Montreal·Q&A

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye creator: It's 'phenomenal' to be whisky of the year

A Canadian whisky has been crowned the world’s best by a leading publication, and stores cannot keep it in stock.

Joanna Scandella is part of the team that created blend honoured by Jim Murray's Whisky Bible

Joanna Scandella is a member of the team that created the Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye blend. (CBC)

A Canadian whisky has been crowned the world's best by a leading publication, and stores cannot keep it in stock.

Since being crowned the best whisky of the year by Jim Murray's Whisky Bible, Crown Royal's Northern Harvest Rye has been sold out nationwide.

In fact, people from the Gimli, Manitoba-based distiller itself are re-importing cases from the U.S. to feed ravenous Canadian demand.

One of the blend's creators, Joanna Scandella, stopped by the CBC Montreal studios to talk about her whisky's accolades.

This is a summary of the conversation.

Jim Murray's Whisky Bible wrote,"Their rye is not just profound and three-dimensional, but it has that extraordinary trick of allowing new elements to take their place." Is that something you have to master when you make a rye?

That's why it's blended whisky. When you blend, it's not 1+1 = 2, it's 1+1 = 3. So by blending, you allow additional complexities and you get waves of flavour and rye is the most flavourful whisky we make.

How do you best appreciate this kind of whisky?

You first get a sense of the aroma, and that's important. Then you hold the glass in your palm to make the vapours come up a bit. Take a little sip, swirl it around from side to side, swallow and enjoy.

What kind of equipment is used to distill it?

By Canadian law, all Canadian whisky has to be mashed, fermented and distilled in Canada. We have huge tanks to ferment it, different kinds of stills, and many warehouses to store the barrels. We let nature do what it does to mature the whisky in the barrel.

When you made this blend, was it your intention to make it to the Whisky Bible?

I always work on Crown Royal Deluxe. My target is always to make a quality product. To have been recognized for it is phenomenal.

What kind of training is needed to make whisky blends?

We all come from diverse backgrounds. I love things sensory, so I started with food science and chemistry. I worked at a winery, then at Seagram making rum. Ten years ago they asked me to join the whisky group. You need to have an affinity for blending, and be a little good with numbers.

When can people here get the Northern Harvest again?

I'm afraid not before February. This was really a surprise. We're taking the trouble to bring Crown Royal back from the U.S. because it's in such high demand.

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