Crown Royal Bourbon Mash

Crown Royal's Bourbon Mash made a bit of a splash when it was first released a few weeks back owing to the fact that the Canadian whisky giant was perceived to have committed a faux pas by using the word "bourbon" in the product name as a descriptor of the whisky's mash type. American and Canadian whisky bloggers alike leapt into the fray and, within days, parent company Diageo announced a compromise of sorts: in the USA it will be re-branded as "Blender's Mash" and it'll remain Bourbon Mash here in Canada.  

Controversy aside, this first release from Crown Royal's new Blender's Series was selected to showcase one of the  component whiskies that make up the iconic Canadian whisky brand. Don't let it's affable, easy-going style fool you into thinking it's a "simple" whisky; making Crown Royal is a surprisingly complex bit of blending!  The company's team of Master Blenders select from 50 or so whiskies of differing ages, barrel conditioning, and grain types, to create each batch of Crown Royal. 

These whiskies are divided into two main "streams": base whiskies and flavouring whiskies. The base stream is derived entirely from all-corn spirits made either by continuous distillation or by batch process in a column still after a longer fermentation time and are aged for various time periods in a variety of barrels thereby creating a range of options from which the blenders can draw.

The flavouring stream contains a high rye whisky (the same found in Northern Harvest Rye) and two other whiskies made using a mash bill style typically employed by American producers whereby different grain types are combined, mashed, fermented, and distilled together. Like the base stream, the flavouring whiskies are also aged in varying barrel types for different durations.

As you've probably guessed by now, the Bourbon Mash is sourced from one of the flavouring whisky streams. Made from a mash bill of 64% corn, 31.5% rye and 4.5% malted barley, it's distilled by way of a short column still then aged in a combination of new charred American oak and ex-bourbon barrels for at least 3 years. The whisky was then blended with a number of other vintages from this stream and bottled at 40% ABV.

So, while it may not be a bourbon per se, it's certainly made in that style.
Nose: Quite nutty upfront with a mix of roasted peanuts in the skin and walnut oil followed closely by toffee and the sweet corn aromas you'd expect in a "bourbon" profile. A perfume-like whiff of apples and lavender scented talc round out the nose. 

Palate: Easy-drinking, smooth and full-bodied, almost creamy, with big vanilla and caramel flavours. Dried fruit, dusty oak and a dash of allspice warm things up just before the finish.

Finish: Spicy with a bit of a bite that's both delicately astringent and mouth-watering. A moderately long finish that fades from sweet caramel tones to a nutty and slightly bitter orange oil.

Overall: Fans of Crown Royal will likely find the Bourbon Mash/Blender's Mash an accessible introduction to the bourbon style. While die-hard bourbon junkies may feel a bit underwhelmed by the simplicity of the dram; it's hard to argue with the price. At $37.95 in the LCBO, and only a few bucks more than the standard Jim Beam, Evan Williams etc.. you could think of the Bourbon Mash as a softer, more polished variant of the style.  In essence, a straight-forward and highly quaffable Canadian version of a bourbon.

Ed. Thanks to North Strategic for providing a sample bottle for this review.

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