Canada’s best-selling whisky, which is also America’s best-selling Canadian whisky, is also its best tasting. On January 13, 2022, nine independent whisky experts named Crown Royal Nobel Collection Winter Wheat, 45% ABV Canada’s best whisky and Canadian Whisky of the Year. The twelfth annual Canadian Whisky Awards also awarded top honours to Crown Royal for Best Blended Whisky and Sippin’ Whisky of the Year.
The judging panel described the whisky as:
Hugely complex with the sweet vanilla softness of wheat, nutty barley, and the elegance of corn. Rich in dried dark fruits, chocolate-covered bananas, and sweet pipe tobacco with a punch of spice and distinctly crisp barrel tones. Simply glorious.
The winning whisky was distilled at Diageo Global Supply distillery in Gimli, Manitoba and blended in Diageo’s blending lab in Montreal.
“This is truly a remarkable whisky, so deserving of the accolade,” said Davin de Kergommeaux, head judge and founder of the awards. “Rather than chasing trends, Crown Royal takes a long view of whisky making. Nine independent judges awarded Crown Royal Winter Wheat the highest overall score among well over 150 Canadian whiskies tasted.”
Other major winners include Pendleton Director’s Reserve 20 YO, 40% ABV, which was named Connoisseur Whisky of the Year in the multi-market category.
The official tasting note described the whisky as:
Butterscotch, almond granola, peppery spices, dried orange peel, clean oak, lush body, long creamy finish with beautiful tannic bitters.
JP Wiser’s Red Letter 15 YO 45% ABV, was judged the Connoisseur Whisky of the Year – Canada Exclusive, and best line extension. The tasting note described it as:
Hot peppery spices right off the bat then oak caramels, fruit cocktail, mildly nutty, resolving into dry oak. A lasting spicy glow with fruit and clean wood.
Royal Canadian Small Batch, 40% ABV was the 2022 Sippin’ Whisky of the Year. The Judging Panel described it as:
Grain, caramel and clean oak, with dark fruits, hints of chocolate malt, and cinnamon sticks. Mild dusty rye, creamy, and mouth-filling. Very nice caramel and oak with fruity accents. Nice, lengthened finish as well.
Black Velvet Original, 40% ABV took home accolades as Whisky Value of the Year in the export market, while Canadian Club 100% Rye was named Best Whisky Value among multiple market expressions.
The Judging Panel described the Black Velvet as:
Caramel, fruity, crisp and clean, glowing spices, hints of rye, leather, orange peel, and some bitter pith on the finish.
While the Canadian Club 100% Rye, 40% ABV was described as:
Sweet flowers, toffee, rye spices, hints of anise, slowly develops hot dusty spices, firm body with lingering sweet fruits and baking spices.
Diageo Global Supply
Gimli also took the award for the 2022 Distillery of the Year, while Okanagan Spirits in Vernon, British Columbia was awarded Artisanal Distillery of the Year. Crown Royal blender, Joanna Zanin Scandella received accolades for Lifetime Achievement.
Innovation of the Year went to the truly original Forty Creek Master’s Cut, made by blending whiskies, some from as far back as 1996, then re-distilling them and re-maturing them for five more years.
Technically this is a 5 YO whisky, even though it was distilled from whiskies that were far older. It started out as whisky that had become to woody because of prolonged aging in barrels. According to Fourth Creek’s Master Distiller, Bill Ashburn, the whisky was slowly redistilled in four batches. It was only distilled once and then casked at 44.5% ABV. Over the ensuing five years the alcoholic strength increased to 48.5%.
The Judging Panel described the whisky as another home run for Forty Creek, featuring:
Soft and creamy yet laden with peppery spices and crisp oakiness. Stewed fruit, vanilla, citrus tones, and nutty grain.
Noting that it “feels big in the mouth.”
The Canadian Whisky Awards, held annually in conjunction with the Victoria Whisky Festival, recognize the very best Canadian whiskies and according to Kergommeaux “encourage distillers to maintain the highest quality standards.”
To qualify for the awards, the whisky must be distilled and matured in Canada.
Judging is by an independent panel of whisky experts, which selects the winners after tasting each whisky blind. Operated on a not-for-profit basis, the Canadian Whisky Awards are fully independent of the Canadian whisky industry.
Canadian Whisky Awards 2022 Winners
· Canadian Whisky of the Year – Crown Royal Nobel Collection Winter Wheat
Also won Best Blended Whisky, Sippin’ Whisky of the Year – Multi-Market
Distilled and Blended by Diageo won Distillery of the Year – (Diageo Global Supply – Gimli) and Blender of the Year – (Diageo Blending Lab – Montreal)
· Connoisseur Whisky of the Year – Multi-Market – Pendleton Director’s Reserve 20 YO
· Connoisseur Whisky of the Year – Canada Only – JP Wiser’s Red Letter 15 YO
· Sippin’ Whisky of the Year – Export – Royal Canadian Small Batch
· Whisky Value of the Year – Canada Only – and Artisanal Distiller of the Year – Okanagan Spirits (BRBN)
· Whisky Value of the Year – Export Market – Black Velvet Original
· Whisky Value of the Year – Multi-Market – Canadian Club 100% Rye
· Innovation of the Year – Forty Creek Master’s Cut