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Centennial Spiced Canadian Rye Whisky

Review: Centennial Spiced Canadian Rye Whisky  89.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published February 6, 2013

Not that long ago, I had a discussion with a well-known Master Blender (from a major producer of whisky) about the rush of spiced and flavoured rums and whiskies which are entering the marketplace. I lamented the fact that most of these spirits were constructed using young inexpensive spirits as their base, rather than beginning with a spirit which already showed age and character. The master distiller gave me this ‘father knows best’ look and explained that this category was meant for the new spirits consumer as an entry-level product, and using a better spirit as the base would just be a waste of good whisky (or rum). I countered that I thought the spiced and flavoured category could be much more; but I also quickly changed the subject. (I could see that he thought I was nuts).

Well maybe I am nuts; but recently, I actually received a sample of just the very kind of spiced whisky I had been talking about, Highwood Distillers – Centennial Spiced Canadian Whisky. Unlike most of the spiced and flavoured whiskies which have sprung up recently which use a very young whisky as the base for the spirit, Highwood’s Centennial Spiced Whisky uses a well aged 10-year-old whisky (their own Centennial Rye Whisky) as the foundation for this spiced spirit.

centennial-spicedIn the Bottle 4.5/5

The Centennial Spiced Whisky arrives in the same basic bottle with the same basic label as Highwood’s 10 Year Old Centennial Whisky. I am pleased by this for two reasons. In the first place, the new Centennial Spiced Whisky is firmly associated with the same 10 year Old Whisky which makes up the base of its construction; and in the second place, the bottle is actually quite attractive and so is the label. I also like that the distillery has had the foresight to give me an indication of the expected flavour profile for this spiced whisky with what amounts to brief tasting notes on the back label. The back of the bottle tells me that notes of vanilla, butterscotch, ginger and clove will be expected. My feeling is that it is always good for the consumer to know what to expect before they plunk down their hard-earned bucks on a bottle of whisky.

In the Glass 8.5/10

The spiced whisky has a light golden colour with perhaps just a touch of a reddish-orange hue. When I tilt my glass and give it a slow twirl I can see a rather thickish oily sheen left on the inside of the glass indicating a perhaps a bit of sugary sweetness within the spirit. Above the glass, the scent of Canadian rye whisky is on display as mild butterscotch scents mingle with light rye spices.

As the glass breathes, the aroma builds with first vanilla popping up, and then some dabs of cinnamon, cloves and cardamom make their way into the breezes with a mild tobacco accent. Some of these impressions are no doubt arising from the added spices and some of these scents are reflections of the 10-year-old whisky which serves as the base for the spirit. Overall the aroma is pleasant, and I am pleased to begin to take my first sip.

In the Mouth 54/60

Rather than a whisky buried by spice, we encounter flavours of vanilla, ginger, and cloves (and yes butterscotch too) which are lifted by the character of the well aged Centennial Whisky. Although the combination of spices does not appear to be complicated, there is a punch of ginger in the flavour profile that to me, tastes absolutely brilliant. (Rye and ginger is a match made in heaven.)

The overall result is a mixing of whisky and spice which is wonderful. This is exactly the type of spirit I had envisioned when I was having my previous discussions about what the spiced and flavoured category could be. (The particular Master Blender I mentioned in the introduction couldn’t see it; but to my delight, the folks at Highwood Distillers saw it clearly.)

In the Throat 13.5/15

The slightly sweetened flavour profile allows the whisky to have a rather long lingering finish; but rather than the sweet butterscotch, it is the spicy cloves and ginger which are allowed to tickle the tonsils the longest. I find the exit very enjoyable with none of the cloying attributes so common in spiced and flavoured spirits.

The Afterburn 9/10

Highwood had broken new ground with a spiced whisky which has quickly become one of my favourites. I love how the character of the aged whisky supports the spiced flavour profile. I found the spirit works great on its own as a sipper, but also works stunningly well in long drinks and cocktails (see below).

In my opinion, the Centennial Spiced Canadian Rye Whisky represents the future blueprint for the spiced and flavoured category of distilled spirits. It is miles ahead of the competition!

You may read some of my other Liqueur and Favoured Spirit Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipes

SAM_0331 Centennial CelebrationCentennial Celebration

1 oz Centennial Spiced Canadian Rye Whisky
1/2 oz Empire Gin (London dry gin)
1 oz Grapefruit juice
1/2 oz Sugar syrup
dash grenadine
Lemon slice for garnish

Combine ingredients into a metal shaker with ice.
Shake until the metal shaker chills.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with lemon slice

Note: I use grenadine mainly because I like to add colour to my cocktails. It is okay to just add sugar syrup if adding colour to the cocktail does not appeal to you.


SAM_0494 Tall GingerThis recipe is basically the traditional Horse’s Neck made with Centennial Spiced Canadian Whisky.

Tall Ginger

1 1/2 oz Centennial Spiced Canadian Rye Whisky
6 oz Ginger-ale
Lemon slice

Fill a tall glass with ice
Add Centennial Spiced Whisky and Ginger ale
Garnish with a slice of Lemon.


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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