View Full Version : 1940's/1950's Crown Royal

07-25-2007, 07:57
Recently a friend at work gave me this bottle, it was sheathed in the famous blue velvet bag and only latterly removed from its brown ("library"-style) carton.

The intent is to do a comparative tasting with other CRs. I also have the current regular CR; the current Special Reserve version; a 1963 CR; and XR (the new luxury version using whisky from the long defunct Waterloo, Ontario distillery). Only Limited Edition is lacking, and we may be able to find one for the comparative.

I did a preliminary tasting last night just of the new 50's/40's one. It is hard to date it exactly since its stamp and markings do not assist in this regard. Data from the family who owned it and the look of the bottle and carton suggest a late 40's/early 50's vintage.

The bottle was tightly closed with a purple plastic (bakelite?) cap. An Ontario Liquor Board stamp was pasted over which stretches to the bottom of each side of the short neck. The stamp seems to pre-date the ones which bore the distillation date of the youngest whisky in the bottle. E.g., "1963" is printed on the stamp of the 1963 bottling. Since the youngest whisky in CR (at the time anyway) was 10 years old, this means the whisky was put on the market in 1973.

The reverse label of the 40's/50's one states that whiskies as old as 30 years are included in the blend. The original CR bottlings contained this statement (as far as I know), but at some point it was abandoned, e.g., it is not found on the 1963 bottling.

Over the stamp and around the cap was placed tightly a clear plastic tape. It seems to have been put on after purchase, probably by the previous owner to prevent evaporation. I was told the owner had been collecting these to use in future family celebrations and the reason to hoard stocks was that whisky was scarce at the time, which might suggest a 1940's (wartime) origin. Since the whisky was kept throughout its storage in its bag which was tightly closed with a drawstring and the bag in turn was in a closed carton, the glass and labels are very clean and it is hard therefore to estimate the age from these elements alone.

After removing the plastic protector I twisted off the cap which took a bit of an effort: it was very tight, again the previous owner may have applied extra torque to assist in the preservation of the whisky; if so his strategy worked.

No alcohol volume level is indicated anywhere on the packaging. I would think it is 40% abv but maybe it was higher at the time.

The colour is very close to that of regular CR today. The nose also is very similar, i.e., is quite light with hints of caramel, oak and faint char notes.

The taste surprised me: I thought it would be full and rich but it wasn't. It was kind of sharp, quite neutral, and disclosed light oak and other elements of the nose. It was again quite close to the regular CR of today and possibly less flavourful.

There is the faintest hint of straight rye or some kind of batch rye whisky presence. Maybe a little U.S. or U.S.-type straight rye was added, or perhaps something akin to, say, Hotalings Potrero (i.e., a low-proof whisky aged in reused charred or any non-charred wood). Maybe some of the components were aged in ex-straight bourbon or rye barrels.

Anyhow, the predominant taste is quite neutral. There are no off flavours whatever, the whisky is remarkably well preserved.

I have tasted other CRs from the 1950s which had (seemingly) more flavour and in particular more sweetness and both flowery and metallic notes, but probably the bottlings would have varied somewhat (as no doubt today).

The 1963 CR is sweeter and rather more lush than its older sibling but when I got it it contained only a few ounces. I am wondering if prolonged exposure to air in the bottle may have imparted (in some way) additional flavours. Alternatively, maybe by the 1960's it was decided to give more taste to CR, I just don't know.

Anyway, it is a fascinating time capsule since it contains some whisky distilled as early as the 1920's, however, as I say it is quite mild in taste. The Canadian style clearly from early days was to go for a fairly neutral palate. The main tastes I get are neutral-type alcohol and oak-related flavours (reused charred or fresh oak although some "fresh" char notes are present especially in the glass after emptied).

Maybe it will open up a bit now that the bottle has been opened for the first time in 50 or 60 years but frankly I think this unlikely.

I plan to do a semi-blind tasting with the other bottles mentioned and will report the results here.


07-25-2007, 15:07
Postscript: my friend Les said perhaps CR issued in the 40's or even a little later would have employed more aged neutral spirits than normally because of the whisky shortages associated with wartime. Good point, this may explain the rather neutral palate of this oldie. Also, the aftertaste has the faintest rosewater-like taste I don't get from CR today, but it is fairly subtle.


Hedmans Brorsa
07-27-2007, 03:21
An interesting read, Gary. I look forward to your tasting.

At the moment, the only CR I have at home, is the Special Reserve (discontinued?). It says Waterloo on the label. Have you ever been there? Or is it completely razed to the ground?

07-27-2007, 05:13
Interesting, you must have one of the first Special Reserves issued since the Waterloo distillery has not been operating for some 20 years or more I believe. Mine does not state Waterloo but mentions a website, www.crownroyal.com, and the name Diageo.

The Special Reserve is quite good; in fact, the 40's/50's one is quite close to it although a little more neutral in taste. The Special Reserve seems a little sweeter and possibly to contain more actual bourbon (to me it tastes like it has some of that 16-17 year old S-W in it Diageo held back after selling S-W).

Maybe Special Reserve is intended to represent the palate of the original CR. On the other hand, the 40's/50's one presents (in the slight rye tangs) similarities to Limited Edition (that dryish rye/oak flavour).

Really they are all of a piece, which shows a remarkable consistency over the years. Jackson in his 1987 whisky book said the Seagram hallmark is a certain oakiness and as usual, he gets it right, they all present that quality in a shared way.

The results of the semi-blind tasting will be interesting, I'll report them here.

07-27-2007, 05:16
Most of the buildings are still standing (Seagram's in Waterloo) but have been converted in some cases to condominiums.


Hedmans Brorsa
07-27-2007, 09:22
Im enclosing a couple of pictures, if you have any modern bottles to compare with.

Im pretty sure that I have seen the golden-coloured box with a photo of the bottle on the front, but Im not sure.

Racking my brains, trying to remember where i bought this one. Probably somewhere in Germany some three years ago (it is almost empty).

I cant lay claims to be an authority on premium Canadian whisky but to me it came across as unusually bourbony. A little like a diet version of 10yo AAA, if that makes sense.

07-27-2007, 11:12
My bottle looks very similar. I agree on the bourbony note, I think that is part of its profile.


08-08-2007, 08:47
Wow! A terrific little tale Gillman! I'd love to have a chance to taste a Crown Royal of that age, let alone one in the 1960's. I have an unopened bottle with a 1983 stamp on it but that's as old as I've seen/aquired!

Are you having trouble finding Crown Royal Limited?
If you have any Real Canadian Superstore's in your area - try their liquor outlet, it is usually in stock.

08-08-2007, 09:14
Okay, thanks. The truth is the oldie was very similar to today's, not identical, but very close. The 60's one seemed the most distant to regular current CR but even that is relative and also, the Special Reserve and XR kind of equal the ante. There is an old expression, the more things change, the more they stay the same - not always true in the liquor world but true for Crown Royal - a testament to the company's formula and quality control methods.