Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Whisky Review: Ninety 20 years old Canadian Rye Whisky

Highwood Distillers are the vendor of this whisky, that is not cleverly entitled "Ninety" because it is 90 proof and carries an age statement of 20 years.  I say 'vendor' because Highwood Distillers did not actually distill this spirit, but rather bought it from another distiller or possibly acquired it in a corporate merger (Potter's Distillery).  Highwood then aged it further, performed wood management in ex-bourbon (or ex-Tenessee) casks, and blended the stocks.  The oak casks were reportedly sourced from Jim Beam or Jack Daniels.

The label says it is a "Rye" but actually it is not.  It is 100% corn whisky.  Confusing?  Opaque?  Clintonesque?  Informative as a Bill Belichick press conference?  Me thinks so.  Maybe not intentional, but certainly not helpful to the consumer.  The explanation I received from Highwood Distillers is as follows:

"As a Canadian distiller and following the allowable definition from the government of Canada we continue to use 'Canadian Rye Whisky' as the unique Canadian indentifier . . . just like the Scots do with 'Scotch' as their proprietary descriptor."

In any event, we are dealing with a 100% corn whisky aged for 20 yrs in charred American oak.  Notwithstanding the inarticulate labeling, our quest is to determine if it is any good?


Silicon stopper

$50 CDN.

Canada only.

Nose (undiluted)
Cedar, cooked plums, vanilla, charred oak.

Palate (undiluted)
Melted caramel, maple cream, French Vanilla ice cream, nut meg, toasted coconut, pleasant spiciness late palate.

Finish (undiluted)
Long lasting notes of white chocolate and spiced milk chocolate macaroons.

General Impressions
This is a good whisky in terms of taste and has a lot more spice than one would expect from a 100% corn whisky.  For the price, it is worth the money.

Just one thing bugs me, the use of 'rye' on the label when there is no rye in the mashbill is not reaching the level of transparency I expect of a player in the Canadian spirits industry.


Jason Debly

P.S.  I did correspond via email with Highwood and they answered very promptly a question of a reader about whether or not this is a one-time release:

Hi Jason,

Thank you for your email and thank you for your appreciation and support of Ninety 20yr.

The Whisky is a limited release but not in the context of a one-time bottling. We do have Whisky to support this brand for some years to come but there is only so much 20 year old of this outstanding character to bottle into this brand every year. As the popularity and distribution continues to grow there may be times when it becomes unavailable because we have bottled all the available select Whisky for that year.

For now you should not find any issue with availability, but the Ninety 20 Year has been recognized in review by Whisky Advocate as the 4th best Whisky in the world so word is spreading.

Enjoy, and thank you again for your support.