Ninety 20 Year Old Canadian Rye

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Ninety 20 Year Old Canadian Rye is the "ultra premium" offering from Highwood Distillers' "Ninety" whisky product line. While Highwood Distillers may not be an immediately recognizable name on LCBO shelves, fans of Canadian whisky may be more familiar with the Alberta distillery's other brands: Centennial, Century Reserve, Potters, or maybe even White Owl? 

Using the term Canadian Rye in the "traditional" sense, Ninety is a blend of mostly, if not all, corn whiskies aged for 20 years in charred oak barrels and is bottled at 45% ABV.

Nose: Quite sharp on the nose, especially for a whisky of this age and ABV, then a blast of wood shavings with custard and damp cardboard lingering behind. 

Palate: Medium-bodied and showing a slightly sweet mix of thinned honey and gingerbread studded with candied fruit on entry. But it's not long before this gentle sweetness is overtaken by woody spice that's both fiery and bitter with cloves, ginger and nutmeg. 

Finish: After the thunderous spice hit, the finish resonates with bitter heat before flattening out with muted toasted oak and vanilla tones. A splash of water certainly improves the flavour here by dampening the heat yet it does nothing for the bitterness and doesn't substantially change the finish. 
Overall: Quite possibly one of the most disappointing Canadian whiskies I've sampled to date. There's way too much wood influence here for my liking and it's really hot for a whisky of this ABV; I've had gentler cask strength whiskies than Ninety 20 year old. Speaking of age, I expected more flavour from 20 years. Pushing aside all the oak and spice, the actual whisky is quite bland and shows no real depth or complexity.

This is total speculation on my part, but this whisky drinks like it was originally an old, unremarkable dumpy that someone attempted to recondition with a new oak cask in hopes of resuscitating it's character with the unfortunate result being an unpleasant mixture of slightly sweet flavours with a wallop of new oak heat and bitter spice.

For $58.15 in the LCBO, there are far better Canadian whiskies available than the Ninety; not recommended.

1 Comment

Interesting - I've always liked this one and have found it quite smooth. If I get a chance to try a dram (without buying a bottle) I'll definitely reassess. Thanks!

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