Crown Royal Isn't Technically Bourbon. Here's Why

Crown Royal is one of, if not the most, popular commercially available whiskys on the market. In fact, VinePair cited it as the number one most popular whisky, with over $460,171,371 in sales in just one year. Every aspect of the whisky, from the taste to the bottle's design, and even the signature bag it comes in, can be traced back to Canada in 1939.

According to Crown Royal, the whisky was crafted in the mid-20th century when Queen Elizabeth and King George VI visited Canada for the first time. To celebrate, the whisky now known as Crown Royal was blended for the royals, and added to a glass bottle in a purple bag with gold thread, which it is still sold in today. Despite being marketed as whisky, it can easily get lumped in with popular bourbons, especially with the launch of Crown Royal Bourbon Mash. Despite its name, Crown Royal Bourbon Mash is not officially bourbon.

What is bourbon?

To understand why Crown Royal isn't bourbon, you need to know what exactly bourbon is. It can be difficult to understand the difference between bourbon and whisky from the outside — they're both dark liquors made from distilled corn. However, bourbon is a type of whisky, but not all whisky is bourbon, per World Whisky Day.

There are a few key elements of the production process that distinguish bourbon as its own kind of drink. For example, bourbon has to contain at least 51% corn and have no additives for enhanced color or flavor. Bourbon also must be aged in new charred oak barrels, notes American Bourbon Association, as well as on its side. 

More than anything, though, for a drink to be officially labeled as bourbon, it has to be produced in the United States, unlike whisky, which is produced throughout the world. Many people believe it has to be produced in Kentucky, but the guidelines only stipulate that it must be made in the United States.

Crown Royal is a Canadian whisky

Crown Royal is a Canadian brand of liquor, and as described earlier, its Canadian roots are incredibly important to its history and origin. Bourbon, on the other hand, is a liquor exclusive to the United States. As such, no Crown Royal product could ever officially be considered bourbon — even Crown Royal Bourbon Mash.

Despite not being a bourbon, there is a reason it's called Bourbon Mash. As Distiller explains, this product uses a bourbon mash bill or recipe, with 64% corn — the right amount to be considered bourbon if it were made in the United States. It also is distilled for three years in ex-bourbon barrels, which, ironically enough disqualifies it from a bourbon classification since bourbon must be distilled in new barrels, per the American Bourbon Association

While it has a similar flavor profile to bourbon, Crown Royal Bourbon Mash is not an official bourbon. In fact, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau forced Crown Royal to change the name to Blenders' Mash.