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 is (at least) 10 years old, and some distillers say that wheat whiskies come into their own at 10 years. The wheat at Highwood is cooked whole, as is the rye – there’s no mill to grind the grains into grist to cook and ferment as at almost every other distillery. Instead, the grains are pressure cooked until most explode open, and then expelled under pressure onto a “bell” which smashes up any remaining grains.
Wheat is the traditional grain of Canadian distillers as they, like distillers in other countries, distilled what grew around them. Now, in Canada, Highwood Distillery who makes Centenniel specializes in distilling wheat which can be difficult to process because it can gum up. Other distillers in Canada do not use wheat or do not use it much.
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. 26/30 (87%)
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. 24/30 (80%)
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. 16/20 (80%)
Conclusion: I do 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 and should be explored more. 16/20 (80%)