There are a few iconic spirits in the American catalog. Undoubtedly, names like Jim Beam, or Jack Daniels certainly come to mind, but today we’re talking about a true American spirit, produced in one of the original 13 colonies… and originally created in Canada. Seagram’s 7 Crown whiskey.
The Seagram company started as a Canadian distillery in 1857 and grew to become one of the biggest spirits companies in Canada. During prohibition in the United States, the owners of the company reportedly participated in bootlegging operations to bring their product into the US, and as a result paid $1.5 million in fines in 1930 (significantly less than the $60 million the US government asked for).
Post-prohibition, once again able to do business unimpeded in the United States, the Seagram corporation decided to create a couple new brands of whiskey to satiate the American market. The two brands they developed were Seagram’s 5 Crown and Seagram’s 7 Crown.
Why were they named that? Well, that remains a mystery. There are a number of apocryphal stories, but nothing that I’d pin my reputation on.
Production of both spirits declined sharply during World War II, and by the end the war had claimed another casualty: the less popular 5 Crown variety of Seagram’s whiskey was no longer produced. However, the 7 Crown version survived and would eventually go on to be one of the most successful whiskies of the 1970s, being the first product to sell 300 million cases in 1983.
The company wouldn’t last, however — in the early 2000’s, the various divisions of the company were carved out and sold to larger beverage manufacturers. The mixers division was sold to Coca Cola who still produces them under the Seagram’s name. As for the classic 7 Crown whiskey, that transferred over to the UK based Diageo who still produce it to this day in their Norwalk, CT plant.
The distiller claims that this spirit is 75% neutral grain spirits and only 25% actual whiskey.
So, as with the Kentucky Deluxe, this is more accurately “whiskey flavored vodka.” The primary ingredient is just pure alcohol (aka vodka) and the distiller just adds some whiskey to it prior to packaging.
What exactly is in that whiskey? Some people say that the name is a reference to the seven grains used in the grain bill for the whiskey, but I doubt that. There’s similarly no reference to any aging process, or anything else about the production of this spirit.
I’d note that technically this is closer to whiskey than the Kentucky Deluxe, as this has 5% more mystery whiskey in the spirit than the competition.
Let’s put it this way: they know their audience.
The label hasn’t changed significantly since the original version. The Seagram’s name is at the top in a stylized font above a gigantic red 7 on a white-ish background with some information about the product scattered around. It’s fine — not great, but fine.
There are glass bottle versions of this spirit available, but the most common presentation is in a plastic bottle of some sort. This version is more of a squared bottle, something a little easier to fit on a shelf or store in a cabinet.
There’s nothing exciting here. Which is probably exactly what the clientele is expecting. At this point, this is designed to be a budget friendly spirit with a minimum of pomp and circumstance and the design of the packaging executes on that perfectly.
The spirit has a watery consistency but the coloring is good. Then again, the the color could be just the result of food dye for all we know. It certainly isn’t the flavors of the whiskey because, well, there really aren’t any.
The spirit smells exactly like nail polish remover. All I get is the chemical smell of alcohol, and eventually if I try really hard I think I see a bit of caramel coming out of the shadows momentarily before being overpowered by another wave of pure alcohol.
As for how it tastes, it’s exactly like a watered down whiskey. It has the same alcohol strength as the full bodied versions but I only get an impression of the flavor that it’s supposed to have. There’s a touch of caramel and a bit of vanilla, but it’s like someone dropped a single Wurther’s Original into a pitcher of vodka.
It’s not patently offensive. There’s nothing here that I find disgusting, and there aren’t any chemical flavors. But there’s nothing here to make me like it either.
There’s no flavor. Only the burn of the alcohol.
While there may have been some traces of flavor from the wood when taken neat, all vestiges of anything other than the nail polish remover sensation have been removed. Again, it’s not unpleasant, more like a well-distilled vodka. But there’s nothing here that I would consider to be whiskey-esque. Or even whiskey-adjacent.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
Why did I even try? I knew the outcome before I even poured the drink. I called the shot from the other side of the pool table.
All I taste is the orange bitters. It’s as unbalanced as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but without any of the aesthetic appeal.
It’s a Moscow Mule. There’s no whiskey flavoring. I might as well have used vodka.
The whole point here is to have some of the whiskey flavor peeking through, providing a balance to the drink and adding some uniquely rich flavors. But with the Seagram’s 7 Crown, none of that is present.
I can see why it goes so well with a Seven and Seven. There’s no flavor to get in the way of the 7-Up, just pure alcohol.
There’s a rich history here, and being distilled in the tiny state of Connecticut makes it interesting. Or, rather, has the potential to make it interesting. Instead, all of the possible experimentation or unique flavors that an Atlantic coast city could bring to the whiskey process have been ignored in favor of making the cheapest mass produced product that can legally pass as whiskey.
That’s what this whiskey feels like. The bare minimum. And that might be okay, so long as you know what you’re getting into.
Seagram’s Seven Crown Whiskey
Owner: Diageo, UK
Production: Norwalk, CT
Classification: Blended whiskey
Grain bill: Unknown
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $ 8.99 / 750ml
Overall Rating: 2/5
It’s cheap and unoffensive, and that’s the best thing I can say about it.