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Highwood Ninety 20 Year Old

Elegant and Rich

1 1192

@JasonHambreyReview by @JasonHambrey

11th Oct 2014

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  • Nose
    ~
  • Taste
    ~
  • Finish
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  • Balance
    ~
  • Overall
    92

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

This has finally come around to Ontario after being released a year ago. It is a 100% corn whisky, aged in bourbon barrels for 20 years or more (some of the stocks in this, I have heard, go up to 33 years). It is likely all from the Potters stocks that were acquired by Highwood Distillers (the producers of this) in 2005. Highwood doesn't produce their own corn whisky (as their unique facility is built for rye and wheat), so all of their Century and Ninety products (all 100% corn) are sourced. The name, "ninety" comes from the fact that it is bottled at 45%, or 90 proof.

Nose: Vanilla, maple, and creamy nuttiness with an elegant feel. I am not quite sure how to describe "elegant" feel to it - but I find that it almost "feels" rich and buttery as I smell. There are notes of bourbon, but it obviously doesn't smell like a bourbon because it is not aged in new wood. There's a bit of light dried fruit - like prunes, but the nose isn't sour. A bit of darker elements of earthy woodiness and molasses lurk under the surface too. And, there's toffee too. The range isn't huge - but it's very well done. And, for a 20 year old whisky, there is surprisingly little oak, even with a cask that's been used once before. 88%

Taste: A bit sweet to start, with a rich vanilla and maple undertow and fading to some drying spices (white pepper and some of the sharpness of clove) before being washed again with some creamy caramel. The palate lingers very well and the whisky flavour seems to keep developing uninterrupted once you've swallowed - which is very nice. The mouthfeel of the whisky is extremely nice - buttery and a bit viscous (though not too thick that it doesn't slide down easily) - it slides down well, and I think the creamy notes on the palate also help the brain to perceive that it slips down even better. There's a bit of an oaky rumminess and earthiness too, in the background - it's quite nice, and enough for you to notice it, but not too much that it dominates over the softer and creamier primary flavours. There is also a light "rancio" note, like the oxidized nature of sherry or marsala - but this is light, and though I don't like sherry or marsala much - it fits in very well here. 93%

Finish: At first the corn (in the dimensions of corn on the cob and cornmeal) seems to come out with vanilla before oak slowly starts to take the reins with a bit of cinnamon, dried ginger, and orange peel. Also, interestingly enough, it's a bit sour on the finish in a way it wasn't at any other point in the whisky. It's also a fitting whisky for fall, with notes similar to the reeds in marshes as they die and start to decompose in the fall. 87%

Intrigue: A fitting fall whisky with the light earthiness and oakiness - yet it's very elegant, easy to drink, and bright. Of all I've tasted out of Highwood so far, this is the best. The silkiness, richness, and depth is wonderful. The balance is good, too. A pleasure, for sure. The first thing I thought with this whisky is how it compares to Century Reserve 21 Year Old, another 100% corn whisky coming out of Highwood which is a bit older but similar in terms of age. The profiles are similar, but Century Reserve 21 Year Old is a bit lighter and more floral while this one is a bit fruitier, and a bit more packed with flavour (particularly in the toffee department) and fruit, and the sherry-like note I mentioned earlier. Comparing it to Century Reserve Lot 15/25 (also with old stocks, and 100% corn) - there's less vanilla, sweetness, and spice. But, they're all very good - and particularly this one. 95%

Weighting the nose 25%, taste 35%, Finish 15%, and Intrigue 25% the overall grade is 92

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11 comments

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

sounds great! But it's not listed at the LCBO :(

6 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

Oh, it's a rye. I thought this was something else. You mentioned 100% corn.

Still, >20 years, fifty dollars, 45%.. Have to consider trying it.

6 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Nozinan, that's "Canadian Rye" on the LCBO website, in this case, if I am reading @JasonHambrey correctly, = 100% corn.

You know, "Canadian Rye" = "Canadian Whisky", nothing necessarily to do with rye grain.

6 years ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

Werther's Flavoured Whisky POP ROCKS (R). Empty glass is filled with the aroma of warm and buttery corn on the cob. We are so very lucky to have this in Ontario. The Highwood plant was devestated by flood waters in June of 2013. All finished goods and equipment were either destroyed or discarded as a result of the flash flood. Barrels of whisky were luckily at the higher end of the warehouse and with a lot of hard work were salvaged. This is special juice.

6 years ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

To be called "Rye" in Canada, legislation dictates: "Canadian Whisky, Canadian Rye Whisky or Rye Whisky...possess the aroma, taste and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky"

6 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

Thanks to all for clarifying. One of my clear deficiencies is in Canadian whisky. Essentially, I've only really explored Forty Creek.

I must read more than the page on Glen Breton in Davin's book....

6 years ago 0

Astroke commented

Highwood Ninety is the best Canadian Whisky out there. I feel for those people outside of Canada and many of the Provinces that cannot get this gem. Also is >$50 which may make this one of the best Whisky values in the world.

5 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan commented

I liked it when I tasted it in Collingwood last week, but I don't know if it's my favourite Canadian Whisky. There are excellent Forty Creek expressions and the Lot 40 (now defunct) 10 YO rye and AP30 are quite awesome.

5 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@JasonHambrey, having now tasted Ninety 20 yo I certainly agree that this is first rate corn whisky.

5 years ago 0

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