Ninety 20 Year Old Canadian Whisky

It’s been too long since I added a new post, so what better way to get back in the saddle than with a review of my favourite Canadian Whisky!

This beauty is another fine expression from Highwood Distillers located in High River, near Calgary, Alberta. The first bottle of Ninety-20 that I ever picked up was as a Father’s Day gift for my Dad. Fortunately, we shared a nip when that first bottle was opened, so I was able find out in short order that this was a whisky that needed a home in my cabinet as well.

Ninety 20 Year Old is bottled at 45 abv (hence the brand name to reflect that it is 90-proof) and is available in local liquor stores for about $43. I know, 20-year old whisky for that kind of price… You almost can’t afford not to drink it!

To the Eye

Straw-coloured liquid gold, this whiskey looks exactly the way a Canadian dram ought to look. There is obviously no artificial colouring here and I doubt that any special casks were involved… Probably just good old charred oak, which should allow the rye to shine. A swirl of my Glencairn produces reasonably thick, stubborn legs.

In the Nose

The breezes above my glass reveal, at first, a fairly typical Canadian profile. There’s plenty of dusty rye and an obvious oakiness, along with a good dose of sweet corn. But, as the glass breaths, a very untypical – for Canadian whisky – richness develops. Honeycomb comes to the forefront, along with butterscotch and cinnamon. I can’t put my finger on a specific type, but there is also a subtle fruitiness lingering in the background as well. This nose is gentle and inviting, but surprisingly complex!

On the Tongue

Wow! This dram is rich, yet balanced, and extremely delicious. Right away, I get a gentle but firm hit of oak, along with some assertive dusty, grainy rye. The rye brings a spiciness that is well-balanced with some butterscotch and vanilla and a subtle nuttiness… hazelnut? I can also taste that fruitiness that I was picking up in the nose but, again, it’s difficult to pin down. It seems a little bit like citrus peel, but maybe somewhat more herbal like cilantro. Whatever, it’s wonderful! Surprisingly, this is also a Canadian with a moderately long finish, where the rye returns with baking spices and that dusty, drying rye character that will guide you to the next sip.

Final Thoughts

For me, this is the one – the best Canadian whisky I know of! Rich and complex, in my opinion, Ninety 20 Year Old can hold its own against almost any other whisky out there. At the same time, this dram somehow stays entirely true to the Canadian style, remaining light and clean on the palate. Flat out, this is a remarkable whisky!

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7 thoughts on “Ninety 20 Year Old Canadian Whisky”

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      I know that Ninety is corn-based, rather than rye- or wheat-based but I haven’t been able to find information on the mash bill that confirms it as a 100% corn whisky. Regardless, there are unmistakable rye notes on the nose and the palate, which may be due to the climate and/or aging process, if not from any contribution of rye spirit.

      I don’t think my review contains any false statements about the make-up of this whisky but I did use a “rye” tag, simply because it does rather taste like a rye whisky and because so many people lump all Canadian whiskies as “rye”.

      I appreciate your feedback. It will remind me to be careful with the tags I choose for reviews. And, most importantly, I couldn’t agree more that Ninety 20 yr is a special dram… My favourite Canadian whisky, at the moment!

  1. This may help, Comment from a well known Canadian Whiskey site;

    http://www.canadianwhisky.org/reviews/highwood-ninety-20-year-old-45-alcvol.html

    Piers:
    August 30, 2013 at 3:58 pm
    I’ll keep an eye out for this! Is it another all-corn whisky? (just guessing after the 25 and all the corn cob notes you found) 🙂
    Reply
    Davin:
    August 30, 2013 at 4:01 pm
    To my knowledge, yes, all corn.
    Reply
    Chip Dykstra:
    September 11, 2013 at 8:59 pm
    I asked Sheldon Hyra and he said yes, it is a 100 % Corn Whisky!

    Cheers

  2. It doesn’t alter my opinion of the spirit at all but I do wonder why they label Ninety as Rye Whisky, then. I notice the same designation on their “Century” and “Potters” brands but I think the Potters stocks are corn whiskies… it would be interesting to know their reasons!

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