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Archive for the ‘Howls’ Category

Howls are my main method of posting on the front page. They are my way of communicating to you the general information of the site.

Some Good News – Come Hell or High River!

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 13, 2013

On July 10th, I wrote about the massive flash flood which devastated the Town of High River on June 20th, 2013 (see story here). Although I wrote about the effects of the flood upon the town, the focus of my article was the impact the flood had upon Highwood Distillers. The folks at Highwood had literally only minutes of warning before the flood hit, and the severity of the event was such that some distillery staff had to be rescued from the tops of their cars by helicopter.

The aftermath of the flood left the distillery a mess.

Highwood Distillery's Finished goods Inventory - June 21, 2013

Highwood Distillery’s Finished Goods Inventory – Post Flooding

As you can see from the photo above; after the flood, when the staff re-entered the distillery, they were greeted with the heart wrenching scene of their entire finished goods inventory tossed and mangled by the flood waters. Pallets of spirits had toppled and broken, and there was no way to safely sort through the mess. Even if there had been a way to salvage the tumbled bottled inventory, the Highwood staff decided not to take any chances with respect to the quality of their finished products. Unfortunately this meant that all of Highwood’s finished good inventory had to be destroyed.

In case you are wondering, to clean up a mess this big, you need to bring in the heavy equipment:

Bring in the Bobcats

Bring in the Bobcats

According to Highwood’s National Sales Manager, Sheldon Hyra, the entire plant had to be cleaned to the cinder-block walls. All finished goods were discarded, as well as all raw materials, and much of the equipment.

“The good thing is we will hopefully being starting production again soon, and everything will be sparkling shiny new!”

Of course it wasn’t just the water which tossed everything asunder. There was also the muck and the mud which seemed to be everywhere.

Lobby Floor

Main Entrance Lobby Floor on the Day After.

But, as I said in my initial report, the folks at Highwood are resilient. The small-town blue-collar work ethic which I admired during my previous visit to the distillery is serving them well. The process of cleaning up and rebuilding is coming along, and they plan to begin new production as soon as the new equipment is in place and working smoothly, hopefully around mid September.

Some of you may be wondering just what sort of production are we talking about? It takes three years to make whisky in Canada, and much longer to make those great aged whiskies that Highwood has become known for. What I have wondered about from the beginning of this disaster is, how much of the barreled whisky was compromised? After talking to various sources within Highwood I finally have a clear answer. And happily the news is very good. In fact, according to my contacts at Highwood; most and perhaps even all of the aged inventories survived intact.

Sheldon told me,

“Only the bottom row of barrels touched any water, and we were very lucky the water was in our plant for only about 12 – 24 hours. I have a picture from my TV on Friday afternoon of a news crew helicopter flying by our plant. I took the picture of my TV screen, and (as you can see) everything is dry around the building.”

Arial shot of the Distillery on the day after.

Aerial shot of the Distillery on the day after.

When I asked Sheldon about the barreled whisky inside the plant he stated,

“Our biggest worry walking in was, would the barrels be standing or (would they) have all fallen over like the finished goods?”

The tension as the Highwood staff entered the barrel room must have been intense as Sheldon’s next comment was telling,

“At that point you likely would have seen the end of Highwood Distillers, as they are our “liquid gold” and replacing 33-year-old barrels takes about 33 years …”

The Barrel Room immediately after the Flood

Fortunately the barrel rooms are separated with cinder-block walls and strong overhead doors which prevented most of the water from entering, and as a result, the barrel rooms received very little impact from the flood. As you can see from the picture above there was only a small amount of mud on the floors and the bottom barrels look like they were barely touched by water.

According to Sheldon, the clean up was pretty high-tech,

Dry Ice Blasting Bottom Barrels

Dry Ice Blasting Bottom Barrels

“All the barrels had to be moved and all the floors and walls cleaned; and we had to pay close attention to the bond numbers and physical barreling dates (obviously for Canada Excise). The bottom layer (of barrels) which did touch the water for a very short time was removed, and then (the barrels were) ice blasted (with dry ice). Over the barreling time of years, none of the liquid makes its way out, so we knew (that) in the few hours these barrels were exposed to a little water, they would not have been permeated; but we also wanted to make sure no remnants remained so for 2 weeks we had 4 massive generators and dry ice blasters spraying 12 hours a day.”

I asked Sheldon about the dry ice blasting and he explained,

“The ice blasting is the coolest new technology in restoration. It is a very expensive process basically the same as sand blasting without any mess to clean up, and more importantly, the (cold) temperature kills any mold, spores, etc. 

The liquid has been tested (and found to be) fine. We will continue to test and monitor those specific barrels with all of our brand new lab equipment and testers that are coming as well.”

What all of this means is that my (and of course the Highwood Distillery’s) worst fears regarding the impact of the June 20th Flood, have been averted. The timing for when the distillery will re-commence production is projected to be in mid September, 2013. As the life blood of the distillery (the barreled whisky) is intact, once the new bottling line is operational, they will be able to pick up virtually where they left off leaving the distillery poised to make a full recovery.

Of course, it will not be easy. Highwood has not been to produce any spirits for almost 2 months, and when they begin production they must work hard to regain customer loyalty especially in the new markets they have recently penetrated. Personally, I am placing my bets upon their success as that blue-collar work ethic which I admired so much four years ago when I visited their distillery has served, and will continue to serve them well. This is a group who knows how to roll up their sleeves and face down a challenge.

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In case you were wondering about where they are with respect to the clean up, here is a recent picture of the Finished Goods area which was littered with debris when the staff re-entered the distillery after the flood:

Finished Goods Area all Cleaned up

Finished Goods Area all Cleaned up

And those Barrel Rooms …

Cleaned-up Barrel Rooms

I would say, that looks pretty good, wouldn’t you?

As I was wrapping up this story, Sheldon Hyra asked me to pass along this message from Highwood Distillers,

“We are counting on people to understand the magnitude of this unprecedented disaster for all Southern Alberta, and are hoping people will show extra support for all affected businesses, including their/our Highwood, Potter’s & Century Distillers brands.”

Posted in Canadian Whisky, Howls, Whisk(e)y | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Important Update to my Menu Pages

Posted by Arctic Wolf on July 17, 2013

I have had so many requests to add my scores to my Main Menu Review Pages that today I finally began the huge task.

Check out my new and improved Menu Pages for Gin Reviews, Tequila Reviews, and Vodka Reviews.

Hopefully everyone finds this helpful, and I will continue the work transforming the other menu pages when I catch another stretch of free time.

  Slainte!

 

Posted in Howls | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Come Hell or High River!

Posted by Arctic Wolf on July 10, 2013

Highwood DistilleryOn Thursday, June 20th, in the middle of the day (about noon) a massive flash flood hit the town of High River, in Southern Alberta. Initial estimates are that this flood was an unprecedented event with levels of water not seen in the documented history of the town. This was a true tragedy as town residents literally had to flee to the roof tops of their houses to await rescue by boat and helicopter. There were even reports of local farm equipment (tractors and combines) driving in to rescue stranded people from the roofs of their homes.

One particular business in High River that I have a strong connection to is Highwood Distillers. I have visited the distillery and wrote about it numerous times (see The Highwood Distillery Tour). The folks who work for Highwood impressed me with their blue-collar work ethic and the clean honest taste of their brand of Canadian Whisky.

Alas, the distillery lies near the heart of the downtown directly in front of the small creek that on that day instantly became a giant river. The Highwood Distillery was unfortunately directly in the path of the flash flood. The folks working in the distillery that day report that they had only 6 minutes to find safety. The safety they found was upon the roof tops of their cars, and they were amongst those who had to be rescued by boat and helicopter, (and yes I have a report that some of the staff were rescued by combines).

SAM_0405 CS 25

Rum Howler Best Overall Whisky for 2012

Indications are that the distillery was a mess. All of the bottled goods inventory had to be destroyed; much of the distilling and bottling equipment has been damaged; and inventories of barreled whisky have almost certainly been compromised.

But here is the thing, the folks at Highwood are resilient. That small-town blue-collar work ethic which I admired during my visit to the distillery is serving the town well. The process of cleaning up and rebuilding has begun, and according to the Highwood Distillers website they are working hard and hope to be able to recommence business in a short two months!

I for one, am absolutely certain that Highwood Distillers will be back and that they will continue the path that they were upon making great whisky (see review for Century Reserve (Lot 1525) Canadian Rye Whisky) after great whisky (see review for Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky) not to mention their fantastic Vodka (Pristina) and their Rum Howler Award winning gin (Sahara Dry Gin).

Note: I also declared Highwood’s Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky the Best in the World when I published my 2012 Rum Howler Awards for Whisky! Trust me, these folks make great whisky!

I urge all of you who have come love Highwood’s clean honest family of spirits to have patience, if your favourite brand becomes unavailable for a time. They will rebuild, and they will continue to impact the landscape of Canadian Whisky in a positive manner when they are back. Highwood has recently become a shooting star of sorts amongst Canadian Distillers, and I am sure that their star will continue to shine, Come Hell or High River!

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(Note: I have a bit of experience with floods (although not nearly on the scale as this). On July 4rth, 2004, a massive storm centered itself above West Edmonton Mall (where my retail business is located) and compromised the drainage system of the second floor parking lot directly above my Sports Memorabilia Store). I was working alone at the time, and I can remember the ceiling tile above me breaking and water pouring in from seemingly everywhere. I rushed to get my stock out to safety, but unfortunately, there was no safety. My store, my stock, indeed my entire business was a 100 % write-off. As horrible as my experience nine years ago was, the experience for the people of High River was and is much worse. Today, a full three weeks after the event, many residents still have not been allowed to go back to their homes as the water is still impacting the area such that some neighbourhoods have been deemed too dangerous to re-enter. My heart goes out to the people of High River, and I wish all of them the best that God can offer in a time such as this. May other Canadians and Albertans be generous in their support of your community, and may your insurance claims all be redeemed at full value.)

Posted in Canadian Whisky, Extras, Howls, Whisk(e)y | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

GLENFIDDICH PARTNERS WITH WOUNDED WARRIORS CANADA

Posted by Arctic Wolf on July 8, 2013

14272 GF 15 YO WW Tround MockOn June, 2013 Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch announced that $2.00 from every bottle sold of Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Whisky in Canada would be donated to benefit Canadian Forces Members as part of their continued support for Wounded Warriors Canada. In honour of the ongoing partnership, Glenfiddich has changed its regular packaging throughout 2013 and beyond in recognition of the donation program to help raise awareness and funds for Wounded Warriors Canada.

You may read more here:

GLENFIDDICH PARTNERS WITH WOUNDED WARRIORS CANADA

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(Once in a while I receive a press release that attracts my attention and I feel it is worthwhile to republish the information here upon my website. I do not know quite how I missed this one last month, but it certainly is worth bringing to everyone’s attention. Wounded Warriors Canada is a great organization who is trying to help our Canada Forces Members who have suffered injury while protecting our freedom and the freedom of other people around the Globe. The members of the Canadian Armed Forces are true heroes walking the fine line of serving Canada while respecting the rights of other nations and cultures. I am proud to bring awareness to Wounded Warriors Canada through this posting, and my hope is that many of you read the article and in some way support Wounded Warriors Canada or a similar organization which exists in your locale.)

Posted in Howls, Scotch Whisky, Single Malt Whisky, Whisk(e)y | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off

Screech Rum Adds Two Members to the Family

Posted by Arctic Wolf on May 22, 2013

Famous Newfoundland Screech can trace its ancestry back over 300 years to a time when fishing fleets from Newfoundland, with their cargo of Northern Cod and North Atlantic tuna, traveled south and established a tradition of trade with Jamaica for that elixir of the Caribbean, known as rum. This trade established Newfoundland as one of the major portals for the legal import (and of course a little illegal smuggling) of rum into Canada. There have always been a good variety of rum brands on the shelves of my local liquor store which began their journey westward across Canada from the easternmost Province of Newfoundland and Labrador; the most famous of these brands is certainly the Screech Rum.

Screech Family

Recently Screech has added two new members to it family, Famous Newfoundland Screech Spiced Rum (100 proof) and, Famous Newfoundland Screech Honey Flavoured Rum. Theses rums are produced by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC) from the same 4 marques of Jamaican Rum which are used to produce their Famous Screech Rum, although the treatment of these marques will not necessarily be exactly the same (Screech Spiced Rum is bottled at a full 50 % alcohol by volume, and Screech Honey Flavoured Rum at 35 % alcohol by volume).

The new family members are just now hitting the store shelves in Newfoundland and Labrador, and will soon be making their way across Canada and into parts of the USA. My own samples arrived just this morning, and you can expect my reviews in the next few weeks.

Posted in Dark Rums, Flavouerd Rums, Howls, Overproof Rum, Rum, Spiced Rum | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off

New Zealand Whisky is back!

Posted by Arctic Wolf on February 7, 2013

New Zealand Whisky on my Cold Snowy Deck!

New Zealand Whisky on my Cold Snowy Deck!

What was that I said …  New Zealand Whisky is back?? It was not that long ago that I wasn’t even sure whether New Zealand had ever manufactured whisky. But it turns out that indeed, the distillery at Dunedin on the South Island once produced both Single Malt and blended whisky. I received a press release announcing the return of New Zealand Whisky a few short months ago which told the story. Interestingly enough, there was a Canadian connection to the whisky which was distilled at New Zealand’s Willowbank Distillery. The connection was Canadian whisky giant, Seagram’s, who (not that long ago) was the largest distiller of alcoholic beverages in the world, and the owner of the distillery in Dunedin, New Zealand. Sadly, I learned that Seagram’s sold the distillery in 1997 to an Australian brewer (Fosters) who promptly mothballed it and sent the stills within to Fiji to make rum. The closing of the Willowbank Distillery brought about a temporary end to the Whisky Industry in New Zealand.

But with the New Zealand Whisky Collection, the whisky from New Zealand is back.

According to New Zealand Whisky Collection, CEO, Greg Ramsey:

“This whisky represents an enduring link between Canada and New Zealand, as well as the potential revival of a whisky industry in the Land of the Long White Cloud.”

Fortunately, about 600 barrels of single malt and blended grain whisky remained at the defunct distillery and were left to mature, and two years ago, Mr Ramsay, a young Australian whisky enthusiast from Tasmania, bought those barrels and set about bottling the whisky as part of a plan to revive the New Zealand whisky industry. As part of that plan, he created the New Zealand Whisky Collection.

SAM_0612 Dunedin DoublewoodIn 2011, the Dunedin Distillery DoubleWood was the first whisky launched as part of that collection. This whisky was aged in American-Oak barrels for 6 years and then finished for 4 more in North Island, French-oak, wine barrels. The whisky is a blend of 70% Single Malt whisky, and 30% premium grain whisky, bottled at 40% alcohol by volume. Fortunately (for me), I was sent some samples from the collection (see above), and over the next bunch of weeks I will share my reviews of the New Zealand Whisky Collection here on here on my website.

Until then, here are some brief tasting notes for the Dunedin Doublewood provided by the New Zealand Whisky Company:

Colour: Rich golden honey

Nose: Delicate fruit and floral notes over a delicious hint of toffee and sweet offerings.

Palate: A beautiful explosion of creamy malt and subtle vanillas up front, building across the palate revealing notes of dried fruit and soft nuts. A sweet balanced sense of alcohol leading to a big, warm finish.

Stay tuned for my reviews!

My understanding is that the New Zealand Whisky Collection is available (if not now then very soon) in Ontario through the LCBO.

Posted in Howls, New Zealand Whisky, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off

Something Special at Hamilton and Inches

Posted by Arctic Wolf on September 11, 2012

This is a bit of a teaser video sent to me by the North American Bowmore media team. I admit I was very intrigued so I decided to share the teaser with all of you. Apparently something special is on the horizon.

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Cheers Everyone!

Posted in Extras, First Impressions, Howls, Interviews, Scotch Whisky, Whisk(e)y | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off

The Good Food Revolution Interviews The Rum Howler!

Posted by Arctic Wolf on June 25, 2012

On my recent trip to Guyana, one of the members of our Canadian contingent was Jamie Drummond. Jamie is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution. Although born in Edinburgh, he is now based in Toronto where he acts as a Sommelier, a food consultant, writer, judge, and educator. If you are interested in Good Food, Jamie is your all round Good Guy.

During the trip when we were relaxing at Baganara Island, he did a little video interview with me. He combined the interview with some footage from the trip and published it on The Good Food Revolution last Friday.

(Clicking on the picture below will take you to The Good Food Revolution where you can see Jamie Drummond’s interview of The Rum Howler (set to music))!

As you can see from the footage, Jamie had video camera running all the time (even when we were not expecting it).

Enjoy the Good Food Revolution Everyone!

Cheers!

Posted in Howls, Interviews, Rum | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off

Introducing: Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on June 20, 2012

Over 100 years ago an entrepreneurial cowboy named Guy Weadlick visited Calgary, Alberta and envisioned a tribute show to the pioneers of the west complete with a Cowboy Championship Contest. He arranged $100,000.00 in financing from the “Big 4″ (George Lane, Archie McClean, Patrick Burns, and A.E. Cross) who were influential Calgary area ranchers and businessmen. In September 1912, Guy Weadlick’s vision, the first Calgary Stampede, came to life for six glorious days. An estimated 80,000 people attended the first Stampede Parade, which was an astonishing number considering Calgary’s population at the time was only three-quarters that figure at 60,000. The major events at this “Cowboy Championship” offered each winner first prize cash of $1000, as well as a Saddle and a Gold Buckle!

For over 100 years now the Calgary Stampede has brought people from all over the world together to experience the region’s unique western heritage and values. Highwood Distillers, Alberta’s only privately owned distillery, has joined in and is celebrating the Centennial of the Calgary Stampede by producing an exclusive Limited Edition Ultra-Premium 25 Year Old Commemorative Canadian Rye Whisky.

The handsome heavy-set 8-sided bottle is adorned with a medal label, and a high quality wooden capped synthetic cork seals this rare wonderfully old whisky.

Here are my initial tasting notes:

Colour: Brilliant amber with flashes of gold.

Nose:  Deep scents of oak and cedar, butterscotch bathed in corn and honeyed oak spices, melted vanilla ice-cream, and delicate aromas of sweet bourbon whiskey

Taste: Luscious oak spices, butterscotch and honey, corn on the cob, and sweet dank Kentucky Bourbon. The whisky grows in the glass getting richer and more complex with flavours of marzipan, orange marmalade and lots of melted vanilla ice cream.

Finish: An explosion of tonsil licking oak spices with echoes of vanilla, butterscotch, and honey lingering in the throat.

The Centennial of the Calgary Stampede is an event worth celebrating!

The launch of Highwood’s Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky is the launch of a whisky worthy of this celebration.

PS: My full review will follow in a few weeks!
(If Highwood’s Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky is not in stores now, it will be soon.)

Posted in Canadian Whisky, Howls, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Rum – A Monumental Spirit

Posted by Arctic Wolf on June 17, 2012

The press release from Appleton Estate Rum begins as follows:

“… Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum is proud to announce the release of a world first in Rum, the very rare Limited Edition Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum – Jamaica Independence Reserve  

Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum – Jamaica Independence Reserve comprises rums that have been aged for a minimum of 50 years in hand selected, oak barrels and it is believed to be the oldest rum available for sale in the world. Only 800 bottles of this very rare, Limited Edition bottling will be made available for sale around the world at a target Retail Price of US$5,000 per 750ml bottle…”

Wow… Five Thousand Dollars a Bottle!?

You may read my (somewhat controversial) thoughts on this new release here:

Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Rum – A Monumental Spirit

Cheers Everyone!

Posted in Dark Rums, Extras, Howls, Rum, Rum Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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