Review: Century Reserve 21 Year Old Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

21 years
100% Corn
Producer Highwood (High River, Alberta)

First of all, it should be said that this whisky is made from 100% Corn. Thus, it is not “rye” in the sense of the grain used at all, but rather “rye” as the other term for Canadian Whisky. This bottle is made by Highwood Distillers, in High River, Alberta – a relatively small Canadian distillery. The distillers at Highwood do not actually even distill corn, thus, this is bought as new make from another Canadian distillery after which point it is matured and bottled at Highwood Distillery. However, though they did not directly control the entire process, it is very much their concept and creation. It is quite different from Century Reserve Lot 15/25,  which can pack quite a punch, with more elegance and woodiness, yet one can still see why they are part of the same family.

Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Oak, not surprisingly, comes through quite clearly, along with green grapes, maple, and blackcurrant. Spice, and dried corn cobs come through (like those dried cobs often used as halloween/fall decorations), along with some nuttiness like almond with the skins on. Vanilla increasingly emerges with time. The nose is quite rich, and preps me for a rich delivery – though still maintaining quite a light body. I also want to label the nose as slightly floral, though, in fact, I can’t identify any particular flower aromas - but it has a light, nectar like quality of flowers nonetheless. The oak grows as the nose sits and develops, and this is very nice.

Taste: Fairly thick in texture, with a nice backdrop of bourbon and vanilla notes. It is reasonably sweet, and the corn is felt throughout this – corn oil, dried corn husks, and even some flavours of sweet corn. There is light honey on this, throughout – it is indeed rich. Surprisingly, it is not as oaky as I expected from the nose. It’s very pleasant, and the oak has done some wonderful work in taming this whisky into quite an elegant product. Some berry notes also come through – a bit of blueberry mainly. It’s not loud, bold or aggressive – but soft, smooth, and honeyed.

Finish: Lightly sweet, with very light background spices – though I find them a little difficult to distinctly describe. Light honey also comes through, with nectar and vanilla. The oak comes through, though the flavour is less felt than the “feel” (i.e. tannins) of the oak. The body of the finish is good, and it has good grip too. As I often find, with more sipping the spices seem to emerge more – and combined with the tannins it works really well.

This is a very good whisky – nicely balanced, and the oak certainly hasn’t taken too much of a toll even after 21 years. Highwood certainly has been outputting an impressive line of products, and at excellent value.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High. A good 21 year old whisky for less than $50? Yes, yes…