XO on the Rocks: There's a New Whisky in Town

By Tom Burke

<p></p><p>How's that new Canadian whisky, eh?</p><br><p></p>

The snow was just starting to stick to the concrete as I made my way to the United Center. The weather wasn’t wholly oppressive, but it did have me tilting more toward the dark side than I usually do. I let that saltiness ferment in me. I maybe even cultivated it.

Odd, I know, but there was a point to this exercise. I wasn’t at the Chicago Bulls game just to watch Joakim Noah power toward a triple-double. I was there for the VIP launch of a new whisky, and I wanted to grow my inner whisky-drinker for the evening, to prime myself not for gargle and spit, but for a more primeval gargle and gulp. In short, enduring the snow—and unbuttoning my coat in spite of it—was my way of getting good and thirsty for some firewater.

THE BOOZE: Crown Royal XO, an ultrapremium, blended Canadian whisky (the blend comprises more than 50 Crown Royal whiskies) finished in cognac casks from the French Limousin Forest.

Yes, it’s a very fancy whisky.

THE DRINKING INSTRUCTION: Crown Royal XO is best enjoyed neat, on the rocks or as the key ingredient in a number of classic cocktail recipes.

Yes, please.

Inside the Diageo suite, safe from the elements, I prepared myself for the upcoming tasting with one of the recommended Crown Royal XO cocktails (XO and ginger ale), as well as with a few sticks of chicken satay. So far, everything was very tasty. The stadium was filling up with people and sounds. The Crown Royal ambassadors, in matching clingy grey minidresses, began populating our suite. They greeted us and let us know the tasting would begin soon. Terrific, I thought, probably just enough time for one more Crown XO and ginger.

The tasting: We were given two glasses with about half a finger of the goods in each, one of Crown Royal DeLuxe (the purple bag) and one of the new Crown Royal XO (which comes in a sleek gray bag). I wasted no time in sampling, but I’d knocked back half of each when our tasting guru instructed us to start things off by picking up the DeLuxe and taking a whiff. I played it cool, put the glass up to my nose and rapid-fire mini-sniffed, as I was told to do. It smelled nice, like whisky. We were then told to take a sip and swish it around in our mouths, which got the gums burning a bit.

Most interestingly, we were asked to add a bit of water to the whisky, which helps release the complexity of flavors—I was amazed at how this actually worked. It really did increase the depth and variety of what was in my mouth. Incidentally, I’ve been a longtime a-few-ice-cubes-in-my-whisky kind of guy, so it was reassuring to learn that I’ve been doing it for good reason, and not just because I’m too delicate for room temperature neat whisky.

We repeated the process with the Crown Royal XO, and it was significantly more delicious than the Crown Royal DeLuxe. For me, it was tastiest with a small amount of water in it, bringing out some star anise and fruit.

After the short tasting, we were released back to our own devices. I continued to sample Crown Royal beverages. I watched some basketball with a glass of Crown Royal Maple, which is ultrasweet like maple syrup, though pretty easy drinking. The Crown Royal team describes XO as a once-a-week whisky, or for special occasions, but I was ready for some more after my halftime trip to the pasta station. Then I had a double of Crown Royal Reserve, which was well balanced and had a nice flavor. For dessert, I had a big Crown Royal XO on the rocks.

Summary: the more drinks I consumed, the tastier they got and the smoother they went down.

Thank you, Crown Royal. Jacket not required on the way home.


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