Posted by Arctic Wolf on November 22, 2013
I tasted a lot of great whisky this year from all over the world, and I noticed a few trends which deserve noting. Whisky is growing in popularity throughout the world, and this is having consequences in both the variety of whisky available to the consumer, and the quality of the whisky available to the consumer. In terms of variety, things have never been better as I can find whiskies on the store shelves from places I would never have imagined a few years ago. The number of brands available from India and Japan keep growing, and as well brands from places like New Zealand, England, Wales, and Australia are also surfacing in my local liquor stores. A stronger selection of brands available to the consumer can only be good news; and hopefully consumers (and whisky critics) can put their prejudices aside and give these brands the chance they deserve.
However the flip side of this world-wide popularity of whisky is a disturbing reluctance from some of the major players to maintain their age statements. The simple fact is that there is just not enough aged whisky stocks to maintain the present brands due to the growing world-wide popularity of the spirit. Of course the marketing hype proclaims the spirits are as good as ever, but I guess I question the veracity of those statements. Time will tell, and thankfully there are still many brands maintaining their standards and many more great whiskies for me to discover.
It is time for my to make my yearly proclamations regarding the best whiskies which I have personally tasted in the year which is 2013. As is the case each year, all of my Rum Howler Awards are based upon side by side tastings within each category of spirit. I taste the spirit neat, and I also mix a few cocktails with each spirit. All spirit samples which I receive to review on my website are automatically considered for my awards. I do my review, and then I set aside the remainder of the spirit for the end of the year judging. I also receive additional industry samples specifically for these awards. My side by side tastings are completed, and it is time for me to reveal the recipients of my 2013 Rum Howler Awards for Excellence in the Production of Whisky.
These Awards are for the best Whisky Spirits I encountered in the year 2013!
Posted in Awards, Extras, Whisk(e)y | Tagged: American Whiskey, Bourbon, Canadian Whisky, Rum Howler Awards, Scotch Whisky, Whisky, Whisky Reviews | Comments Off
Posted by Arctic Wolf on October 8, 2013
Collingwood 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:
“… 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!
Posted in Canadian Whisky, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: Canadian Mist Distillery, Canadian Whisky, Collingwood, Whisky, Whisky Review | Comments Off
Posted by Arctic Wolf on October 5, 2013
Forty 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):
“… 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 …”
Posted in Canadian Whisky, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: Canadian Whisky, Forty Creek Whisky, Heart of Gold, Whisky, Whisky Review | Comments Off
Posted by Arctic Wolf on September 26, 2013
The 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:
“… 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!
Posted in Canadian Whisky, Single Malt Whisky, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: Canadian Whisky, Micro Distillery, Single Malt Whisky, Stalk and Barrel, Still Waters Distillery, Whisky, Whisky Review | Comments Off
Posted by Arctic Wolf on September 19, 2013
TAP 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:
“… 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: Canadian Whisky, Flavoured Whisky, Maple, Tap 357, Van Gogh Imports | Comments Off
Posted by Arctic Wolf on September 10, 2013
The 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:
Please enjoy the review!
Posted in Canadian Whisky, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: Canadian Rockies Whisky, Canadian Whisky, Highwood Distillers, Whisky, Whisky Review | Comments Off
Posted by Arctic Wolf on September 3, 2013
As 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):
“… 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: Canadian Whisky, Canadian Whisky Review, Cocktails, Highwood Whisky, Old Fashioned Cocktail, Whisky, Whisky Review, Whisky Splash | Comments Off
Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 27, 2013
I 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:
“… 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: Canadian Whisky, Cocktails, Corby, Royal Reserve, Whisky Review, Woodcutter | 2 Comments »
Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 20, 2013
Seagram’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:
“… 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!
Posted in Canadian Whisky, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: Canadian Whisky, Diageo, Five Star, Seagram's, Whisky Review | Comments Off
Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 16, 2013
Spicebox Whisky is based in Montreal, Quebec where they blend and bottle their Spicebox Canadian Spiced Whisky. Their new Spicebox Pumpkin Spiced Whisky was introduced last fall, and if you search enough through the liquor stores here in Alberta you can still find a few bottles hanging around. I really do not know much about this flavoured whisky as Spicebox website hasn’t listed it yet. I believe it is a seasonal product which might return in larger numbers again this fall. The Whisky is bottled at 70 proof or 35 % alcohol by volume and was brought into the Alberta Marketplace by Mondia Alliance Wine and Spirits of Montreal.
You may click on the excerpt to read the full review:
“… Impressions of vanilla, brown sugar and butterscotch are dominant, however bits and dabbles of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and ginger work their way into the breezes as well. These breezes above the glass actually do remind me of the sweet spicy aroma of a freshly baked pumpkin pie, (minus the actual pumpkin of course) …”
I admit this offering surprised me with its tastiness, and I was able to construct a very nice cocktail, the Orange Pumpkin Spice Muddle!
Enjoy my review, and if you happen to own a bottle of the Spicebox Pumpkin Spiced Whisky, do try my cocktail!
Posted in Cocktails & Recipes, Flavoured Whisky, Spiced Whisky, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review, Whisky Liqueur | Tagged: Canadian Whisky, Cocktails, Flavoured Whiskly, Mondia Alliance, Pumpkin Spiced, Spicebox Spiced Whisky, Whisky Review | Comments Off