seemed natural for the distiller to try something thoroughly soaked in that boldly stereotypical southern flavor — smoky mesquite. And if you’re one of the aforementioned whisky aficionados, they do go on to note that this is "a flavored whisky, not one made with mesquite-smoked grains." If you’re just an average drinker, all that means is that the mesquite comes from infusion instead of part of the distilling process.
Generally speaking, the majority of reviewers weren’t all that thrilled with the 2018 limited-release of Crown Royal Texas Mesquite whisky, citing both the overt smokiness and cloying, burnt caramel sweetness as a bit off-putting. However, the Whiskey Jug did find that it worked well in cocktails rather than for straight-up sipping. Where this bold bottle truly found love was with Crown Royal collectors in, you guessed it … The Lone Star state. Instagram’s #crownroyaltexasmesquite is a veritable treasure trove of people who particularly love its wooden label and Texas-centric star-themed packaging. While the actual flavor might rank it last on our list, Crown Royal made this for a very particular segment of its market and succeeded wildly, with people who are elbow-deep into engineering incredible barbecue sauce with cocktails to match.
While it might be a bit on the nose — combining Canadian rye whisky with maple seems like putting a toque on a moose and just calling it another day in the Great White North — but if location-specific and patriotic pandering worked in Texas, it should work at home too, right? Introduced in 2012 (as per Distiller), Crown Royal’s Maple version has now been discontinued, and it doesn’t seem like many have missed it. Of the 401 reviews on its site, the flavor only garnered 2.44 stars (out of five), with many tasters citing the overwhelming sweetness for the low score, although many of those also mention that it would pair well with bacon. Yet, even the stupefying bacon mania that overtook all forms of social media in the 2010s couldn’t save this whisky, possibly making it a harder sell than some other sweet offerings. But now we’re thinking about some boozy brunch smoothie because not all maple products are syrup, y’all.
Again, this one had its fans but mainly for mixed cocktails that required a not-quite caramel and somewhat woodsy note. Say, in a whisky sour with some extra sweetness? If the thought of this bevvie makes you salivate and you love a road trip, there are still eight bottles available in various BC liquor stores, weirdly.
Out of the last four rankings in this list, Crown Royal Salted Caramel is the only one we’ve had a depth of experience with tasting, partly because it’s the only one still available without an internet deep-dive. And sadly, out of the four available flavored ryes, we didn’t care for it. It comes in at number five only because of online reviews that didn’t pan it completely (Bachelor on the Cheap seemed to love this stuff. Still, at our tasting, it didn’t even win the Congeniality category. We found it both overly sweet and salty simultaneously, making it a double thumbs down — unless you’re mixing it with a lot of vanilla ice cream or going full-on ice cream dessert shooter with it.
First introduced in the holiday season of 2019 (as per Columbus Bourbon) and appearing every year since this little beauty does come with the traditional Crown Royal bag (that every Canadian kid worth their syrup kept their marbles in) embroidered with a big old snowflake for festive flare. Don’t get us wrong — this sweet, salty, caramel-forward whisky concoction would make a terrific addition to a milky, eggy festive-season punch bowl, so we’re saving the rest of the bottle for when the snow falls. In fact, the bottle seems to be an ode to Christmas itself, so don’t even imagine using this in summer cocktails.
Another overly-sweet version of the original, Crown Royal’s Honey flavor was introduced in 2016 as a limited-time offering. Because of that limitation, sadly, our testing group didn’t actually get to taste it. We did, however, assume that it had to be better than the tremendously overpowering Salted Caramel that came in at number five, based solely on reviews and our own (at that point … ) drunken speculation. This particular flavor does seem to have garnered some attention because it continues to sell online for quite a bit more than it was originally worth; Wooden Cork currently has three bottles in stock (at the time of publication) for three figures but get this … it doesn’t include that snappy felt bag, eh?
Crown Royal described this version as having an "oaky whisky aroma with honey and a slight brown spice," but Bottle Buzz also included the possibility of notes of darker spices and hints of chocolate. It absolutely sounds good, certainly, but based on reviews and the other offerings on this list, our testers felt that it might just be a lesser version of Drambuie — too sweet to drink on its own but probably rather delightful when that sugariness is tamped down in a bourbon cocktail. We’re thinking of a kicky version of the Gold Rush cocktail that might make the most of the liquor’s flavors.
Possibly the world’s most fundamental flavor, vanilla isn’t always held up as a beacon of exemplary culinary excitement. But everybody likes it, even if vanilla is the standard for, well … boring. It is the starting point for most sweet offerings, so it just makes sense that Crown Royal’s Vanilla entry is our solid third-place offering. Our testers liked it enough; the combination of a drinkable rye whisky with a nice vanilla flavor made it an easy mixer with everything we had on hand, from ginger ale to freshly brewed coffee. Failing that, you can always mix it with cola for a straight-up vanilla coke cocktail that delivers definite drinkability.
Other reviewers still felt that it was overly sweet; Rum Howler agreed that the sweetness of the spirit made it fairly undrinkable on its own but that it was alright in mixed drinks. Our testers all felt that, like all the other Crown Royal flavors they tried, a squeeze of lime helped to temper it immensely. Other reviewers also share this thought; Booze Dancing found it a little sweet but mentions that it might be terrific when used in a Boulevardier, leveraging Campari and vermouth to soften the sweetness into something incredibly drinkable. And like the Salted Caramel version, the Vanilla Crown Royal is perfect for loads of winter cocktails, especially something eggnoggy that you might want to serve during the holidays.
Almost the best of the bunch, Crown Royal’s Peach version is pretty darn good. Not as sweet as we expected and with a fresh, summery flavor, our testers were quite impressed with this offering. The distiller recommends mixing it with iced tea, and it makes a truly appealing beverage. Even though we tested it in early winter, we all agreed that the not-too-sweet peachiness tasted real and not synthetic, as some expected. To call a cocktail "juicy" sounds like an incredible bit of hyperbole, but this delectable sipper does invoke the juiciness of the sweet Georgia stonefruit that inspired it.
To test this little beauty, we also mixed it with ginger ale and lemonade (which was fine), but the Sparkling Peach, a cocktail recommended by the distiller, was an honest-to-goodness revelation. Reviewers, including Mashed, agreed that this whisky isn’t gross — like so many are. Sure, it’s sweet, but it’s not syrupy or cloying like our testers initially expected. Even the first whiff was delightful; it almost smells like true peaches y’all. At the very least, it doesn’t smell like anything synthetic; the scent is quite appealing, like a smooth combination of rye and something close to a juicy peach. There’s no weird chemical aftertaste here, so much so that we’re looking forward to trying out more cocktails with this little brew.
This one absolutely won over our testers. Sweet, certainly … but not so overly sweet that we didn’t enjoy it. It retains a palatable crispness from the proprietor’s blend of Crown Royal’s Fine De Luxe whisky and Regal Gala apples (as per Liquor), making it an enduringly drinkable choice for anyone who isn’t big into imbibing straight whisky. Some of our testers found that it was actually quaffable on its own (with just a big ice cube), but the delightful aroma and taste meant that it was mixed with a number of different options. Crown Royal is, after all, a blended whisky — it can be used in place of all sorts of liquors, including as a substitute for bourbon, Scotch, or rye, so feel free to experiment with this tasty little number as you see fit.
The distiller mentions that the Regal Apple blend doesn’t just taste like apples and whisky; the underlying hints of spice and caramel make this option a great mixer for several cocktails that won’t be overpowered by just one flavor. Winemag’s review notes a touch of faux-appleness, which is expected in the world of spirits. Still, they also mention that it does manage to retain the taste of whisky that some of the other offerings have lost in the process of flavoring.