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Every now and then, we in the wine and spirits biz get to attend “work” dinners.  In late September, Lesley and I got a babysitter (hooray!) and off to a special Crown Royal dinner at Shapley’s Restaurant we went.

Hosted by Rod McCormick and Michael Steen of Diageo and Mississippi Sales Corp., the dinner provided us a chance to taste through the Crown Royal family and, of course, have some fantastic food from Shapley’s.

There are four members of the Crown Family.  First, the “base model” that we all know is a rich blend of fine Canadian whiskies that goes well with everything from a few ice cubes to the always-popular Crown and Coke.  The next three offerings get more and more special as they go.  The second level of Crown is the Special Reserve, which is unique in that the whiskies chosen to make up its blend are hand-selected by the master distiller.  They are viewed, in his eyes, as the finest representations of Canadian whiskey that the distillery has to offer.

Next in line, and my personal favorite, is the Crown Royal Cask No.16.  Again using whiskies hand-selected by the master distiller, these are chosen on their stand-alone merit and blended to be the best suited for the final phase of aging that makes the Cask No. 16 so fantastic.  For the last six months of the aging process, these whiskies are put into French Cognac casks.  This step gives a greater richness and new dimension of flavors to the already smooth blend of whiskies.

Finally, the Patriarch of the Crown Royal family is the Crown Royal XR.  This blend of fine whiskies comes from casks recovered during the excavation of the Waterloo Distillery, which burned in 1993.  The Waterloo Distillery housed casks of the finest whiskies from decades and decades of prior batches, many of which are as old as 60 years.  This extremely rare (XR) bottling of whiskey is also extremely limited, as there were a finite number of casks recovered.  The flavor of the XR is somewhat similar to that of the Special Reserve, but the smoothness is unmatched as a result of years of rest.
In addition to this unbelievable line-up of Canadian whiskey, we also enjoyed a fantastic meal at Shapley’s Restaurant—the finest steak house in the South.  From the fresh crab claws and house-made hot tamales to the perfectly prepared steaks, the food was a knock-out!

One of our “celebrity” guests was Ralph Foster of Habana Smoke Shop.  Naturally, he brought a fine smoke—the latest cigar offering from Zino/Davidoff.  The party then moved outside to the patio for another glass of our favorite Crown, a killer smoke, great conversation and jokes I probably shouldn’t pass along here.
Another “working” dinner in the books for me and Les and yet another on the horizon.  Stay tuned: next time will be tales of lunchtime gluttony and cocktails, from my new favorite spot in the Big Easy…Cochon!  Cheers!

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