Review: Centennial Limited Edition Canadian Rye Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Wheat and rye
Distiller Highwood (High River, Alberta)

This whisky is a blend of a base wheat whisky, matured in ex-bourbon casks, blended with a powerful flavouring rye whisky also matured in ex-bourbon casks. It used to carry an ages statement of 10 years, and Highwood says that wheat whiskies tend to come into their own at 10 years. However, due to demand, this was dropped a few years back.

Wheat is the traditional grain of Canadian distillers as they, like distillers in other countries, distilled what grew around them. Today, in Canada, Highwood Distillery specializes in distilling wheat which can be difficult to process because it can gum up - other distillers either do not use wheat or use it minimally.

Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Vanilla, maple syrup, butter table syrup, salted caramel, and a slight touch of smoke, with both slight rye and the wheat coming through in nice balance. I find the butter table syrup, in combination with the rest surrounding it, to be quite superb. There’s also caramel, in a sort you might find in an overaged gouda along with some bright fruitiness to it – blackberry and white grapes along with a few wisps of dried apricot characteristic of bourbon casks.

Taste: Reasonably sweet, with a big kick of oaky vanilla mid-palate. There are white grapes, slightly peppery wheat, and it finishes with a flourish of spice – cinnamon, cloves, cayenne pepper, and a bit of nutmeg which slowly unfolds into the finish. It’s quite easy-going, and easy to drink without many off-notes. Well balanced, but could use a bit more depth and clarity.

Finish: Vanilla, with a bit of oak, wheat, and spice – bits of clove and cinnamon – but they feel a bit incomplete. The feel of a rye finish is there, though rye does not distinctly emerge as much as I expected. It dries out, slightly, and the feel is moderately big in the mouth – but the flavours are light and do not endure much.

I like the wheat in this one, and it is well balanced. Highwood has done some great work, and I am certainly glad to have some wheat-focused distilleries still around, especially as I think wheated ryes could offer some pretty intriguing whiskies.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). From a taste perspective, it’s decent, but good wheat whiskies aren’t very common - hence the recommendation. Plus, it’s rare to find a whisky as easy as this one - it’s worth experiencing.

Value: Average. It's not expensive, and it is quite good!