DON'T DO IT!

Really. Trust us, we’ve tried to make it work, but most Halloween candy is a terrible match with wine. Don’t worry though, because Halloween candy pairs perfectly with whiskey! 

O'Looney's Knob Creek 2016 Barrel Select

A dominating nose of cinnamon gives way to the delicate aroma of roasting chestnuts. This is followed by confirming notes of cinnamon, apricot, raisin, and pecan on the palate.

O'Looney's Crown Royal 2016 Barrel Select

A touch of sweetness gives way to notes of tropical fruit, including pineapple, date, and dried mango. On the palate, vanilla, caramel, and brown sugar evoke nuances of fruitcake and spiced bread.


Crown Royal, the landmark Canadian whiskey brand, has long been known by its distinctive crown-capped bottles and purple felt bag. It’s the nation’s top-selling Canadian whisky brand, and is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its import into the United States in 2016.

 

When O’Looney’s was invited to participate in Crown Royal’s Barrel Select program again, we knew instantly that we couldn’t pass on this opportunity.  After our resounding success on the O’Looney’s Barrel Select 2015 (we sold out very quickly), we knew that our commitment to this expression of the brand was a lock. The barrel select program allows retailers to purchase an entire barrel of the iconic whiskey, ensuring that they are the only retailer in the world who is selling that barrel. It’s a great program that allows us to bring a truly one-of-a-kind product to our guests.

 

Typically, most stores opt to let one of Crown Royal’s own Master Distillers select their barrel, but we didn’t feel like that was the right decision for us. In January, we met with Crown Royal representatives to taste through 12 samples from 12 unique barrels.

 

Crown Royal is produced in the small, lakeside town of Gimli, Manitoba in Canada. On the shore of the massive Lake Winnipeg, Gimli experiences extreme shifts in its weather. The barrels of aging whiskey are exposed to dynamic changes in temperature. The wooden staves on the barrels expand and contract with the temperature to allow more (or sometimes less) oak barrel characteristics to seep into the whiskey. For more on this process check out our post “A Beginner’s Guide to Oak.” Because the barrels are stored in massive buildings, the location of the barrel within the building can drastically affect the way the barrel ages.

 

In tasting our 12 samples, we noted where each barrel was stored in the warehouse, so to understand how the warmer parts of the storage facility might change the precious liquid. With so many samples- we tasted in flights. Again and again. And again.  It’s hard work if you can get it, but after more than a few tastes- a clear favorite emerged. (and a few co-worker headaches the next morning I might add)

 

In the end, we chose barrel 444. We all agreed that it leaned heavily on notes of baking spices. Its sugars caramelized in such a way that it lends an air of tropical fruits to the blend. The two paths combine into suggestive aromas of banana bread and pineapple upside down cake. The finish is long with a subtle nuance of vanilla.

CR-select

You can now find our hand picked, very limited barrel selection of whiskey sitting on the shelf. Judging by last year’s barrel, we won’t hang onto in for long. We know you’ll like our pick, and can’t wait to share it with you.


Glass of whiskey with ice on black stone table.

If you’re not a regular scotch drinker, the many different terms and locations that are involved can be confusing. Hopefully we can clear up a few of these terms and give you a little bit of a guide when trying out a new drink.

A single malt is a whiskey made entirely from malted barley from a single distillery. Most of the whiskeys in our store are single malts.

Single grain means that contrary to what the name implies, the scotch can be made from a mix of barley, wheat, rye, or corn and must come from a single distillery. In general, single grain scotches are cheaper to produce because they’re not entirely barley based, and barely is the most expensive grain. Nikki Coffey Grain is the only single grain we carry.

Blended scotch can be a mixture of grains and is a blend of different distilleries’ production. These can be extremely cheap or extremely expensive. Examples include Johnny Walker, Chivas, and Dewars are all blends.

Much like wine, single malts express regional styles. In Scotland, the main regions are the Highlands, the Lowlands, Islands and Skye, Islay, Speyside, and the Coastal West Highlands.

Scotch Map

The Highlands are the largest and most diverse region. Most of the scotches produced here can be described as light, sweet, and fruity, but this belies the broad range of scotches the region has to offer.

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The Scottish Highlands

The Lowlands are home to most of the distillation in Scotland, however, most of this is grain whiskey destined for blends. The few remaining single malt producers here are known for triple distilling which produces a light, easy drinking scotch. Glenkinchie, and Auchentoshan are the main two but there are plans to open more in the region.

Speyside was part of the highlands until 2009. It produces more than 60% of all single malt scotch made in Scotland. It largely produces scotches similar in style to highland whiskey and is the home to Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, and Macallan. Those distillers collectively makeup one-third of the single malt market and are all from Speyside.

Distillation in the Coastal West Highlands is centered in the town of Campbeltown, which was once home to more than thirty distilleries. Now that number has shrunk to three: Springban, Glen Scotia, and Glengyle. Stylistically, the region is hard to pin down as each distillery has a unique style, but they are all by notes of smoke and brine.

campbeltown

Campletown harbor

Island scotches, especially, the Isle of Skye, are all uniquely affected by the sea. The main islands to know are Arran, Mull, Jura, Skye, Lewis, and Orkney. Many of these islands were home to illegal distilleries trying to avoid heavy taxes. The styles are too disparate to describe a common character as each one is a one of a kind representation of its home island. 

A panorama of the Isle of Skye

A panorama of the Isle of Skye

Islay is the southernmost island in scotch producing island in Scotland and is considered its own unique region. There are eight distilleries currently operating on the island with more in the way. The style is dominated by the use of peat in the malting process. This gives the whiskeys a distinct smokey flavor that combines with the ocean air to produce a taste that is prized by scotch connoisseurs. 

No matter your experience level with Scotch, there’s always something new to try – lets us show you something new next time you’re in the shop.