Good news for anyone who tried — and failed — to get a bottle of Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye for the holidays: there’s more of the award-winning whisky on LCBO shelves across Ontario.
But whisky lovers may still need to get crafty if they want to get their hands on a bottle. Compared to the pre-Christmas rush, it’s showing up in a lot more Toronto stores now — just not in the quantities needed to keep the shelves fully stocked.
While most Toronto stores showed inventory in the low double digits Friday morning, the Dundas St. W. and Jane St. location had a whopping 219 bottles, while the store at Bay and Bloor Sts. had an even 100.
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The Northern Harvest Rye enjoyed “unprecedented” demand last year, and the LCBO expects it to “continue to be strong,” said Keeley Rogers, the LCBO’s media relations coordinator.
Rogers told the Toronto Star in an email the LCBO received its first 2016 order of the rye the week of Jan. 25. “Because stock was replenished just recently, it is too early to observe any changes in demand,” Rogers said.
More than 8,000 cases of the rye were sold in Ontario in December, Alistair Kidd, brand director for whisky at Diageo Canada, which produces Crown Royal products, told the Star in an email.
That amounts to more than 96,000 bottles sold, Kidd said.
He said the company did not have January sales figures yet.
Sales of the whisky at LCBO stores jumped by more than 400 per cent after it was named “World Whisky of the Year” by whisky connoisseur Jim Murray late last year.
The Northern Harvest Rye is the first Canadian whisky to win the honour. Murray’s Whisky Bible is the go-to guide for whisky enthusiasts, and each annual edition contains thousands of detailed whisky reviews and notes.
Rogers referred the Star to Diageo for the number of cases being shipped to Ontario. But Kidd would only say Diageo is distributing the rye as quickly as it’s produced — Canadian whiskies must be aged three years, he said.
The LCBO is the largest customer of Crown Royal in Canada, Kidd said.
Rogers said the whisky is being allocated by the LCBO head office and stores are receiving deliveries throughout the week based on overall sales of Crown Royal. Some stores may also get daily deliveries, she added.
According to in-store LCBO inventory figures accessed online before noon on Friday, the largest stash of Northern Harvest Rye was in a Sudbury branch, followed closely by the Dundas St. W. and Jane St. store.
A handful of LCBO stores in Mississauga also had a few dozen bottles each.
Sales of the rye in the GTA accounted for 42 per cent of all provincial sales, which is in line with Crown Royal sales in general in Ontario, Rogers said.
But would-be rye drinkers may face a new hurdle, as workers at the Gimli, Man., plant where Crown Royal is produced voted in favour of a strike action earlier this week.
Local 832 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union says more than 50 workers at the Gimli facility will begin a walkout on March 4 if their contract demands are not met, The Canadian Press reported. Talks are scheduled to resume on Feb. 16.