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Century Reserve 21 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky (2013)

Whisky Review: Century Reserve 21 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky   91.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on December 06, 2013

Highwood DistilleryIn November of 2005, Highwood Distilleries Ltd. 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 had established (Century and Potters) were added to the Highwood portfolio.

The Potters Whisky stocks (which were primarily corn-based) have been slowly dwindling. To keep the brands maintained (and to grow them) Highwood has for some time been distilling their own corn-based spirit to age at their facilities to blend with the original Potters spirit. Thus these brands (Century and Potters) may be undergoing subtle changes in recent years as the combination of aging the distillate on the Western side of Rocky Mountains and the use of Highwood’s corn distillate is sure to be having some effect upon the final taste.

According to the information provided me when I reviewed this whisky the first time, Century Reserve 21 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky, is a premium a 21-year-old single grain corn whisky. This makes the Century reserve something of a rarity upon the landscape of Canadian Whisky. It has been over 3 years since I last reviewed the brand, and I am interested to see what changes may or may not have occurred to those aged stocks since 2010.

Century_Reserve_21_Yr_-_shadowIn the Bottle 4/5

Century Reserve 21 Year Old is presented in a squat rectangular glass bottle which stands about 8 inches high. The bottle is nice and the rectangular shape gives the bottle the masculine look of a crystal decanter. This is a style of whisky bottle that I can set at the forefront of my whisky shelf or as a display piece in my Liquor cabinet. I have to admit however, that the label has always disappointed me. I think it is the way the word ‘Century’ and the number ’21’ stand out in larger fonts. Unfortunately this brings to my mind images of a well-known Realty Company, instead of a well aged whisky.

As well, I would like to see some type of illustration, or photo, which brings the heritage of this unique twenty-one year old whisky to life. I admit that there is a nice write-up on the back label of the bottle; but I wonder how many people pass the whisky over on the store shelves when they look at the front label.

In the Glass 9/10

The whisky displays itself as a nice rich golden amber liquid in the glass, and it seems to me that the spirit is perhaps darker in colour than it used to be. Those old Potter’s stocks are slowly aging with the result that the age of this whisky (produced, I believe from a single bond) has been increasing each year even though the label still says 21 Year Old.

The breezes above the glass are luscious. Indications of roasted corn-0n-the-cob, rich oak spices, toffee, butterscotch, and tobacco all rise up to greet my nose. As the whisky breathes, those scents and smells above the glass become even richer with oak sap, stronger tobacco accents, marmalade and hints of vanilla pudding marrying themselves into the overall aroma.

In the Mouth  56/60

All of the goodness I sensed in the air above the glass comes through clearly as the whisky entered my mouth and traversed across my palate. I taste rich woody flavours of oak and cedar with the spiciness of the wood tempered by caramel corn. The whisky also carries bourbon-like flavours of vanilla, light dabs of corn syrup, honeycomb and spicy tobacco. A touch of orange marmalade and hints of marzipan round out the flavour profile which seems to meld and grow as the glass breathes.

(After a full 20 minutes of sitting and breathing, the whisky has turned into a wonderful corn and oak nectar which has me grabbing the bottle to pour another glass.)

In the Throat 13.5/15

The whisky is medium bodied and the finish is longer than one would suspect. The exit features flavours of roasted sweet corn, caramel, and oak spice. The corn and caramel flavours slip away leaving a nice afterglow of spicy oak.

The Afterburn 9.5/10

I fought with my scoring during this review. The nose (In The Glass) could have been 9.5 as easily as it was 9, and the finish (In The Throat) could perhaps have been 14 instead of 13.5. Both times I was torn in my decision-making process. So in this part of the review where I share my final thoughts, (The Afterburn) I let the whisky have that extra half point just to balance things out.

The only flaw I found in my newest bottle of Century Reserve 21 Year Old was in the label, the rest of this whisky is absolutely wonderful!

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

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