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Archive for the ‘Canadian Whisky’ Category

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

Review: Danfield’s Limited Edition 21 Year Old Canadian Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on July 23, 2013

SAM_0833 Dan 21Danfield’s Canadian Whisky is produced in the small City of Lethbridge in my home Province of Alberta. It is produced for Williams & Churchill by Schenley Distilleries Inc. at the Black Velvet Distillery, (also referred to locally as the Palliser Distillery). Williams and Churchill are not distillers themselves, rather they appear to be a third-party company which owns the Danfield’s Brand. They are also very difficult to contact, and therefore the only information I have about the Danfield’s Limited Edition 21 Year Old Canadian Whisky comes from the little booklet which is strung around the neck of the bottle. According to this booklet, the 21 Year Old is a small batch whisky produced from rye, corn and malted barley. It is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume and prior to this bottling, the whisky is apparently “diamond filtered” to add further polish to the whisky.

Being a bit of a collector of Canadian Whisky, I have had a couple of bottles of the Danfield’s Limited Edition in my possession for about three years now. I finally broke down and opened one such that I could provide a review here on my website.

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: Danfield’s Limited Edition 21 Year Old Canadian Whisky

“… The rye continues to pour out with the scent becoming earthier as it changes from a clean dry rye to a thick fruit-filled rye over the course of the nosing. Hints of marzipan and orange peel come forward as does a nice underlying nuttiness which reminds me of the wild hazelnuts which grown around the lakes in west-central Alberta …”

Please enjoy the review and the suggested cocktail recipe which follows, the Iced Ruby Manhattan.

Slainte!

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

Review: Pike Creek 10 Year Old Canadian Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on July 19, 2013

Pike CreekPike Creek is a 10-year-old Canadian whisky produced from a double distillation in small column copper stills, and aged in ‘first-use’, white oak bourbon barrels. (The term ‘first use’ refers to an oak barrel which has been used only once previously, in this case to age American bourbon whiskey.) Once aged and blended, the whisky is finished in vintage port wine barrels.

Pike Creek was originally released in the late 1990s as part of Corby’s initiative to introduce new high-end Canadian whiskies into the North American market. Unfortunately the whisky was discontinued after only a brief time as consumers seemed uninterested in a the new premium product. The whisky was re-introduced last year as the profile of Canadian Whisky has recently undergone a bit of a renaissance world-wide and demand for whisky at the premium end of the market has seen a sharp increase.

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

Review: Pike Creek 10 Year Old Canadian Whisky

” …The immediate nose is of caramelized  brown sugars, rye grain, field berries (blackberries and raspberries) and bits of red licorice. Some wood spices build in the glass as it breathes (or maybe I just took my time about noticing them). I also seem to sense a bit of dark fruit and chocolate similar to Christmas fruitcake in the air …”

Please enjoy my review of this outstanding new edition to the landscape of Canadian Whisky!

Cheers Everyone!

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

Review: White Owl Canadian Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on July 15, 2013

White_Owl_WhiskyThree years ago a new whisky was produced in Canada which was completely different from any other whisky I had seen. For one thing, the distillation mash for the whisky was based primarily upon wheat, not barley, corn, or rye. (This was not as surprising as you may think, as the distillers of White Owl Whisky are Highwood Distillers, based in High River, Alberta. They have, after all, been distilling their very wonderful Centennial Whisky with a wheat based mash for many years.) However, it was the next feature of the whisky which I found most interesting and unusual. White owl is a clear, well-aged, ‘cocktail’ whiskey! In fact if the bottle did not say whisky on the front you would be forgiven for believing this was an Ultra-premium Vodka, until you opened the bottle, at which time you would realize that the spirit inside is unmistakably whisky!

The whisky achieves its clear form by the means of carbon filtration. Highwood crafts and blends an aged whisky, and then runs it through a filtration process to remove all colour and smooth out the taste profile. This is a first for me, and I believe a first for well-aged  Canadian Whisky!

I was lucky enough (sorry Portwood, I couldn’t resist) to receive a sample bottle directly from the distillery after touring the facility three years ago, and today, as the good folks at Highwood Distillers are hard at work cleaning up after the recent flash flood which affected their town and their distillery (read here), I thought it would be nice to revisit my review of three years ago. (My original review was, I believe the first published review for Highwood’s ground breaking cocktail whisky.)

Please click on the excerpt to read my revised review. (Actually only slightly edited to correct some grammatical errors in the original review. I concluded after a recent tasting that the character and quality of the whisky had not changed.)

Review: White Owl Canadian Whisky

“… As I take the first sip, the first impression I have is of a soft whisky flavour accented by a hint of licorice. The oak flavours are mild and there is no harsh tannin or unbridled spice. Yet in the background, if you let it develop, that true Canadian rye whisky spice and flavour present themselves. Butterscotch rises and falls as does the hint of licorice and even a touch of cereal grain …”

Three years ago, I was so enthusiastic about this new whisky that my review included, not one or two, but rather five cocktail recipes which all tasted fantastic when made with White Owl Whisky.

(And for the record, I am still enthusiast about Highwood’s ‘cocktail whisky’, and I still feel very lucky to have been on of the very first persons to have received a sample bottle three years ago.)

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

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!

____________________________________________________________________________________________

(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 »

Review: Crown Royal Maple Finished™ Canadian Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on July 7, 2013

maple-bottleCrown Royal Canadian Whisky is produced in Gimli, Manitoba, at the Crown Royal Distillery. The distillery and the brand are owned by the spirits conglomerate, Diageo, and I think it is fair to say that Crown Royal is Diageo’s flagship Canadian Whisky brand. About a year ago Crown Royal Maple Finished™ Canadian Whisky was introduced as an addition to the Crown Royal family of whiskies. This is as far as I know the first flavoured whisky ever produced by Crown, and it presents itself as a Maple Finished™’ rather than maple flavoured.

Going through the Crown Royal Website (and the press materials I could find), I found very little information on the maple finish except one comment which stated that the master blender for Crown Royal had

“finished our celebrated whisky with maple toasted oak to yield a uniquely smooth experience. It’s a perfect blend of Crown Royal’s signature caramel and vanilla nose with the elegant aromas of light, fresh maple that creates a flavour profile that finished on an authentically warm and woody note.”

Last fall, my friend Lukasz brought over a bottle of Crown Royal Maple and allowed me to steal a sample (which I kept in a small sealed glass bottle). I finally made time to taste and assess the sample earlier this week.

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

Review: Crown Royal Maple Finished™ Canadian Whisky

“… The flavoured whisky has a lightly thickened consistency relative to the regular Crown Royal Whisky, but it is not nearly so thick as the other maple flavoured whiskies I have tasted recently. The initial aroma from my glass brings forward impressions of maple of course, with noticeable vanilla scents as well as what I will say is an ‘odd’ spiciness …”

Enjoy the review and have a great day!

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

Review: Canadian Club Dock No. 57 Spiced Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on July 6, 2013

SAM_0642 Dock 57Canadian Club has recently expanded their whisky line-up to include a flavoured whisky (Canadian Club Dock No. 57 Blackberry), and a new spiced whisky, (Canadian Club Dock No. 57 Spiced). According Tish Harcus, Canadian Club Brand Ambassador and Curator of the Historical Archives at the Canadian Club Heritage Centre in Walkerville, Ontario,

“C.C.’s new innovations will take the brand to the next level both for consumers new to whisky and more seasoned whisky drinkers who are seeking bolder flavour profiles and some spice. “

The Dock No. 57 branded whiskies are bottled at full strength (40 % alcohol by volume) ensuring that the full flavour of the Canadian Club whisky remains a strong component of the flavour profile. Last Spring, at a tasting event of mine, my friend Dennis brought over a bottle. I decided that this was a good opportunity to receive some feedback from my friends and a few months later, I did some more tasting and sampling and cobbled together this review.

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

Canadian Club Dock No. 57 Spiced Whisky

“… I notice some nice honey and vanilla accents as well as some a pungent spiciness reminiscent of ginger and nutmeg. Some dry fruit is hinted at (dark cherries mainly) as is some dark pipe tobacco. I like the overall mixture, and I like that it is the whisky aroma which leads the parade of scents into the air …”

My suggested cocktail for this spiced whisky, is my new recipe, the Spiced Northern Julep. Take care everyone and have a great day!

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

Review: Canadian Club Small Batch Classic (12 Year Old)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on July 2, 2013

Classic Small batchCanadian Club Whisky is the oldest (and arguably also the most influential) Canadian Whisky brand in the world. It is sold in over 150 countries world-wide, and sales in Canada are unmatched by any other whisky brand. The company has been granted numerous Royal Warrants from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II, and it has been reported that Canadian Club was the whisky of choice when Al Capone smuggled thousands of cases of Canadian Whisky into the USA during prohibition.

Recently there have been some changes in the Canadian Club family. One of the brands which has undergone a revamping is the Canadian Club Classic (12 Years Old) which has been replaced by the Canadian Club Classic Small Batch (also 12 Years Old). The newer version of the whisky has a new bottle (shown right) and the two words, “Small Batch” have been added to the label. My understanding is the whisky is now constructed from a smaller selection of aged whisky (oak barrels) in an effort to bring a fuller flavour and more smoothness to the blend.

Old FashionedThe Alberta Beam Global team recently gave me a sample bottle to examine, and if you click the following excerpt you may read my latest review:

Review: Canadian Club Small Batch Classic (12 Year Old)

“… The initial breezes above the glass bring forward scents of caramel and oak which are melded nicely with dabs of light tobacco and spicy orange peel. As the glass breathes, I notice some rye spices and some sweet corn pushing though. The oak and tobacco scents have deepened bringing me impressions of fresh-cut cedar and honeycomb. The caramel and wood spice come together as toffee, and the orange peel has softened into marmalade …”

Please enjoy my latest review and if you happen to already have a bottle of the new Small Batch Classic, do not hesitate to make yourself a nice Old Fashioned Cocktail . You swill not be disappointed!

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

 
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