Review: Collingwood 21 Years Old Rye Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Collingwood 21.jpg
21 yrs; finished with maple staves
100% Malted Rye
Distiller Canadian Mist (Collingwood, Ontario)

This limited release whisky is made from 100% malted rye, and made from a batch of whisky labeled and identified as lot 41-06-91 (so, I imagine, distilled in 1991). It is finished, as with the other Collingwood whisky, with staves of toasted maple wood in a vat.

As a note – on the back of the box, it says that the best Canadian whiskies are blends, for which rye whisky is typically used as the heart of the blend. This describes Canadian whisky well, on one hand. It describes this whisky as “unblended”, while Canadian whisky is typically described as "blended whisky". This is a little misleading, largely because “blended whisky” in a Canadian context usually means something quite different than the Scottish meaning of “blended whisky”. In scotch whisky, “blended” usually means a mix of grain whiskies and malt whiskies, which are taken from stock from a number of distilleries. Single malts, however, are often a blend of different malt whiskies at a single distillery, and these are differentiated from "blends".  Bourbons and straight ryes, as well, are typically crafted from a blend of barrels which may well be of different ages and recipes.

Canadian whisky, though described as “blended” is almost always (with a few exceptions) from a single distillery. Thus, they are like single malts in that a number of different barrels from a single distillery are used in the whisky, often of different ages. They are unlike Blended Scotch Whisky because typically each whisky produced is usually from a single distillery (i.e. Crown Royal is produced from Gimli stock, Forty Creek from Forty Creek stock, etc.). So, Collingwood 21 is likely described as “unblended” because it is from 100% malted rye, and from a single batch. But, to some degree, barrels from that single batch have been blended to craft this.

Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L275310833

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Nose: The first and distinct thing that pops out to me is apples, and lots of them. There is other fruit too…apricots and even starfruit. It is supported by a brilliant rye backdrop with caramelized wood. It is rich…with some creamy butterscotch notes as well. There are some rich wood notes, as well – oak, then maple, then a bit of cedar. There is more of a caramel than a vanilla presence here, though that lingers in the background as well. The nose really draws you right in. It is a fabulous piece of work.

Taste: There’s lots of rye here, obviously. It is very fruity, and has some distinct grainy notes and nuttiness. The rye commands this one nicely, and the apple and apricot from the nose comes right through here as well and some raspberry comes through as well. It’s woody here as well…oak and a slight bit of cedar. There are also some very interesting notes, I find, of some of the slight bitterness and yeast of some Rieslings, and some nutmeg, bean sprouts, and floral notes a bit like lilac.

Finish: Quite fruity and deep, with a bit of oak, and lengthy. The finish has the distinct slight malty and bitter notes you find in the finish of some beers, though I can’t remember which exactly at the moment. It is also reasonably herbal, as well, and grainy too. There is some apricot as well in the finish, and some berry notes of strawberry and raspberry.

Wonderful stuff! The nose pulls you in, and the taste and the finish follow suit. It’s deeper and richer than the regular Collingwood whisky, and is bolder, and a little less sweet…some of the floral elements and green grape are also present in this one as in the regular offering, but more or less they are quite different, with a few similar elements. With different recipes, this is not surprising.

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

Value: High. $45 for a 21 year old 100% rye? You kidding me!?