Century Reserve comes from Highwood distillers in Calgary, Alberta, who have been on a bit of a roll with new premium whiskies hitting the market such as this one, the Century Reserve 21 year old, the premium mixer White Owl, and the recent Ninety Twenty Year Old (which I have yet to try, but eagerly await its arrival to Ontario). The whisky is composed of a blend of whiskies from a range of 15 to 25 years old. The barrels from which it is blended originated from Highwood’s purchase of stocks from Potters, a whisky broker, and some of the older stocks likely originated from an even older (and now closed) Seagram’s distillery in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. I can only imagine the blender tasting the range of stocks and dreaming what to produce…but certainly a great whisky was created! And for the price (30$ in Ontario), it is not only a fabulous price for the age, but also for the quality.
Nose: A nice bit of sharp rye, dried berries, raising, and plums. There are lovely vanilla notes as well, which develop over time as the nose sits. There’s a touch of creaminess, too, almost like caramel pudding. There’s a bit of oak in the background, but it is not that powerful, especially for a whisky which is a blend of 15 to 25 years old. 26.5/30 (88%)
Taste: The rye comes in prominently at first, alongside a decent dollop of corn – and it’s beautiful…the rye gradually transforms from the slightly spicy grain to become fruit-forward before a wave of spice and heat come to finish the taste, leaving the taste of sharp rye and black pepper. It’s reasonably sweet mid palate and the spices that come in at the end are those of cloves and a touch of nutmeg. There’s a bit of honey in the background of the palate as well, and it is a bit nutty. The end of the taste is quite firm, which I quite like. 26/30 (87%)
Finish: The rye develops into some fruit as you take it in, and it is, unfortunately, a touch bitter. It’s fairly strong though, and quite nice. there’s vanilla in the background of the finish as well. I can’t really decide what to do with the finish – I like it and want to rate it high, yet there are some discordant parts which I don’t want to rate too high. A slight bitterness develops after some time – if not for that, it would be fabulous. Some bean sprouts come in after a bit…. The bitterness seems on the edge – I can’t decide whether I slightly like it or slightly dislike it. There’s some oak mixed into the bitterness as well, making it seem as though the bitterness is coming from the oak. Perhaps some of the older stocks in the blend contribute a bit too much bitterness…however, the finish is certainly interesting and develops in bold movements for over a minute (I timed it because I was so impressed) before settling into a uniform and solid finish. 18/20 (90%)
Conclusion: this is certainly a great value whisky, and is fabulous for the price. Jim Murray once describe it as “not quite meeting its potential”, and at first I didn’t agree but as I have spent more time with it I have to say that I am inclined to agree. I like so much about this whisky, but at times it feels a touch too bitter, a touch too out of balance with too much rye or too much dull fruit…nonetheless it’s one of my favourite to dissect with friends and is a fabulous product. 17.5/20 (88%)