Crown Royal, the whisky-maker from the small Manitoba community of Gimli, has won a world title and been labeled a "masterpiece."
Its Northern Harvest Rye has been named the 2016 World Whisky of the Year, marking the first time a Canadian whisky has received the honour.
Renowned British whisky writer Jim Murray announced the designation on Friday, giving Northern Harvest Rye a record-tying 97.5 out of 100 points in his 13th annual Whisky Bible.
"To say this is a masterpiece is barely doing it justice," Murray said in a news release, adding that it takes rye to "new heights of beauty and complexity."
The choice has stunned some people, according to an article in Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, but Murray's not surprised. Similar ripples were made when the 2015 title went to a Japanese single malt.
"Last year people were shocked when I gave Yamazaki the award – until they tasted it. Then they saw it was not the affront to scotch they first thought and something truly extraordinary," Murray said.
This is the second consecutive year that Scotland has missed out in a top five placing in the Whisky Bible, said Murray, who tasted more than 1,000 new whiskies before choosing the Northern Harvest Rye, which sells for $32.99 for 750 ml in Manitoba.
"This year, doubtless there will be many more eyebrows raised because rarely is Canada mentioned when it come to the world's top whiskies," he said. "But, again, I have no doubt people finding the bottling I tasted will be blown away with this whisky's uncompromising and unique beauty."
The distillery in Gimli, a community of just over 1,900 on the western shore of Lake Winnipeg, began producing Crown Royal whisky in 1939 — the year of the royal visit by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth — and it was only available in Canada until 1964.
Northern Harvest Rye came out this year.
"We couldn't be more proud," said Alistair Kidd of Diageo Canada, which bought the Crown Royal line from Seagram in 2000.
"Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye showcases the rye whisky that is integral to making Canadian whisky unique, and is a testament to the incredible distilling and blending that takes place in Gimli."
Jim Murray's 2016 World Whiskies of the Year
- Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
- Pikesville Straight Rye
- Midleton Dair Ghaelach
- William Larue Weller Bourbon
- Suntory Yamazaki Mizunara
"To be honest, I had been considering actually demoting Canadian whisky from having its own chapter in the Bible. The quality of Canadian has been disappointing me for some time with too many non-whisky products, like fruit juice or wine, being added to give a softer flavour," said Murray.
"Then Crown Royal Northern Harvest pops up out of nowhere and changes the game. I think other distillers out there have to have a close look at this and see if they can at least have a go at reaching where this new bar has been set."
Manitoba Liquor Mart employees at many of the stores reported being sold out of the award-winning drink as of Friday night.