The onslaught of premium whisky produced in North America is seemingly here to stay, and Crown Royal has added another blended iron to the fire with the gray-sacked Crown Royal XO.
Over the past 75 years, Crown Royal Deluxe (standard) has gone from an unavailable whisky made literally just for the royals, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, to a $7 spirit (over $100 today) that only for the best hockey players could afford to the $20 whisky it is today. It still remains the first whisky most teenagers assume is ridiculously fancy because of its crown shaped bottle and purple bag that inevitably ends up holding golf balls.
There were only two iterations of Crown, Deluxe and Reserve, for the 41 years before Diageo bought the brand. In the past eight years they’ve introduced four more, XR, Black, Maple, and now XO, three of which came in the last four years. To say the whiskyy business is booming is disingenuous to demolitions experts everywhere.
I was hesitant to believe that XO would be differentiated enough from Black to justify its place on the shelf. I may have even talked some shit about them when I thought no one was looking (they weren’t because I was alone in my apartment), but when Diageo invited me to an event at the United Center, I figured it was a low risk way to give it a shot. Now, I’m willing to admit that I was wrong. While Black made Crown bolder, XO made it deeper. There’s a sex joke in there somewhere, but I’m feeling way too regal to make it.
XO is blended from 50 different whiskys then finished in Limousin cognac casks for roughly 6-9 months (they won’t say exactly how long), and it’s that extra finishing that makes all the difference. The staves from the cognac casks are broken down in France and shipped to Canada where they are reconstructed and filled with the new blended whisky. The added time isn’t meant to further age the juice but rather to impart unique flavors from the cognac seasoned casks. It also works to round out the edges to the point where Bud Light is probably considering suing them over XO’s “drinkability.”
Like all Crown’s offerings, there is no age statement on XO. It’s at least three years old per Canadian regulations, but the 50 different spirits could be anywhere from that 3 to the mid-teens. 6-9 years tends to be the Canadian killzone though, so if you’re an ageophile, 6 years is probably a good guess. Like Aaliyah once sang in an effort to justify marrying R.Kelly when she was 15, “age ain’t nothing but a number.”
The $50 price tag is a bit steep, but XO will live up to your wallet’s expectations. It’s certainly more palatable than the $179.99 that XR costs. My dad used to give my grandfather a bottle of Crown every Christmas, and I have continued that legacy. If you’re reading this, dad, expect an upgrade to your annual allotment.