Collingwood 21-Year-Old Canadian Rye

December 7, 2013


Dark rye bread with complex undertones of herbs, spring flowers, newly turned earth, hot white pepper, licorice and creamy milk chocolate. The defining feature is it’s creamy smoothness. A real treat and a genuine treasure. ★★★★☆

The whisky story of 2011 may well have been Collingwood Canadian Whisky. This richly flavoured upscale brew was distilled at Brown-Forman’s Canadian Mist distillery in Collingwood, an Ontario resort town a couple of hours north of Toronto. Collingwood, the town sits on the shores of Nottawasaga Bay, an inlet on the massive, crystal clear Georgian Bay.

Collingwood, the whisky, is unique. Once it has matured, it is blended, then rested for up to a year in a huge marrying vat filled with maplewood staves.  Not maple syrup, mind you, but maple wood.  The result simply gushes berry fruits. Intended for the burgeoning Canadian connoisseur whisky market, it’s not your dad’s Canadian Mist.

You never know what secrets may lurk in those maturing houses on Collingwood’s Pretty River Parkway. For example, more than two decades ago Canadian Mist distiller, Harold Ferguson put away 50 barrels of 100% malted rye spirit. It was an experiment; he had no actual plans for the whisky. Just this year his successor, David Dobbin deemed that whisky ready to drink and has bottled it just in time for Christmas. It goes by the name of Collingwood 21-year-old Canadian rye whisky.

It’s a one-time-only bottling, and is available in Ontario and 16 U.S. states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. My advice? If you see it, buy two.

This small batch of all malted-rye whisky was crafted back in the summer of 1991. It then spent 21 years in oak barrels before resting in its own marrying vat with toasted maplewood just like Collingwood original. The result? The smoothest high-rye whisky you’ll ever taste. Simply wonderful.

Nose: Heavy with dark rye bread, pumpernickel, and perhaps a hint of yeast. Vague floral notes blossom into full-on sweet spring flowers amidst remnants of last year’s dried grass and leaves, and the earthiness of a frosty spring garden thawing in the sun. A creaminess reminiscent of raisins dipped in milk chocolate mutes the sweetness of ripe dark fruits.

Palate: Oh, so rye! Sweet and just loaded with rye bread notes, hot spices, white pepper, and a wonderful pithy bitterness. Faint licorice notes waver between root beer concentrate and the herbal-licorice element of sweet parsnips. Syrupy and very full bodied, this creamy, ultra-flavourful whisky simply defines “smooth.”  Although restrainedly hot and provokingly spicy, no specific spices emerge. A vague fruitiness dissolves into a beautiful bitter citrus pith. If ever a whisky was mellow, Collingwood 21 is it.

Finish: Longish and tingling with lingering dark herbal rye bread notes and hints of caramel.

Empty Glass: Sweet caramel and sour rye with pitchy-sweet clean lumber, floral notes and almost herbal hints of peppermint.

Highly recommended. ★★★★☆

Suggested U.S. retail price: $69.99

Collingwood Canadian whisky is reviewed here.

Canadian Mist is reviewed here.

Canadian Mist Black Diamond is reviewed here.

Collingwood 21 year old Canadian rye


35 Responses to “Collingwood 21-Year-Old Canadian Rye”

  1. [...] Collingwood 21-year-old rye is reviewed here. [...]

  2. Marc:

    when available in Ontario?

    • Davin:

      Soon, I hope. Not sure – it’s with LCBO.

  3. tanstaafl2:

    Do you know if the oak barrels the Collinwood rye was aged in for 21 years were new or used? I am thinking it is most likely used cooperage but haven’t seen anyone mention that.

    • Davin:

      Sorry, no idea.

  4. rob reid:

    What is the release date of 21 year old collingwood at the LCBO in Ontario?

    • Davin:

      As soon as LCBO approves it.

  5. [...] on Partager:PlusWordPress:J’aime chargement… Catégories : [...]

  6. Greg:

    Quick question about the presentation: Is the bottle corked this time around or are they still using a plastic screw cap?

    • Davin:

      It is exactly the same presentation.

  7. el:

    Hey Davin, great work on the site. The way the review reads, the whisky should have received a solid 5/5. Why the 4 stars? What didn’t you like about it?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Davin:

      4 1/2 stars. It was a wow whisky but not super wow.

  8. paddockjudge:

    Fantastic, a twenty-one year-old malted rye whisky!

    I can’t help but wonder why the maple treatment was used on this rare whisky, and at only 40%? The trend is big and bold; twenty-one years sleeping in oak should have created some magic. I haven’t exactly been enamored with the standard Collingwood expression; to sacrifice a rare opportunity such as this puzzles me. I hope this unique release lives up to its potential and isn’t just another exercise in ‘smooth’.

    Fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

  9. Richard Yaaremko:

    Hello Davin:
    Has the Collingwood 21 been released in Ontario by the LCBO yet? I’ve got a buddy in Collingwood who is going to send a bottle out to Vancouver Island for me.

    • Davin:

      I don’t see it in their inventory yet.

      • Tom Fahey:

        I used the ‘helloLCBO’ web inquiry page to ask about the release date.. Here is the reply I received on Dec. 6:

        “Thank you for contacting helloLCBO about the availability of Collingwood 21 Year Old Rye (LCBO #371781).

        We are currently awaiting our first delivery of this product in our main warehouse. The order is not expected to arrive until January 8, 2014 so you might wish to contact us closer to that date so that we can give you a better answer regarding the release date. It normally takes a few weeks for a product to go through our testing and distribution cycle after it has arrived in our main warehouse so we are not expecting this product to be available in our retail stores until early February.”

        • Davin:

          Thanks for the update.

  10. [...] Everyone talks about making a better spoon but no one does it… Lots of talk about Canadian Whisky these days but have you had their pancakes?… We need more purple in this country…I like [...]

  11. Just wondering when it’s going to be available in the LCBO

    • Davin:

      Who knows? I am waiting too. What I heard is that it arrived before Christmas and it is waiting for the LCBO lab to get to it.

  12. Marsexplodes:

    The 21 yo Collingwood is now on the LCBO website but as of yet there are no stores listed with actual stock.

    • Davin:

      Fantastic. Thanks for the tip. After it shows up in the first few stores it usually takes a few weeks for it to work its way through the system.
      Good price too. I’ve tried it and it is fantastic.
      Here is the link to the LCBP product page. Anyone waiting for it to arrive near them can search for individual stores from the link.

    • Tom Fahey:

      I checked the LCBO inventory on Feb 22 – there were two stores showing quantity on hand. One in Collingwood (132 bottles) and one in Ottawa (forget how many – 24 I think).
      Yesterday, the stores showing inventory changed, but the quantities are lower; one store with 12, six with 6. The inventory must be moving out to other stores this week, or it is selling quickly.

      • Davindek:

        Something is amiss with the inventory system. I saw it on the shelf in Ottawa last week, bought two bottles, and two days later it was still not in the inventory system yet the cash register had recognized it. I have no clue about LCBO systems.

  13. Omineca Greg!:

    Hey Davin!

    We’ve had this in BC for awhile, but just recently in my local area. It’s $59.99. I was skeptical about trying it because I was never really able to warm up to the other Collingwood, but I thought “What the heck?”. It’s not that I actively disliked the Collingwood…I think it’s admirable that they came up with something so distinctive tasting, it’s just that I couldn’t figure out a way to harness it in a cocktail properly…it made all my old favourites taste weird, and despite trying my hardest, I never found a drink where its unique characteristics improved the final product. So I didn’t know what to expect with this one.

    I’m sipping some now. My first impression is that the maple stave flavour is far better integrated into this whisky than its younger cousin. Much milder influence. I’m picking up licorice and yeast…citrus, orange maybe, more like juice and less like peel. It tastes like that Goodies candy. There is very little heat, it could almost be a dry soft drink. I imagine you could mix lethally strong highballs with this…but I won’t. I like soda pop and I like liquor, but I don’t like them together. I look forward to running this through the usual suspects (Whisky Sour, Sazerac, Manhattan, Suburban, Old Fashioned, Mint Julep, Canadian Maiden) and seeing how I do.

    Once again, thanks for the tips,


    • Davin:

      Hi Greg,

      I’d love to hear your opinion of it once you’ve tried it in some cocktails.

  14. Omineca Greg!:

    Hey Davin!

    Well, the bottle is all gone, and I am happy to report that the Collingwood 21 makes an excellent cocktail mixer.

    As you described in your tasting notes, this is a fairly robust whisky when sipped neat, so I was surprised that when mixed into a drink, how innocuous, and almost transparent it became. The flavours of the bitters, vermouth, mint, cucumber…whatever, really came through cleanly, and combined with the smoothness (I term I don’t really like to use because it can mean a lot of things…but here I mean “easy drinking”) made for some excruciatingly tasty libations.

    I suppose a contrarian could complain that the Collingwood was too passive and didn’t contribute enough of its own flavour to the proceedings, but who invites a contrarian to a party?…

    Old Fashioneds, Mint Juleps, Sazeracs…those turned out great. Once I mastered a light touch with the vermouth, the Manhattan was probably the most approachable one I’ve ever had.

    There was one downside, and I have to admit this also took me aback. The yeast taste, which is subtle on the palate, if forceful on the nose, came out at an inopportune time in the Whisky Sour. It was still smooth, but it tasted like a Vodka Sour where somebody (a dastardly reprobate, no doubt!) had poured in a measure of Trappist ale. Not good. Wondering if it was the (lemon) juice that encouraged the off taste, I tried another couple of old standbys, the Algonquin (rye/dry vermouth/pineapple juice) and the Enchanted Field (rye/Strega/orange juice), but they both turned out pretty excellent, so I don’t know what was bringing out the bad taste in the Sour…

    Anyway, there you go. I was really happy with my bottle, those Manhattans were something special, and I’m debating whether or not I should buy the last bottle available locally. I know, I know…if I don’t buy it, I’ll wake up one random morning six months from now in a cold sweat, screaming, “I’ll never get to taste Collingwood 21 YO Rye again! What was I thinking?”, but at the same time there’s an embarrassment of procurable riches out there in the Canadian Whisky world, and a truly mature person, of which I’m unfortunately not, would learn to let these things go…and not have a pantry increasingly filling up with whisky bottles far faster than I can drink them.


    • Davin:

      Thanks for the update, Greg. Yes, it is important to exercise constraint in the liquor store. I set mysef a limit of four bottles of Collingwood and am happy to report I was able to stick to it. ;-)

  15. Omineca Greg!:

    Good for you Davin!

    Your temperate abstemiousness is a standard we would all do well to emulate…


    psst…word to the wise…if you want to make it sound like less, don’t quote bottles as your unit…use cases…as in…

    “I didn’t even get a complete one of those”

    or in the Collingwood example above…change “four bottles” to “two thirds”…sounds like less, people will have no idea what you actually mean, but…you’re literally the guy that wrote the book on Canadian Whisky, they’ll just assume it’s some esoteric jargon that only true whiskymen use, and they’ll be too intimidated to ask any follow up questions.

    You’re welcome!

  16. Marc:

    why is this whisky not listed in the list of Canadian whiskies on the website?

    • Davin:

      You’d have to ask LCBO.

  17. Waldo:

    Limited supplies of Collingwood 21 now available at LCBO stores.
    Enter Collingwood 21 Year Old Rye in Quick Search on LCBO website for a list of store inventories.
    Picked up a bottle earlier this week…a fine addition to my Canadian collection!

  18. Peter:

    Good stuff, love this one.

  19. johnthon:

    got to say Collingwood is the best whisky iv ever had love it as long as yall make it im going to drink it iv tried it all and Collingwood is by far my best and my favorite!!!

  20. [...] It reminds me, at least in some aspects, of the Lincoln County process used to make Tennessee whiskey. Where Tennessee distillers filter new-make through maple charcoal, this treatment is administered to already matured distillate. It’s said to impart a distinct smoothness and “new dimension of flavor,” and while it may be nothing more than the powers of suggestion talking, I do detect a distinct note of maple syrup in Collingwood 21-Year-Old. [...]

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