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Century Reserve (Lot 1525) Canadian Rye Whisky

Review: Century Reserve (Lot 1525) Canadian Rye Whisky 92.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on August 28, 2010

Photo of Barrels aging at Highwood Distillery

Somewhere in the Highwood Distillery barrel aging warehouse is a darkened corner where all of the oak barrels are all stamped “Lot 1525“.  This  corner contains the oldest whisky in the entire facility,  with the age of the whisky inside the barrels ranging  from 15 to 25 years. (It has been hinted to me that some of these barrels contain whisky that is perhaps even older!)  These whisky barrels were originally part of the consignment of whisky acquired when Highwood purchased the Potter’s Distillery in 2005.  As such, these are barrels of whisky produced from a corn-based distillation by the old Potters Distillery, in Kelowna British Colombia. The barrels made the journey to the Highwood facility in 2005 and have been sitting in the darkened corner waiting for the right moment to be tapped and bottled.  From this darkened corner, the Master Blender has carefully chosen just the right barrels, and then just as carefully blended the wonderful elixir within to create a blend of whisky which contains the distillery’s most prized aged whisky, the Lot1525 Century Reserve Custom Blend Canadian Rye Whisky.

I was inside the warehouse this past February, and I captured a few pictures of the aging barrels stacked four levels high standing row upon row. I remember the wonderful aroma of the ‘angels share’ permeating the facility, offering me a gentle intoxication if only I were to stay a little longer. Wisely, I headed to the door before I was subdued completely. Perhaps, one day I will return and stay just a little longer; but, for now I am content to carry the memory of that heady aroma in my mind.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

The Century Reserve Custom Blend is presented in the distinctly elegant bottle pictured to the right.  The beige display box has a small paragraph explaining the heritage of the bottling and serves to pique my interest. To crown the presentation, the clear glass bottle is capped by a straight sided high density cork. I love bringing this bottle out for guests as it always elicits a nice “wow’ factor and sets up the evening for an enjoyable tasting and repartee.

In the Glass 9/10

The spirit shows a light shine on the sides of my glass when I tilt it, and small slender legs which run back down into the whisky. A beautiful amber hue seems to accent a lovely honey and caramel aroma rising from the glass. Wonderful mellow rye notes accompany the honey and the caramel and a light bourbon vanilla seems to drift above the glass in the breezes.  The impact of nosing the glass is a well received feeling of luxury, and elegance which is divine.

In the Mouth 56/60

Upon entry into my mouth, I taste a clean rye whisky which oozes honey and spice.  A nice  light corn flavour rests underneath supporting the whisky with a gentle elegance.  Like the Centennial rye which I reviewed previously, this is polished, with the hard rye buffed and smoothed into a silky suave flavour experience. Oak spices and marzipan weave in and out of the corn, the rye, and the honey, but in spite of the ages of the whisky in the blend, this never turns awkward or woody nor does the oak  swamp the mouth with bitter tannins. I find the balance to be superb!  The entire presentation is suave elegance and luxurious smoothness.

The gentle profile of the whisky remains true irregardless of previous taste experiences on my palate.  This well aged whisky is a wonder.

In the Throat 14/15

Smooth, clean and luxurious right through to the finish.  The faintest touches of honey and bourbon vanilla trail down the throat followed by the gentle burn of rye and oak spice.  This is one of the most luxurious, mellow finishes in all of Canadian whisky.

The Afterburn 9/10

I have said before, that Highwood Distillers are one of the best kept secrets of the whisky world.  This whisky is perhaps their crowning achievement. It is a grand whisky which revels in smoothness and luxury.

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

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Suggested Recipe

I sipped and sampled my way through most of my bottle without even a thought to mixing a cocktail.  This whiskey is just that good.  But right at the end I thought I would try a classic New Orleans cocktail, The Sazerac.  The original cocktail was based upon Cognac, but a variation based upon rye is very popular.  The  cocktail was delicious, and so I went to the store, bought another bottle and took a few pictures of the Century Reserve Lot 1525 Whisky and the delicious cocktail.

Here is my recipe which uses the Lot 1525 Century Reserve for the rye  and Green Chartreuse rather than absinthe.

The Rye Sazerac

2 oz Canadian rye whisky
3/4  tsp sugar
Two dashes bitters (Peychaud’s)
lemon peel
a dash Green Chartreuse
Chill an old-fashioned glass by filling it with ice.
In another glass muddle the sugar and Peychaud’s bitters
Add the Rye Whiskey and stir
Now empty the old-fashioned glass of its ice (It should be well chilled)
Rinse the inside of the chilled old-fashioned glass with Green Chartreuse expelling any excess.
Empty the rye-sugar-bitters mixture into the chilled old-fashioned glass
squeeze the lemon peel over the cocktail
If desired, garnish with the remainder of the lemon peel

Please enjoy in a responsible manner!

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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)

11 Responses to “Century Reserve (Lot 1525) Canadian Rye Whisky”

  1. CBrown said

    Although I proudly own bottles of the Calgary Stampede 25 and the Highwood Ninety this one has escaped me …’till now. I believe it’s time to set things right! (and the fact that our stingy overpriced BC liquor board has this one on sale for $27.99 will have me stocking up!)
    Although I get the sense that this is not the most balanced whisky it sure sounds like a fun one. Just a note on the composition: there is a great quote from Davin on his Canadian Whisky.org site in the comments section in response to a similar query on what this is made of …….”It is all corn. I learned a lot from this whisky because you are right, it does not taste like all-corn. A distiller at another distillery told me the correct question was not “what grain is it made from,” but “how was it distilled.” So there you go.

    Now, I’ll be curious to see if you’ll need to put an asterisk beside your final remark “This whisky is perhaps their crowning achievement.” as we move up to the top 10….
    Thanks again for doing this Chip, it’s a lot of fun.

    • Thanks Chris.

      I would probably add that it is not only the grain and how it is distilled that matters, but also where and how it is aged. Our dry climate in Alberta gives rise to a peculiar phenomenon whereby as our whisky ages, the alcohol content inside the barrel can go up rather than down. It is quite common for the water inside the barrel to evaporate faster than the alcohol. This phenomenon (I am told) actually increases the spiciness of the whisky as more fine wood spices seem to be drawn into the barrel as a result. Thus our corn whisky made and aged in the west will taste more rye-like than the corn whisky aged in the south.

      As for that final remark… no spoilers!

  2. jrhambrey said

    Hi Chip,

    I’ve been following your blog for some time now, and noticed you have sometimes included small barrels in your pictures of various bottles. I am aging my first whisky….any suggestions?

    http://whiskywon.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/creating-my-own-whisky-whiskyworks-still-waters-and-buffalo-trace/

    cheers,
    Jason

    • Hi jr

      Rather than giving you a suggestion i will walk you through one of my small cask experiments. I went through a phase where I did a lot of blending with those small casks and had some nice successes. One of my experiments with double casking Scotch was a roaring success. As my Base spirit I used Macallum Cask Strenght 12yr Old Scotch (25 % of total spirit). I added to this two parts of a very acrid Bruichladdich 18 year Old Rum Cask Scotch (50 % of total spirit). I also added 12 yr Glenfiddich (20 % of total) and Bowmore 10 yr old. (5 %).

      The Bruichladdich was practically undrinkable in its present form. A disastrous product dumped into the Alberta Market which unfortunately I bought thinking that this company’s scotch could never be bad. (Should have read Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible beforehand.) The GlenFiddich was okay but not spectacular, and the Bowmore was added to give this a bit of a peaty punch.

      I put the blend into a fresh cask which had been aced with Bourbon for two weeks. (Woodford Reserve) I left the blend in the cask for 10 weeks. At this point I had a drinkable blend but it was not spectacular. I moved the blend into a year old cask which had been used continously for the past year on a variety of spirits. I had flushed this cask with water for a week and then Aced it with Grahams 6 Grape Ruby Port for two weeks.

      The entire blended spirit aged for another six weeks in the Port with me tasting it each week. At week four the taste profile started to change rapidly. So rapidly that I had to taste each day. The flavour peaked near the end of the sixth week and I noticed a slight numbing of the flavour at the end of that week. I bottled the spirit instantly.

      What went in the barrel at the start was quite frankly something which I would be unable to drink. What came out was heavenly. I had a little party on the weekend and served this scotch side by side with Old Parr 15 yr Old blended Scotch. (For the uninitiated this is considered one of the very best blends in the world if not one of the very best whiskeys.) Everybody in attendance at my party loved my blend equally to the Old Parr. (Well except for my Sister in law who doesn’t count.)

      I learned from this exercise value of continuous tasting to get the product bottled at just the right time. When the product starts to turn so to speak in those small casks the flavour turns very fast. Hope this is interesting for you as well as helpful. It sure was fun.

  3. Kevin Zbitnew said

    I agree with Chip and Mike’s review. I bought this at the LCBO rently and thought it was really delicious. I do not normally drink Canadian whiskey and normally prefer Scotch single malts or Irish whiskey. The Century reserve was astounding for the money. Very complex, smooth and viscious with a tremendous finish, a lighter style, more reminiscent of a top shelf Irish whiskey. Tasted very little like a typical Canadian whiskey to me, which is a good thing for me. I bought several more later to save for a rainy day!

  4. […] Throughout, the bourbon vanilla is the dominating flavour and aroma, all while being fairly well balanced.  With a purchase price just over $30, I was amazed at the quality of this whisky — another unknown Canadian gem of a whisky.  Time to stock up on these before people realize how good, and how good a value, they really are.  For another great review of this dram, check out The Rum Howler Blog. […]

  5. Mike said

    Nice review. This whisky is a great value, despite the price increases, and is a go-to whisky for me, though I do enjoy the 21 year old more. So is it corn and rye in the blend?

    • Thanks Mike.

      The whisky was presented to me as a corn whisky, however like most Canadian Whiskies, it is blended to have that traditional Canadian ‘rye flavour’. I am not privy to the actual constituents of the final blend, but I smelled and tasted that typical Canadian rye flavour within the corn, so that is what I described. (FYI: I have tasted a 100 % Irish Corn whisky that also had a hint of ryelike flavour mixed with the corn, so I am not willing to say that there must be rye in the mask, it may be a 100 % corn whisky.)

      • Mike said

        Ah, okay. I was surprised to learn that the 21 year old is 100% corn (or so I heard) and I wondered if this might be similar, but it does say “custom blend” on the bottle, which might indicate other grains. Nice stuff either way.

        • There are similarities when you taste them side by side. I get more corn flavour out of the 21, but it may be that may be a matter of the corn mellowing with age in the custom blend or Highwood purposely choosing certain barrels to achieve the taste they desire. Perhaps I’ll quiz the guys at Highwood just a little harder and see what they say.

          Cheers

 
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