Review: Canadian Rockies 35 Year Old Cask Strength Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of the Fountana Group.

Image courtesy of the Fountana Group.

35 yrs; Ex-bourbon cask
100% Corn
Producer Highwood (High River, Alberta)

Here we have a very notable whisky - the oldest bottling of Canadian whisky with an age statement since the pre-prohibition bottling of a 37 year old Seagrams, at my best guess. It is another 100% corn whisky sourced from Highwood distillery by the Fountana Group, primarily for Taiwan, though they have released some of the terrific 21 Year Old in Canada (and I have seen a few bottles of this 35, too). It is from a single cask, divided between 211 bottles - 181 at 50% ABV and 30 at the whopping cask strength of 79.1% (yes, you heard it right). The dryness in Alberta means that more water than alcohol evaporates from the cask, resulting in a slowly increasing alcohol level, giving us a whisky that makes the George T. Stagg's and other hazmat whiskies of the world seem diminutive.

I kindly received the last of a 3 oz sample bottle that has travelled over 5,350 km, initially in Davin De Kergommeaux's possession before being passed on to Blair Phillips and now its story ended with me. There was only about half an ounce left, but it still left its mark!

Word has it that there is a 40 coming...

Review (2017)

  • Batch: Distilled December 12, 1980 (79.3%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date 2015

At this strength, it isn’t even very spirity. Incredibly creamy, woody, dry, and rich on the nose – butterscotch, corn husks, tobacco, dried dill, and light spicy and earthy notes. Wood dominates at lower ABV strengths, but at full strength it is more into balance with succulent, creamy sweet caramel and vanilla. The palate is silky smooth, with stewed peaches, creamed corn, oak, dried apricot, toffee, light cacao, and of course wood. The finish is full, creamy, and spicy – one of the longest rambling and developing finishes I have ever encountered, playing in texture and feel for minutes after a small sip – first sweet and creamy, then spice is added, then drying, them creamy again, then sweet and dry – not always in the same order. Perhaps the creamiest finish i have experienced, and one of the most notable. This is delicious!

I never thought one of the silkiest whiskies i have tried would be bottled at nearly 80%. At this strength, you can’t take a big sip – a few mls are enough to do wonders. This is one of the most elegant and notable whiskies I have ever tasted. The only knack against it is that it could have more complexity, but this is so subtle and fragile I also wouldn’t want to change anything. A wow whisky.

But don’t take it from me – check out Davin’s review here and Blair’s review here.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very Low. Unique, yes - very. But $850? That may be a nice bottle, but not a value one.