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The Rum Howler’s #4 Canadian Whisky of 2015 – Ninety “Decades of Richness” 20 Year Old

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 21, 2015

Ninety_20_Year_Old_-_shadow_2013_06In November of 2005, Highwood Distillers finalized the purchase of Potters Distilleries (founded by Ernie Potter in 1958). Part of this acquisition, was the purchase of all of the remaining barrel aged stocks of whisky in the Potters facility. These barrels of whisky were transferred from the Potters warehouse facilities in Kelowna, B.C. to the newly constructed warehouse facility in High River, Alberta, where they were allowed to continue to age at the foot of the Rocky Mountains on the western edge of the Canadian Prairies. The whisky brands which Potters Distilleries had established (Century and Potters) were added to Highwood’s portfolio of spirits where they have not only been maintained but also expanded upon. Part of that expansion was the 2013 addition of the ‘Ninety’ branded whiskies to the Century Distillers line-up. Like the other whiskies in the Century portfolio, the Ninety branded spirits are corn-based rather than wheat-based blends. (Highwood Distillers uses the Highwood brand for all of its wheat based whiskies.)

Highwood chose the brand name ‘Ninety’ because these new whiskies are bottled at 90 proof (or 45 % alcohol by volume) rather than the usual 80 proof (40 % alcohol by volume). The higher bottling strength means that the final whisky will retain a character closer to the original cask strength whiskies from which they were blended. In the case of the Ninety “Decades of Richness” 20 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky, the bulk of blend almost certainly has been drawn from Highwood’s treasured reserves of remaining Potters whisky stocks which are rumoured to contain barrels of whisky as old as 33 years.

Here is a link to the Rum Howler #4 Canadian Whisky of 2015:

Ninety “Decades of Richness” 20 Year Old

“… The different aspects of the aroma (the wood and rye spiciness and the corn and butterscotch sweetness) are melded together beautifully creating a very enticing aroma in the air above the glass. As I enjoy those breezes, I also notice impressions of creamy vanilla pudding, hints of almond turning to sweeter marzipan, zesty orange peel turning to sticky marmalade, and lightly sweetened cereal grain (which actually reminds me of Post Honeycomb cereal) …”


You may read about the Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown here:

The Rum Howler 2015 Top 25 Canadian Whiskies

4 Responses to “The Rum Howler’s #4 Canadian Whisky of 2015 – Ninety “Decades of Richness” 20 Year Old”

  1. Reid said

    Hey Chip, can you comment on the label naming this dram, “Canadian Rye Whisky”? I have heard a few claims that this is a 100% corn whisky, which would be contradictory to the label. I’ve read several pieces that state, as you have, that the Ninety inexpensive is corn-based but nothing that suggests corn is the only grain in the blend.

    In my opinion, there is a definite rye character to this whisky and I’m curious as to whether it’s possible to develop those spicy aromas and flavours from corn and the maturation process alone. Either way, it’s a delicious whisky and one of my very favourite drops!


    • Hi Reid

      In the USA a whisky can be labelled as “Rye Whiskey” if and only if at least 50 % of the volume of the mash bill is rye grain. Although this seems a fair way to label a product, bear in mind that volume and mass are two different things, and as well the volume of distillate which is derived from different grains does not correlate equally with each grains volume. As well this rule says nothing about the predominant flavour.

      In Canada, our whisky has traditionally been called “rye whisky” because the rye flavour is a predominant characteristic of our whisky. Because of the tradition attached to the name, all of our Whiskies which have the traditional flavour and character which we associate with ‘Canadian Rye’ may be called ‘Canadian Rye whisky’ even if rye grain is not the dominant grain in the mash bill. Because of the way in which our whisky is produced most Canadian whiskies carry this this traditional ‘rye flavour’.

      In the Case of Highwood’s 100 % Corn Whiskies, this rye flavour is achieved through astute blending, and the barrel aging. Believe it or not, that clean spicy rye flavour we recognize in our whisky is also one of the flavours which we extract from the barrel. Because the Ninety 20 Year Old Whisky has the characteristic “rye” flavour we associate with our Canadian Whisky, our labeling law allows it to be called “Canadian Rye Whisky”.

      Thus in Canada it is the predominant flavour which guides our labeling, and in the US it is the predominant grain.

      Incidentally Highwood’s White Owl Whisky, which does not carry the signature flavour characteristic of our whisky cannot even be labelled “Canadian Whisky”. It is simply whisky.

      • Reid said

        Seems kind of strange to me… But thanks for the very thorough explanation!

        • I like the Canadian rules which respect our Canadian history and traditions. And I like it, when a whisky labeled ‘Canadian Rye Whisky”, actually tastes like ‘Canadian Rye whisky”.

          BTW: In a similar manner I found it very strange for myself when I opened a bottle of High West Rye Whiskey (a whiskey from the US Midwest) several years ago and found it tasted far more of corn than it did of rye. At first I was quite upset about it and felt ‘ripped off’. Later after learning more about the differences in how Canada and the USA treat labeling I realized I should not have projected my expectations based upon my Canadian experiences upon a product from another Country which produced its whiskey under a completely different set of rules.

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