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Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old

Review: Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old   95/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (aka Arctic Wolf)
Published December 23, 2017

Five years ago, I encountered Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old Whisky as a random sample in the group of 45 such samples which I was assessing as part of my duties when I served on the jury for the 2012 Canadian Whisky Awards. Whenever I participate as a spirits judge I always make note of any of the samples which strike me as being particularly good, and the small sample bottle which contained the Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old Whisky was one which I had earmarked as a superior whisky. So, when the Awards Competition was complete, it was to my dismay that I learned this particular whisky (Random Sample number 7 by the way) was a brand destined not for Canada; but instead for Taiwan.

The Fountana Group Canada is the brand owner, and it turns out the whisky was produced by Highwood Distillers right here in my home Province of Alberta. The Fountana Group contracted Highwood to produce a well aged whisky for export to Asia where it apparently has been well received. (It was also well received by the other jurors on that panel for the Canadian Whisky Awards as this brand won the prestigious Connoisseur Whisky of the Year for the Export Market at those same 2012 Canadian Whisky Awards.)

When I wrote a brief review for this whisky in 2013, I lamented that this great whisky was available only in Asia, and I hoped that the brand owner (and the folks at Highwood Distillery) might read the review, and decide that maybe Canada deserved this Whisky too.

Perhaps my idea was not so far-fetched, as I was contacted by the Fountana Group two years later asked to review the Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old Batch 001. This was a new higher proof version of their whisky brand destined for Canadian retail shelves rather than for Asia. The higher proof version (46 % abv. versus 40 % abv. for the original) was even better, and I named the whisky not only the best Canadian Whisky of 2015, I named Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old the Best Whisky in the entire world in 2015.

(I was not the only one to go crazy over this outstanding whisky, it has received rave reviews all over Canada from almost everybody who has tasted it. In fact I have not read a single bad review from any of my whisky reviewing colleagues.)

Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old is now a standard bottling (still owned by the Fountana Group). According to the information provided me, the spirit is (as it was before) distilled and aged by Highwood Distillers. It is a 100% corn whisky bottled at 46% alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old arrives in the same slender elegant bottle as Highwood’s Centennial branded whisky. The labeling is attractive, and like the Centennial Whisky, the sleek bottle for the Canadian Rockies is topped by a straight sided high density cork. The only drawback to the presentation is that the bottle is too tall for my liquor cabinet. A very minor quibble.

In the Glass 9.5/10

The spirit displays a light golden hue in the glass which is somewhat surprising considering its 21 year age statement. It appears that caramel colouring is not part of the marketing strategy for this particular whisky. When I tilted my glass and gave it a slow twirl, the whisky left a thickened oily sheen upon the inside of my glass which held back for a long moment before dropping thick legs back down into the liquid below.

The initial breezes above the glass brought me impressions of dusty grain fields and firm oak spices. Soon I began to notice orange peel and butterscotch scents moving together over time creating impressions of marmalade and caramel toffee. There were also lovely hints of cinnamon and vanilla weaving within the breezes. I am not really sure when it happened, but at some point in my examinations, luscious corn smells began to well out of the glass. Everything is balance, and my appetite was whetted to the point that was time to take a sip.

In the Mouth 57.5/60

I taste a wonderful melding of butterscotch, oak spice and corn accompanied by a burst of wood spice, cinnamon and orange peel. Vanilla and baking spices (cinnamon and nutmeg) follow with almond-like marzipan and fruity marmalade and canned apricots all joining in.There is a ribbon of chocolate-like bitterness running throughout which compliments the butterscotch and sweet fruit. Rich tobacco and soft leather flavours add even more depth and character to the glass. The descriptors are the same as when I reviewed Batch 001 two years ago and the whisky is just as good.

In the Throat 14/15

This is a full-bodied whisky (rare for a Canadian) with a long satisfying finish. Sweet butterscotch and corn flavours are chased down by oak and cedar spices which leave a lightly bitter echo in the throat. The palate is left glowing with little bursts of cinnamon and orange peel, and then a soothing almost menthol-like sweetness appears leaving me little choice but to pour another dram.

The Afterburn  9.5/10

It is sometimes the case that when you taste a spirit from the very first batch made, the spirit is not representative of future bottlings. Blending differences creep in as a product becomes popular and the distilleries have to make compromises to maintain production. This is especially true for very old whiskies which must be constructed from a limited number of barrels. I am pleased to say that I have encountered no such compromises in the current bottling; my appreciation for the Canadian Rockies 21 Year Whisky is as firm as ever.

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Whisky Reviews.


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)


3 Responses to “Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old”

  1. Geoff said

    I sampled the 21 once, and I found it vastly superior to the 10 year old, which I bought a few months back.

    This is bottled exclusively for the Taiwan market, to be specific. As a Canadian in Taiwan I can attest to the fact that there is very little interest in our splendid Canadian whiskies out here. Scotch pretty much dominates the market. However, Japan has recently become something of a mecca in Asia for fantastic bourbon, and they do have a limited selection of Canadian offerings as well. Where Japan’s interest leads, Taiwan usually follows. Here’s hoping some more Canadian whiskies manage to make there way out here, it’s basically an untapped market at this point.

    Btw this is a wonderful website. Very comprehensive and informative, I’ve consulted your reviews many times. Keep up the great work!


  2. EricH said

    Something I’ve noticed with Scotch whisky and bourbon is that both are big sellers in Asian markets especially when they are very old (15 to 20+ years). But I wasn’t aware of Canadian whiskey being popular in Asia. My parents are both from Taiwan so it’s fascinating to see a Canadian whiskey destined for that country.

    • Ultra Premium Canadian Whisky has seen substantial growth in the last few years. However, very little of our whisky ever makes it to the Asian Market. (It tends to sell though here in North America without many bottles making it overseas.

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