City of Waterloo Museum Insider's Look

Crown Royal

Crown Royal

Regal Tradition: The Story of Crown Royal 

Like many communities across Ontario, the Joseph E. Seagram and Sons Distillery began in 1857 as a secondary business out of a local Waterloo grist mill. Many partners and owners later, the Seagram Distillery would become the largest distillery in the world, dominating the global market.

Seagram’s premiere blended rye whisky, Crown Royal, with its purple bag packaging, is one of the most notable success stories in the history of the beverage alcohol industry. Created as a tribute to visiting royalty, it quickly established a new standard of excellence among Canadian whiskies and remains one of Seagram’s great sales stories.

The tradition of Crown Royal began in 1939 with the first Royal Tour of Canada by reigning British monarchs, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. To mark this historic occasion, Samuel Bronfman, President of the Seagram Distillery, decided to create a quality whisky to be packaged in a crown-shaped bottle and dressed in a royal purple bag. One hundred cases were produced that first year. Like the packaging, the name chosen for the product was intended to reflect the quality of the spirit, a marketing concept that quickly caught the consumer’s attention. Often referred to as the “Special occasion brand that makes any occasion special”, many Canadian adults and children have fond memories of the “little purple bag” and the treasures that could be stored inside. Keeping marbles, game pieces or Barbie accessories in a Crown Royal bag is so Canadian!

A limited edition Crown Royal XR (Extra Rare) Heritage Blend, comprising of just four bottles was commissioned and one was presented to Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to the Kentucky Derby in 2007. The bottles were hand blown by Kentucky glass blower Casey Hyland, etched with 24K gold, and filled with some of the last whisky distilled in Waterloo. The City of Waterloo is privileged to have one of these exclusive bottles in our collection.  The tradition continues; Crown Royal, even without the bag remains a top seller around the world.

Object Information:

  • Accession # 2013.36.1
  • Object name: Crown Royal XR Blend
  • Date: May 1, 2007, presented to Queen Elizabeth II at the Kentucky Derby
  • Maker: Whisky from the former Seagram Distillery, Waterloo ON, owned by Diageo US
  • Dimensions: 27.5cm h x 12 cm w x 5.8 cm d