About 6 months ago, Fountana Beverage Corp representative Nick Haltigin flew in from Richmond, BC to Edmonton, for one of his frequent visits. We tasted some whiskies from Kavalan, Amrut, and Duncan Taylor. Very good stuff, as always. Then, with a smirk, Nick pulls out a bottle of Canadian whisky – Canadian Rockies 21, bottled at 40%. I tried a sip, and damn, it was good. Nick was still wearing the smirk. “Taiwan only”, were his words. What? No matter how much I begged, I couldn’t get my hands on a bottle of the stuff. Finally this month, Canadian Rockies 21 has seen an exclusive release to the Canadian market. For this new release, there are a couple changes on the label. The first release used the words Rye Whiskey (albeit humbly) on the label, and that has now been stricken. Also, the spirit is bottled at 46%, a seriously welcome decision. Some French has been added to the label, and voilà, the bottle is ready for the Canadian market.
Canadian Rockies 21 is drawn from Highwood Distillers stock in High River, Alberta. Having tried Highwood’s slightly unexciting Ninety 20 year-old (bottled at 45%), and the rare but wonderful Highwood 25 year-old Calgary Stampede Edition (40%), my expectations were wide open.
The packaging is a bit conspicuous. The label looks vaguely like the kind of thing you’d see on a bottle of maple syrup in a “Canadian” novelty gift shop. While some details on the label have been added & deleted since the Taiwan-only release, the labelling aesthetics are completely unchanged. The same pastoral mountain scene is displayed at the top of the label, without any sincere passion or clear provenance. But, like me, people probably won’t care too much about the label at first glance. If I was in a worse mood, I could go on some bitter tirade about the similarity of the Taiwan-only packaging and Canadian-only packaging serving up a certain cynicism about the Canadian consumer and our calloused attitudes to gimmicks in Canadian whisky packaging. But, I won’t do that. At least not today.
Like the other 20+ year-old offerings from Highwood, this whisky is alarmingly light in colour. But, nice that we can probably make a confident assumption that there is no added colouring. I’ve heard stories that Highwood uses their casks “until they literally fall apart”, so the use of refill casks might explain the lightness in colour.
Canadian Rockies 21 is a highly drinkable whisky that has a lot going on in the glass. Doing a side-by-side with the Highwood 25 year Stampede Edition, the Canadian Rockies comes off as more impressive and more multi-layered, taking it to the top of the heap of Highwood’s older whiskies. Is it actually a product of the Rockies, all flowing glaciers and mountain air? No. I guess “Canadian Prairies” has less of a ring to it. But, gripes aside, is the whisky complex and toothsome? Yes. Fabulous stuff.
What do you think? Leave a comment below. Feel free to give your opinion and correct me on any facts I’ve bungled. Cheers.