Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye 'far from' best in world, says Calgary whisky expert

Calgary whisky expert believes Jim Murray crowned Canadian whisky best in world to ‘get attention'

Posted: November 24, 2015
Last Updated: November 24, 2015

Renowned British whisky writer Jim Murray gave Crown Royal's Northern Harvest Rye a record-tying 97.5 out of 100 points in his 13th annual Whisky Bible. (

Some eyebrows are being raised over Jim Murray's deep love for a particular variety of Canadian whisky.

The author of the Whisky Bible recently proclaimed that Crown Royal Northern Harvest, made in Gimli, Man., is the best whisky of the year.

"The nose, actually in the [Whisky] Bible, gets 25 out of 25 which is extremely rare to get top marks just for the aroma," Murray told CBC Radio's As It Happens on Friday.


But a Calgary whisky expert wonders if Murray's praise for the Canadian whisky is just a marketing ploy.

"What this is an example of to me, is somebody who is trying to get attention for himself and for his book, so he makes what he knows is a very controversial choice," said Andrew Ferguson, owner of the Kensington Wine Market.

Andrew Ferguson is a whisky expert and owner of the Kensington Wine Market in Calgary. (CBC)

Controversial, because whisky purists — especially in Scotland — turn their noses up at Canadian rye. 

"It's called snobbery," said Murray. "People automatically think, if it's not single malt scotch, it can't be good."

Murray told As It Happens crowning a Canadian whisky best in show was actually terrible marketing and figures it will push Scottish distilleries to stop stocking his book.  

"When I told my head of sales and marketing that it was a Canadian whisky — his hands just covered his head and he shook his head and said. 'Well that's it. We're going to lose massive amounts of sales.'"


'Far from' the best

By no means does Ferguson think the Crown Royal Northern Harvest is bad, but in his opinion, it is "far from" the best whisky in the world.

"There's a lot of critics out there and I think what I don't like about it is driving sales on one person's opinion," he said.

Ferguson describes the whisky as "very oily and spicy" and not something you'd want to use to make a rye and coke.

"It's made to be drunk neat and to have character."

Flying off shelves 

Sales have spiked for Crown Royal Northern Harvest since Murray named it the 2016 World Whisky of the Year. In fact, Ferguson says it has already sold out in Alberta at the distribution level.

"Retailers who haven't bought any yet will not get it," he said. "We have a little over 100 bottles and most of it's already sold and it's not even in the shop."

Although Ferguson, himself, does not give the nose on the Northern Harvest top scores —  he doesn't think that should deter people from giving it a try.

"In my opinion should this be the best whisky in the world? No. Is it very good and should people consider buying it and trying it? Absolutely."