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Archive for the ‘Canadian Whisky’ Category

#8 Canadian Whisky – Centennial 10 Year Old Canadian Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 18, 2013

rum_howler_badge- 25WHISKYFor those who are not familiar with our Canadian Whisky; it is, for the most part, distilled from three grains: corn, barley and rye. However, one distillery in Western Canada, Highwood Distillers, has been doing things a bit differently. Highwood uses local Canadian prairie wheat as the distillation base for all of their Highwood branded whisky. According to the folks at the distillery, wheat alcohol rather than barley or corn alcohol, has less heavy non-digestible components which makes for an extremely smooth easy to drink whisky. The brand which sits at the top of the ladder as Highwood’s premier wheat based whisky is their Centennial 10 Year Old Canadian Whisky.

Centennial_RyeWhen I first encountered this spirit in early winter of 2009 I was quite smitten the whisky’s smooth character and lovely flavour nuances. I was pleased, when after I wrote my review, that almost everyone who commented upon my website seemed to echo my sentiments. This year, in the fall of 2013, my judging panel echoed those sentiments as well, and when the scores were tallied, the Centennial 10 Year Old Canadian Whisky was found to be ranked Number 8 in my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown.

You may read my original review by clicking the link below:

#8 Canadian Whisky – Centennial 10 Year Old Canadian Whisky

“A clean crisp rye which fairly oozes honey and spice. This is polished and subdued, with the hard rye buffed and smoothed. The spices are light and enjoyable, and I find the balance to be superb. A purist of Canadian rye may complain that the rye flavour sits too far backward in the taste profile, but I disagree. The entire presentation is smooth and mellow. No awkward heavy notes spoil the parade …”

The entire experience of this rye whisky is completely enjoyable. The only possible flaw would be that I would consider the spirit to be a mood whisky. The mood is mellow and smooth almost to the point of suave. It is possible that the consumer may occasionally want a little harder kick in the throat when he (or she) chooses rye whisky to drink. But for a more sublime rye experience, this is one of the best!

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler 2013 – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off

# 9 Canadian Whisky – Ninety 5 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky (Century Distillers)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 17, 2013

rum_howler_badge- 25WHISKYJust before the disruptions caused by flooding this past summer in Southern Alberta, Highwood Distillers released a limited quantity of their new “Ninety” branded whiskies under their Century Distillers banner. The news of these whisky releases was unfortunately drowned out (quite literally) by the waters that engulfed Southern Alberta. If you followed the news regarding the aftermath of the flood  (see story here) you will know that it took more than a few weeks for the company to bring itself back onto its feet. In fact, all of the bottled inventory in Highwood’s warehouse had to be destroyed due to potential contamination from the water that penetrated the distillery.

Ninety_5_Year_Old_An unfortunate victim of all this disruption was those “Ninety” branded whiskies which all but disappeared from liquor store shelves as Highwood had to temporarily abandon production of this new brand in order to focus on re-establishing their other major brands across Canada. The good news is that the Ninety branded whiskies are about to be relaunched. Sometime in early 2014, both the Ninety 5 Year Old and the Ninety 20 Year Old should be making a re-appearance in Alberta and British Columbia, and their first appearance in Ontario.

When these brands return, consumers are in for a treat as my Rum Chums and I (after tasting 45 of the best whiskies Canada has to offer) have determined that the Ninety (Premium cask Aged) 5 Year Old Whisky ranks Number 9 in my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown.

You may read my first complete review of this marvelous whisky here;

# 9 Canadian Whisky – Ninety 5 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky (Century Distillers)

“… The mouth-feel is soft as the whisky crosses the palate with flavours of wood spice, dusty rye, and very light flavours of butterscotch and corn syrup. Although the whisky is aged for only five years, the oak spiciness it brings forward is firm with impressions of citrus peel and tobacco growing in the glass. I taste a hint of honey sweetness, a gentle sweep of vanilla, and a vague mustiness of baby corns underlying the other flavours within the whisky …”

Although the Ninety (Premium cask Aged) 5 Year Old Whisky is a relatively young whisky, it has character and smoothness well beyond its years.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler 2013 – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off

# 10 Canadian Whisky – Forty Creek Portwood Reserve 2012

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 16, 2013

rum_howler_badge- 25WHISKYForty Creek Whisky (as you know if you have been following this countdown) has for the past several years produced a special limited release whisky and allowed the public to participate in its release by offering to let those who pre-order the whisky to choose their own numbered bottle(s). These special release whiskies are built upon the foundation of the company’s flagship whisky, Forty Creek Barrel Select, and are actually versions of this whisky which have spent additional time finishing in certain selected oak barrels. Last year’s special release was the Forty Creek Portwood Reserve – 2012 Whisky.

PortwoodWhat makes this whisky special is that this edition of Forty Creek Whisky has been finished in Port Wine Barrels. The whisky was produced at 45 % alcohol by volume and was limited to only 6600 bottles.

I almost decided not to include the Portwood Reserve in my Countdown, not because I felt it wasn’t worthy (it definitely is); but rather because this particular bottling is almost gone. When I checked the AGLC and LCBO listings, I discovered that the Portwood Reserve is only available in very limited quantities as this whisky is almost sold out. My suggestion to those who are fans of Forty Creek Whisky is that if you do not have this whisky or if you want to gift a bottle this Christmas, you had better act fast. The Number 10 Canadian Whisky in my Christmas Advent Countdown, the Forty Creek Portwood Reserve (2012), will be all but gone by the end of this year.

You may read my 2012 review here:

# 10 Canadian Whisky – Forty Creek Portwood Reserve 2012

“… The scents and smells rising into the breezes above the glass remind me of dark ripe BC cherries, blackberries and raspberries. Some dry fruit sensations (reminiscent of raisins and prunes) are part of the overall fruit and berry aroma. Subtle but firm impressions of cinnamon and cloves join in with a bit of sweet Demerara sugar thrown in for good measure …

Glowing embers of cinnamon and cloves seem to take hold of the whisky in the exit. Rye spices, ginger and cardamom join in with vanilla and Demerara sugar chasing them.This is a beautiful sipping whisky!

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler 2013 – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off

#11 Canadian Whisky – Century Reserve (Lot 1525)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 15, 2013

rum_howler_badge- 25WHISKYI have been inside the Highwood Distillery’s aging warehouse, and have seen up close the barrels of whisky stacked four levels high, row upon row. The wonderful aroma of the ‘angels share’ permeates the facility, and it offered me a gentle intoxication if only I were to stay a little longer. 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.

Somewhere in that 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 or more years. (It has been hinted to me that some of these barrels contain whisky that is up to 33 years old!) These whisky barrels were originally part of the consignment of whisky acquired when Highwood purchased the Potters Distillery in 2005. As such, these are barrels of whisky produced from the corn-based distillate in Kelowna, British Colombia.

CenturyReserve_2012_ShadowThese barrels made the journey to the Highwood facility in 2005 and have been sitting in that darkened corner waiting to be tapped and bottled. When the time is right, Highwood’s Master Blender carefully chooses the right barrels, and then carefully blends the wonderful elixir within to create a spirit which contains the distillery’s most prized well aged whisky, Lot 1525 Century Reserve Custom Blend Canadian Rye Whisky. The spirit represents yet another gem from those folks in High River, and this gem of a whisky is ranked Number 11 in my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown.

Here is a link to the review I posted on August 28, 2010:

#11 Canadian Whisky – Century Reserve (Lot 1525)

“… 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 …”

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

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler 2013 – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

#12 Canadian Whisky – Lot No. 40 Single Copper Pot Still (2012 Edition)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 14, 2013

rum_howler_badge- 25WHISKYLot No. 40 Single Copper Pot Still represents Canadian Whisky in a familiar yet different form. It is familiar, because this is a true rye whisky, made with locally grown Canadian rye grain carrying that wonderful spicy rye flavour forward. It is different because the distillate for the whisky was produced on a single copper-pot still rather than on those tall column stills which dominate the large Canadian distilleries. It is different also because that pot still distillate was aged (for at least part of its life) in new freshly charred oak barrels to showcase the creamy caramelized flavours which those new oak barrels bring.

Dr. Don Livermore (the Hiram Walker Distillery Master Blender) elaborated on the process for me when I had a chance to speak directly with him about Corby’s newest premium whisky:

Lot No. 40Without getting into specific recipes, Lot 40 is comprised of 100% of our (Hiram Walker) rye whisky. This whisky was made via pot distillation and subsequently aged in new casks. There is a proprietary proportion of distillers malt(s) used in the brewing process that allows for conversion of the rye grains into fermentable sugars. The brewing process is made in small batches according to the traditional recipes dating back to the early 1900s.”

This difference in fermentation, distillation and aging processes brings about a real difference in whisky style. Lot No. 40 isn’t a hard column still rye whisky which likes to take your tonsils for a ride. Instead this is a pot still rye whisky with a soft earthiness that runs through the whisky. More than any other whisky in my tasting flights for the Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown, the Lot No. 40 divided the judging panel. Two of the judges, (myself included) absolutely loved the soft pot still flavour. The other two judges, were somewhat baffled by where this spirit fit in to the landscape of Canadian Whisky.

What we decided was that the Lot No. 40 Copper Pot Still fit in as the Number 12 Canadian Whisky in my 2013 Christmas Advent Countdown:

#12 Canadian Whisky – Lot No. 40 Single Copper Pot Still (2012 Edition)

“… the initial nose is filled with the scents and smells of honeycomb, freshly harvested rye, and freshly cut oak and cedar planks which are still seeping bits of sap from the wood grain. Caramel toffee and green tobacco, and even more fresh rye climb up out of the glass into the breezes …”

Lot 40 Single Copper Pot Still is a thoroughly enjoyable whisky which breaks new ground for the Canadian Whisky category.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler 2013 – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies

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

# 13 Canadian Whisky – Forty Creek Confederation Oak

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 13, 2013

rum_howler_badge- 25WHISKYForty Creek Confederation Oak was built upon the foundation of John Hall’s flagship whisky, Forty Creek Barrel Select, and is basically a version of this whisky which has been finished in Canadian Oak Barrels. These oak barrels were made from oak trees (growing only 40 miles from the distillery) which began their growth in Canadian soil approximately 150 years ago at the time of Confederation (the birth of Canada as a nation), hence the name chosen for the whisky, Confederation Oak.

Confederation oakWhen I spoke to John Hall (Forty Creek founder and Whisky Maker) about this whisky, he mentioned that Canadian oak trees are heavier and more dense than American oak due to the harsher Canadian climate. As a result, the oak barrels made from these trees impart a different flavour characteristic to the whisky. The vanillans are more pronounced, and the wood tannins seem to be slightly stronger. In fact, John told me he almost scrapped this whisky altogether when after the first and the second years of ‘finishing’ in the Canadian oak barrels, the whisky was, to him, harsh and unappealing. But rather than scrapping the whisky, he allowed time to take its course. To his delight the whisky mellowed considerably after the third year of finishing, and the desired flavour profile for his whisky was achieved.

And what a flavour that was, John Hall’s Forty Creek Confederation Oak ranks Number 13 in my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown. Here is a link to my review:

# 13 Canadian Whisky – Forty Creek Confederation Oak

“… The aroma from the glass begins with typical Canadian Whisky notes of light rye and oak.  Soon, however, I begin to notice caramel corn and light baking spices building, then a strong indication of the new oak barrels imparting their fresh tannin into the liquid as fresh scents of honeycomb, vanilla, cedar and toffee rise into the breezes above the glass. As the glass breathes, the oak becomes firmer and a certain smokiness from dried fruit develops. Fresh sap, raisins, dried apricots and spicy toffee are all apparent in the fully decanted glass …”

I am very happy that Forty Creek is a distillery that believes in patience. The extra time this whisky spent in the new oak barrels has paid handsome dividends. The result was not just a good whisky. Rather it is a whisky that is so good I shall be hoarding it, and I will dole out a dram here and a dram there just for special occasions and just special friends.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler 2013 – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies

 

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off

#14 Canadian Whisky – Crown Royal Reserve

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 12, 2013

rum_howler_badge- 25WHISKYCrown Royal Canadian Whisky is currently produced in Gimli, Manitoba, at the Crown Royal Distillery. The distillery and the brand are owned by Diageo, and I think it is fair to say that Crown Royal is Diageo’s flagship Canadian whisky brand. In 1992, a premium version of Crown Royal was introduced as Crown Royal Special Reserve. In the fall of 2008, the name of the brand was tweaked and relaunched as Crown Royal Reserve Canadian Whisky.

reserve-bottleAccording to the information I received from the brand owner (and gleaned from the Crown Royal website), this particular Crown Royal whisky is produced from selected casks which were tasted and monitored closely by their Master Blender. These ‘premium casks’ represented whiskies with special character, and they were allowed to age longer with the aim of producing a more premium whisky.

I guess that my tasting panel agrees that something more special has resulted from all this care and attention as the Crown Royal Reserve lands in my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown in the Number 14 position.

Here is a link to my latest review:

#14 Canadian Whisky – Crown Royal Reserve

“… I am impressed by the complex structure of the whisky which is all at once tart and spicy, sweet and creamy, and rich with flavour. The whisky is lightly oaky with wood spices leading out as orange peel and pepper. Some clear rye spices (ginger in particular) jump in and this spicy montage of flavour is accented by sweet flavours of caramel and maple …”

The Crown Royal Reserve is very appealing and complex. It does though, require a bit of time in the glass to reach its full potential.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler 2013 – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off

#15 Canadian Whisky – Canadian Club 20 Year Old Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 11, 2013

rum_howler_badge- 25WHISKYCanadian Club Whisky (C.C. Whisky) is blended before it is aged, and this process, which has been called  ‘Blended at Birth’, is the foundation for the entire portfolio of Canadian Club Whiskies. The particular whisky which is examined in this review is the Canadian Club 20 Year Old Whisky. It is a blend of rye, rye malt, corn, and barley malt spirits which were set down to age together 20 years ago. In fact, I believe that the actual blending formula of base spirits for the 20-year-old Whisky is the same as the blending formula used for Canadian Club’s flagship brand, Canadian Club Premium, which is of course the 6-year-old Whisky which anchors the Canadian Club brand.

728935Although the 20 Year Old was originally intended to be a specialty bottling when it was first introduced, the whisky became a standard bottling when Beam Global acquired the Canadian Club brand. It remains a Limited Edition whisky with each bottle individually numbered. The Limited Edition Canadian Club 20 Year Old Whisky checks in at the Number 15 spot in my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown.  You may read my review of this fabulous whisky by clicking the following excerpt:

#15 Canadian Whisky – Canadian Club 20 Year Old Whisky

“… Toffee and caramel poured out of the glass with deep oaky accents and rich baking spices. Rye scents followed as did that full dank corn aroma which is so typical of the Canadian Club line-up. The cooler temperature was certainly not inhibiting this whisky.  It is when the glass is fully decanted that the aroma becomes sublime. Deep, dark brown sugars and a hint of charred marshmallow become evident as well as mildly sour citrus fruit. Although that final descriptor may not sound lovely, you will have to trust me that it is …”

I enjoy the Canadian Club 20 Year Old immensely, and if you need a special gift for the Canadian Club aficionado this Christmas, this whisky certainly fits the bill.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler 2013 – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off

#16 Canadian Whisky – Wiser’s Legacy

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 10, 2013

rum_howler_badge- 25WHISKYWiser’s Legacy Canadian Whisky (a Corby Brand) was released in early 2010 as a new entry into the fledgling “Super Premium” category of Canadian Whisky. At the time, a few other Super Premium Whiskies already existed in the market-place (Wiser’s own Red Letter, and Crown Royal’s, Cask No. 16 and Crown Royal  XR); but the category hadn’t really caught the buying public’s imagination. In fact the Super Premium category had seen more failures than successes to that point (at least as far as Canadian Whisky was concerned). However the tipping point for the category seems to have been the year 2010, and the brand which (in my opinion) which helped the most to bring about a this change was Wiser’s Legacy.

Wiser's LegacyThis whisky is produced from a rye forward mash bill (Canadian rye, rye malt and barley malt) using a slow copper pot distillation technique which was ‘fine-tuned’ to capture the very specific flavours and aromas during distillation. The new oak barrels used to age the resulting distillate were lightly toasted rather than heavily charred to help bring more of these specific flavours forward. The final results were obviously good as the Wiser’s Legacy was one of the key Whiskies which led the charge of Canadian Spirits into the Super Premium Category, and into the consciousness of collectors and connoisseurs.

You may read a recently updated review of the Number 16 Whisky in my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown by clicking the following excerpt link:

#16 Canadian Whisky – Wiser’s Legacy

” … Thick oil coats the throat with an oak and spice explosion. The exit leaves the mouth puckered somewhat from the dry woodiness, and the throat is assaulted by spices which grow hotter in the throat than they were in the mouth. At the end of the finish, typical Canadian rye flavours  finally appear en masse to battle the youthful oak down the throat. The overall impression is that something awesome just might have happened in my throat, but it is hard to describe fully what it was …”

The Legacy is extremely interesting because it is such a departure from a regular Canadian whisky. There is a great deal of complexity introduced by the young oak and this is definitely a giant step towards a more defined bourbon taste profile. What is missing, is the typical smoothness that Canadian Whisky is famous for. What is extra, is a rough and ready whisky which has one of the most complex flavour profiles I have experienced in Canadian Whisky.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler 2013 – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

#17 Canadian Whisky – Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 9, 2013

rum_howler_badge- 25WHISKYJohn Hall opened the Kittling Ridge Winery & Distillery in 1992. The whisky he developed, named Forty Creek, is like none other on the landscape of Canadian Whisky. For starters, John has chosen three grains as the base of his whisky. He distilled a corn whisky and aged it in heavily charred white oak barrels; he distilled a rye grain whisky and chose to age it in a lightly charred white oak; and he distilled a barley grain whisky to age in medium charred white oak. Interestingly, Mr. Hall chose to distill each grain only once, as by distilling only once, he believes the distillation captures the best that each grain has to offer in terms of flavour. The blend is then married in John’s own sherry casks to create what he calls his meritage. This serves as the base for the family of Forty Creek  Whiskies.

double-barrel-heroWhen Mr. Hall makes his Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve, one more step is taken in the maturation process. The final blend is set down in first run bourbon barrels for a final period of aging. This Double Barrel Whisky was introduced in the fall of 2008. As a collector, I purchased and saved a few bottles from the first release, and eventually selected one of those (Bottle number 0043 from Lot 240) to review. It is a few years later now and my Christmas Advent Countdown has given me a good excuse to review a more current bottling from Lot 247 (Bottle Number 05089). This is because Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve is the Number 17 Whisky in my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown.

Here is a link to my review of that bottle from Lot 247 (Bottle Number 05089).

#17 Canadian Whisky – Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve

“… my nose detects the scent of maple syrup and rye spices with a nice rich oak and cedar woodiness from both glasses. This is a very bourbon-like nose complete with light indications of corn and almond as well as a honeycomb and vanillans …”

The use of young first rum Bourbon barrels (for the final stage of maturation) brings more fresh oak flavour forward creating a more complex (although perhaps also a slightly rougher) final spirit. I see this as a step forward for Canadian Whisky …

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler 2013 – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off

 
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