Canadian-made ‘world’s best’ whisky flies off Island shelves

A few days after being named the world’s best whisky, supplies of Manitoba-made Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye have run dry on Vancouver Island.

The government cupboard is bare — at least for now — after Northern Harvest Rye was deemed World Whisky of the Year in expert Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. The announcement last week put a run on the beverage and drained remaining stock.

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“There are no bottles available in stores at the moment, although a shipment is on its way to stores, which they should be receiving (today) or Wednesday,” said April Kemick, manager of communications for the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch. “As there was a limited amount of this product available, B.C. Liquor Stores’ future supply of the Northern Harvest Rye whisky is yet to be determined.”

What was available didn’t last long after Friday’s announcement. In an email, Kemick said bottles “flew off the shelves.”

Paul Nicholson was one of the lucky ones to snap up a bottle Monday morning.

He was in line at the government liquor store in Hillside Shopping Centre just before opening and snagged one bottle from the only case available.

“I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve put it aside as a Christmas present to myself,” said Nicholson, noting he is not a regular rye drinker but enjoys some Scotch whisky. “But to have a sipping rye, well, I thought why not?”

A number of local bartenders over the weekend went shopping for the bottle in vain, and have had to put in orders for it, with the hope of having it in stock this week.

“This type of skyrocketing demand is typical with products that receive prestigious international recognition,” said Kemick, noting 1,514 bottles of the Northern Harvest Rye were sold over the weekend at government stores.

The previous weekend only 58 were sold in the province.

It is unclear if the price for what is now a much-sought-after beverage will change. It is listed by the liquor distribution branch at $29.79 for a 750 ml bottle.

“Like all retailers, B.C. Liquor Stores sets prices according to customer demand and what makes sense for the business,” Kemick said. “Keep in mind, retail prices of products may also fluctuate depending on the cost suppliers choose to charge for their product.”

Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye, made in Gimli, Man., scored 97.5 out of 100 points when Murray assessed it for his annual bible. It is the first time a Canadian product has won Murray’s top prize.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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