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Archive for the ‘Canadian Whisky’ Category

Review: Collingwood Handcrafted Canadian Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on October 8, 2013

Collingwood Whisky Bottle shotCollingwood Handcrafted Canadian Whisky is produced at the Canadian Mist Distillery in Collingwood Ontario.This is of course the Distillery which produces its namesake brand, Canadian Mist, which is one of the best-selling Canadian Whiskies in North America. Most of those sales are in the USA where over 4 million cases of Canadian Mist are consumed annually.

This is a premium brand which is positioned a little higher on the rungs of the whisky ladder so to speak. However, it would be wrong to think of Collingwood as a more mature or refined Canadian Mist. It is produced from its own recipe and finished in a manner which gives the spirit a unique twist. Once the whisky is mature and has been blended, it is left in stainless marrying vats where its flavour is enhanced with staves of maple which have also been added to those vats. This process is unique as far as Canadian Whisky goes, and promises to bring a new flavour component into the landscape of Canadian Whisky.

You may read my full review by clicking on the following excerpt:

Review: Collingwood Handcrafted Canadian Whisky

“… The breezes above the glass bring me the scents and smells of light butterscotch, sandalwood and rye spice. I also receive indications of vanilla and bits of sweet and sour fruitiness which reminds me of fermented grapes and apple cider …”

Please enjoy my review of the Collingwood Whisky!

Slainte’

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

Review: Forty Creek Heart of Gold (2013 Limited Release)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on October 5, 2013

Heart_of_Gold_bottleForty Creek Whisky has for the last number of years produced a special limited release whisky and allowed the public to participate in the release by offering to let you choose your own numbered bottle. As well you can have your bottle signed by their own Master Distiller and Whisky Maker, John Hall, when you arrive to pick up your pre-ordered bottles. These special release whiskies are built upon the foundation of the company’s flagship whisky, Forty Creek Barrel Select, and are basically versions of this whisky which have spent additional time finishing in selected oak barrels. The 2013 Special Limited Release Canadian Whisky, Heart of Gold, is a spirit with an emphasis on Canadian rye grain.

According to Whisky Maker, John Hall:

“This project started nearly a decade ago, focusing specifically on Canada’s noble rye grain. I have always brought out the spicy, fruity notes of rye in my whiskies, but this time, I wanted to perfect how to capture the underlying delicate floral notes of the rye that too often get lost in the process.“

Heart of Gold is not a 100 % rye grain whisky, as the whisky blend also includes a barley whisky, which adds some nutty flavours, and a corn whisky, which adds weight and body. But make no mistake about it, the intent of John Hall in creating this whisky is to showcase the spicy, fruity and floral notes of Canadian Rye.

I was given a pre-release media sample a few months ago and from that small sample I constructed a review of the spirit which roughly coincided with the numbered bottle offering upon the Forty Creek website. At that time the whisky was just being bottled, but as is John Hall’s way, these bottles are ‘rested’ for up to two months before the whisky is released to the public.  Now that the whisky has been released I have had an opportunity to sample the spirit from a full sealed bottle. I decided to revisit the review to see if this resting period had had any effect upon the spirit or my review.

Here is a link to my newly revised review (which incidentally contains very few changes):

Review: Forty Creek Heart of Gold (2013 Limited Release)

“… The breezes above the glass are full of wood spices (cardamom, ginger, sandalwood, sawdust and white pepper), and those breezes remind me of autumns past when the ripened grain in the fields was being combined …”

Cheers Everyone!

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

Review: Stalk & Barrel Single Malt Whisky – Cask #1

Posted by Arctic Wolf on September 26, 2013

Stalk and BarrelThe Still Waters Distillery proudly proclaim themselves to be the first Micro Distillery in the Province of Ontario. Barry Bernstein and Barry Stein commenced operations in the fall of 2009 and produced their first new-make spirit just two months after they received their custom German-made pot still. The year is now 2013, and this means that the Still Water’s Distillery, being in its fourth year of operation, is just now bottling their first batches of their own 100 % Hand-Crafted whisky which they have aged the required 3 years in oak barrels.

In the case of the Still Water’s Single Malt Whisky, the distillery has chosen to bottle each of the first barrels of whisky as Single Cask offerings. I was rather fortunate in that I received my sample of the Stalk and Barrel Single Malt Whisky from the very first cask (Cask 1) to produce Single Malt whisky at the Still Waters Distillery. This cask was a previously used American bourbon barrel, and the whisky it produced was bottled at 63.2 % alcohol by volume. This is a 3 Year Old Canadian Single Malt whisky, the youngest allowed by Canadian law.

You may read my full review by clicking on the following excerpt:

Review: Stalk & Barrel Single Malt Whisky – Cask #1

“… the initial aroma reminded me strongly of the 100 % corn whisky blends from the Highwood Distillery in Western Canada. The first breezes above the glass carried scents of sweet butterscotch bathed in corn syrup with tantalizing oak spices and almond scents meandering within …”

Enjoy my review of this surprisingly good 3 Year Old, Canadian Single Malt Whisky!

Cheers!

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

Review: Tap 357 Canadian Maple Rye Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on September 19, 2013

Tap 357TAP 357 is a relatively new flavoured Canadian Whisky, produced in Montreal for Van Gogh Imports.

According to the TAP 357 website, the whisky used in for this spirit is produced at the oldest distillery in Western Canada. It is four times distilled and then matured in a combination of new, second, and third-use bourbon barrels. The flavoured whisky is a blend of  3, 5,  and 7-year old blended rye whiskies that have been mixed with pure Canadian maple syrup produced from maple trees tapped at the first hint of spring in the province of Quebec. The product is bottled at 40.5 % alcohol by volume and is currently available in select markets in the USA and Canada.

You may read my full review by clicking on the following link:

Review: Tap 357 Canadian Maple Rye Whisky

“… I notice a nice combination of honey and maple scents rising into the air followed by more than a hint of rye spice. There is also a vague sort of damp woodiness which accompanies these initial scents. Impressions of spruce boughs and wet autumn leaves seem to lurk in the breezes giving the TAP 357 a hint of ‘earthiness’ which I have not noticed in other Maple Whiskies …”

Please enjoy my review!

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

Review: Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old

Posted by Arctic Wolf on September 10, 2013

CR21The Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old is a Canadian Whisky which I have only tasted twice, and each time, it was in a blind tasting flight that contained over 45 other Canadian Whiskies. Of course this was when I served on the jury for the 2012 Canadian Whisky Awards. I made simple tasting notes for every whisky I tasted when I ran through the tasting flight the first time, and then I returned to those notes revising and adding to them when I went through the flight a second time. Each time I visited each whisky, all I knew about the spirit was its sample number. The samples were only 50ml in size, so I had to be judicious each time I tasted each sample such that my notes and my scores were accurate reflections of my feeling towards each of the whiskies.

The Fountana Group Canada is the brand owner, and it turns out the whisky is produced by Highwood Distillers right here in my home Province of Alberta. The Fountana Group contracted Highwood to produce a well aged whisky for export to Asia (where it apparently has been well received). I should point out that the whisky was also well received by the other jurors on that panel for the Canadian Whisky Awards as this brand won the prestigious Connoisseur Whisky of the Year for the Export Market at those 2012 Canadian Whisky Awards.

As I am unlikely to receive a bottled sample of this whisky, my review is based solely upon those brief tasting notes I wrote while I was acting as a whisky judge. I guess my hope is that the brand owner (and the folks at Highwood Distillery) might read the review, and figure out that maybe Canada deserves this Whisky too.

You may read my review of this outstanding Canadian Whisky by clicking the following link:

Review: Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old

Please enjoy the review!

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

Review: Highwood Canadian Rye Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on September 3, 2013

HW_Rye_Whisky_shadowAs the Highwood Distillery readies itself to recommence production at their facilities in High River, Alberta in the aftermath of the June 20th, 2013 flash flood. I thought it would be an appropriate time to revisit their flagship spirit, Highwood Canadian Rye Whisky. The Highwood Distillery is the only locally (Albertan) owned distillery in Canada. It sits in the heart of the High River community, producing more than 300,000 cases of bottled spirits per year. Although the bulk of their production goes towards Vodka, Flavoured Vodka, and Premixes, they also produce a sizable (and growing) amount of Canadian Whisky each year.

I consider the Highwood Canadian Whisky to be a unique product unlike anything else on the Canadian whisky landscape (I also find it very tasty). What is so original about the Highwood Whisky is the grain from which it is distilled. Highwood uses local Canadian prairie wheat for the distillation base of all of their Highwood branded whisky. This is because wheat alcohol, rather than barley or corn alcohol, has less heavy non-digestible components. This makes for an extremely smooth easy to drink whisky. After sampling most of the Highwood Whisky range, I have come to the conclusion that they are making some of the smoothest whisky in the world.

Highwood Canadian Rye Whisky is produced from prairie rye and wheat grain in a batch style distillation (the grains are distilled and aged separately). The whisky is aged for at least five years in charred American white oak barrels (without the addition of additives), and when it is mature, it is blended to produce that distinctive Canadian ‘rye’ flavour profile consistent with our Canadian Whisky. The whisky is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

You may read my review by clicking on the following excerpt (link):

Review: Highwood Canadian Rye Whisky

“… The first thing I noticed about the Highwood Whisky as I sipped it was that it is a smooth, gentle, and mellow whisky which has the soft sensation in the mouth of a much older whisky. Honeycomb, ginger, wood spice, and a light dab of vanilla all support a wonderfully clean, dusty rye flavour. There is polish in evidence here …”

I included two classic Canadian Whisky cocktails at the end of the review, the Canadian Rye-Whisky Splash, and the Old Fashioned Cocktail.

 

Posted in Canadian Whisky, Cocktails & Recipes, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Review: Corby Royal Reserve Canadian Rye Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 27, 2013

786I like to go back to my early reviews and re-sample the spirits to see how time and experience has changed my perceptions. (It could also be that the spirit changes over time.) This afternoon I opened a bottle of Corby Royal Reserve Canadian Rye Whisky and sampled it next to my old tasting notes. I decided to make some minor adjustments to my tasting notes, and to my original score.

This is a brand which traces its roots all the way back to a time before confederation, when Henry Corby began to distill whisky on the banks of the Moira River. In 1881, Henry’s son, also Henry (aka Harry), took over, and through the next ten years the Company began to bottle their own brand of whisky and sold it under the name of Corby.

Today Corby Distilleries Ltd. produces a strong portfolio of whisky brands which includes Corby Royal Reserve, Hiram Walker Special Old Rye Whisky, as well as the entire Wiser’s family of whiskies.

You may read my revised review of Corby Royal Reserve Canadian Rye Whisky by clicking on the following excerpt:

Review: Corby Royal Reserve Canadian Rye Whisky

“… The aroma is one of oak spices mingled with rye, and an underlying butterscotch and vanilla. There is a touch of roughness in the air which some will find offsetting. I actually like a rye whisky to have some kick, so I am not put off rather I feel anticipation as I lift the glass …”

The review includes a nice recipe at the end, the Woodcutter.

Have a great day!

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

Review: Seagram’s Canadian Five Star Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 20, 2013

745031Seagram’s has a rich and storied history which can be dated back to 1857 when the Granite Mills and Waterloo Distillery Company was formed. About seven years later, Joseph Seagram joined the company and by 1911 the company was known as Joseph E. Seagram & Sons. Today, over 100 years later, the Seagram name is still in use as a brand, but ownership of this whisky has been passed on to Diageo who now use the aged stocks at their Valleyfield Distillery in Quebec to produce the whisky.

You may read my review of the whisky by clicking on the following excerpt:

Review: Seagram’s Canadian Five Star Whisky

“… There are hints of sugary sweetness rising up which remind me of Corn Pops cereal. As well, the air above the glass seems somewhat effervescent with intense sweet and sour citrus zest. The longer the glass sits the more the sugared corn and the sweet and sour citrus zest take over …”

Please enjoy the review!

Slainte!

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

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.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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 »

Review: Still Waters 1+11 Canadian Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 8, 2013

SAM_0890 CrowsnestBarry Bernstein and Barry Stein own and run the Still Water Distillery, Ontario’s first micro-distillery which they founded in 2009. They not only manage the distillation and the blending of the Still Waters’ products, they also act as the distillery’s Chief Bottle Washers and Bottle Fillers. In fact, there is not a single aspect of their business that they do not either personally oversee or do themselves.

Late last year, Still Waters released the cryptically named  Still Waters 1+11 Canadian Whisky, a blend of selected whiskies from other Canadian producers to which they have added up to 10 % of their own Hand-Crafted whisky. I tasted this new whisky last fall when I scored it blind as part of my duties as one of the jurors for the Canadian Whisky Awards. When I later examined my scores and noticed the Still Waters Whisky had done well on my score sheet, I decided to contact the distillery to see if they would be interested in a review.

Happily, they agreed and forwarded me the necessary sample.

You may click on the following excerpt (link) to read the full review:

Review: Still Waters 1+11 Canadian Whisky

“… The initial nose brings a lovely dry rye grain to the breezes filled with scents of autumn harvest including the fresh straw and chaff. As the glass breathes, impressions of caramel and corn build with accents of tobacco, sandalwood and oak spice. I notice indications of both zesty citrus fruit (lemon in particular) as well as a touch of fruity sourness with the two nuances playfully dancing together in the light breezes above my glass …”

Please enjoy the review which includes a new cocktail I call the Crow’s Nest.

Posted in Canadian Whisky, Cocktails & Recipes, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off

 
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