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Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old

Review: Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old   91/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (aka Arctic Wolf)
Published September 10, 2013

The Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old is a Canadian Whisky which I have only tasted twice, and each time, it was in a blind tasting flight that contained over 45 other Canadian Whiskies. Of course this was when I served on the jury for the 2012 Canadian Whisky Awards. I made simple tasting notes for every whisky I tasted when I ran through the tasting flight the first time, and then I returned to those notes revising and adding to them when I went through the flight a second time. Each time I visited each whisky, all I knew about the spirit was its sample number. The samples were only 50ml in size, so I had to be judicious each time I tasted each sample such that my notes and my scores were accurate reflections of my feeling towards each of the whiskies.

(And to be clear, I did not taste all 45 in one day. Each day I would taste only 5 or 6 samples, and the process of judging occurred over a four-week span.)

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 (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 is 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). I should point out that the whisky 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 2012 Canadian Whisky Awards.

As I am unlikely to receive a bottled sample of this whisky, my review is based solely upon those brief tasting notes I wrote while I was acting as a whisky judge. I guess my hope is that the brand owner (and the folks at Highwood Distillery) might read the review, and figure out that maybe Canada deserves this Whisky too.


In the Bottle 4/5

I downloaded a bottle shot from the Fountana Group Website. As you can see, the bottle is pretty much the same as the one used for Highwood’s Centennial Whisky. The whisky arrives in a tall slender bottle which looks rather elegant on my bar shelf. It is corked rather than sealed with a screw cap which adds to that feeling of elegance.

Note: The Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old is bottled at 40 % alcohol by Volume.

The following are my actual tasting notes from the Awards Competition:

In the Glass 9/10

Amber  colour
Moderately thick legs, notes of corn, oak, tobacco and caramel

In the Mouth  56/60

Rich oak and cedar with caramel corn, honeycomb and tobacco

Finish 13.5/15

Spicy corn and oak

The Afterburn 9/10

What I wrote in blue is taken word for word from my judging notes. I cannot really add anything to them as I have never had a chance to taste the whisky again. But I do remember eagerly checking the final scoring results of the 2012 Canadian Whisky Awards for several of the samples that stood out for me. This one of those “stand out” samples, and I think that says as much or perhaps even more than more detailed tasting notes could.

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

(Note: After writing this review (but prior to its publication), Highwood Distillers provided  me with a sample of their newest whisky which was released by the Distillery in extremely limited quantities in Alberta just prior to the flooding that ravaged the distillery in June of 2013. This new whisky, Ninety (20 Year Old), will be available in larger quantities sometime in the late fall of 2013, or early winter 2014 when the distillery reaches full production again. I will provide a full review of the Ninety in the coming months.)


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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