Crown Royal's 'whisky of the year' flying off the shelves

Considering its scarcity, Crown Royal's Northern Harvest Rye might be the closest thing to liquid gold in Canada right now.

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The Canadian whisky has lovers of the brown spirits rushing to stores, only to return home empty-handed in many cases.

Its rich butterscotch flavour, with notes of spiced vanilla and pepper, received the ultimate endorsement last month when it garnered the top spot in Jim Murray's 2016 Whisky Bible.

Murray gave the whisky a score of 97.5 points out of 100, and wrote a glowing review of the drink online.

"Rye, that most eloquent of grains, not just turning up to charm and enthral but to also take us through a routine which reaches new heights of beauty and complexity," he wrote in an excerpt of the book posted to a blog called the Whisky Exchange.

"To say this is a masterpiece is barely doing it justice."

Besides its critical acclaim, the rye was is also being sold at an appealing price point of about $30, making it an attractive holiday present for whisky lovers.

At one liquor store in Vancouver, the shelves were stocked with 240 bottles, only to see them snagged within four hours.

"It was just a matter of watching this pile go down, down and down," Jeff Guignard, executive direct of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, told CTV Vancouver.

Christopher Bonnallie, supervisor at Vancouver's Legacy Liquor Store, says the Northern Harvest is without a doubt the "best rye whisky on the planet," but hasn't even had a chance to taste it yet, which is unusual considering his position.

"I have not personally tried it yet, which is shocking working in the industry that even I can't get a bottle," he said.

Consumers are running into similar shortages across the country, including in Alberta which received 30,000 bottles in November and another 6,000 last week.

The Crown Royal sat quietly on the shelves of an Edmonton liquor store that specializes in rare spirits shelves for two weeks, prior to Murray's review.

"Nobody really wanted it; suddenly it was named and it took off," said one of the store's employees.

"They didn't expect the demand, I guess, and it being Canadian it's going to sell better," he added.

Alistair Kidd, the brand director for Crown Royal's parent company Diageo Canada, told CTV Edmonton that this is the first time they've dealt with such a high demand for Canadian whisky.

"I think it is very much a source of pride that a Canadian whisky has been named as world whisky of the year," he said.

The demand is so high that it is driving many whisky hunters online in search of any remaining stock.

In some cases, the Northern Harvest is selling for more than $100 – or $70 above its original price.

But it is a price that some are willing to pay for what they hope will be the crown jewel of their whisky collection.

With reports from CTV Edmonton and CTV Vancouver


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