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Posts Tagged ‘Highwood Distillers’

Review: Ninety (Premium cask Aged) 5 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on October 26, 2014

Ninety_5_Year_Old_Just before the disruptions caused by flooding during the summer of 2013 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.

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 have been relaunched as both the Ninety 5 Year Old and the Ninety 20 Year Old have made a re-appearance in Alberta and British Columbia, and their first appearance in Ontario.

Canadian Caribou

Canadian Caribou

The subject of this review, is the Ninety (Premium cask Aged) 5 Year Old Whisky, which is produced from corn-based distillate which has been matured for 5 years in charred oak barrels and bottled at 90 proof or 45 % alcohol by volume.

Although I have previously reviewed the Ninety 5 Year Old Whisky based upon a pre-flood sample, this week I revisited a post-flood sample of the whisky. You may read the results of my efforts by clicking the following link to read the full review:

Review: Ninety 5 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky

“… The initial breezes above glass reveal scents of freshly sanded oak, spicy rye, fresh cornstalks, and delicate touches of honey, butterscotch, vanilla and a light dab of corn syrup …”

For your entertainment, I have added one of my original recipes for you to try at the conclusion of my review, the Canadian Caribou.

Please enjoy both the new review and the suggested recipe!

 

Posted in Canadian Whisky, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gin and Tonic Challenge – Sahara Dry Gin

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 26, 2014

Sahara and Tonic SAM_1258Highwood Distillers, who provided my recent sample of Sahara Dry Gin, is a Canadian distillery situated in the town of High River, Alberta, which lies just about 40 minutes due south of Calgary, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The distillery was originally established as the Sunnyvale Distillery in 1974, however it was renamed ‘Highwood Distillers’ in 1984 linking the Distillery geographically to the nearby Highwood River and the scenic foothills in which the Town of High River is situated.

Sahara Dry Gin is produced in the London Dry style from Canadian prairie wheat and naturally sourced Rocky Mountain water. Juniper, Citrus of Lemon, and other botanicals are all added during the final distillation. The gin is as described, very dry; so dry in fact, that the folks at Highwood Distillers named it Sahara.

When I reviewed this local gin I was quite taken in by its lightly bitter, softly dry nature, and I was very enthusiastic about the cocktails which I constructed which included a Lime Fizz, a Lime Gimlet, and of course a Gin and Tonic. During this challenge (about half way through it actually), when I made my G&T cocktail with the Sahara Gin, I was taken in all over again. It was so good that I made the decision to delay its published score such that I could sample it head to head against the other G&T cocktails which populated my leader board, and use it as the yard stick by which I would judge the other Gin and Tonics by. A few of the G&T cocktails which I made came close, but none measured up to the wonderful G&T made with the Sahara Dry Gin.

I think, and I am only guessing here, that it is the wheat base for the gin is what makes everything work so well. Although the Sahara Gin is very dry, it has a softness and a mellow quality which I have noticed before in spirits distilled from wheat. It is this softness combined with the dryness that is making me like the gin so much. In fact in my review, I concluded that this is a paradigm shifting gin which softly rocked my cocktail world!

All of the results from my head to head sampling is completed, and the Best Gin for Gin and Tonic Cocktails is Highwood’s Sahara Dry Gin with an outstanding G&T Score of 91.5/100.

All of my Scores for the Rum Howler 2014 Gin and Tonic Challenge can be found here:

Rum Howler 2014 Gin and Tonic Challenge

As well you may read my newly published review of Sahara Dry Gin here:

Review: Sahara Dry Gin

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Posted in Awards, Extras, Gin, Gin Review | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Review: Sahara Dry Gin

Posted by Arctic Wolf on July 20, 2014

SAM_1211 Sahara GinHighwood Distillers is a Canadian distillery located just east of the Canadian Rockies in the town of High River, Alberta. I have visited the distillery and watched first hand as they turned the local wheat into whisky, vodka. and gin. Their Sahara Dry Gin is produced in the London Dry style from locally produced wheat and naturally sourced Rocky Mountain water. I am not privy to the exact recipe of this gin, but according to their own website, juniper, citrus of lemon, and other botanicals are all added during the final distillation. This is s very dry gin. So dry in fact, that the folks at Highwood named it Sahara.

Lime Crusta with Sahara Dry Gin

Lime Crusta with Sahara Dry Gin

Sahara Dry Gin recently received a bit of a make-over and is now sold in a stubby new bottle which is shown to the left. I was recently provided a sample bottle in the new configuration by the folks at Highwood for the purpose of a revisiting my previous review here on my website. As this gin was likely produced after the distillery was retrofitted with new equipment after the flooding of 2013.

I thought revisiting my review was timely.

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: Sahara Dry Gin

“… The nose has a laid back quality of juniper and lighter accents of lemon and grapefruit. There is a bit of an alpine scent mingled with the juniper and perhaps some scents of willow thicket, meadow grass, and spring flowers. Everything is all rather mellow; but it is also rather enjoyable …”

I included two nice cocktails at the conclusion of the review, a very nice ‘cooler’ style cocktail to enjoy with the Sahara, the Jumping Buffalo Cooler, and my brand new cocktail, the Lime Crusta!

Please enjoy my review and my suggested cocktails, Cheers!

Posted in Gin, Gin Review | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off

Review: White Owl Ginger Lime Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on June 29, 2014

SAM_1187 Last, year Highwood Distillers was severely impacted by a massive flash flood which devastated Southern Alberta on June 20th, 2013. The folks working at the distillery had 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. If you followed the news regarding the aftermath of the flood (see my story here) you will know that it took more than a few weeks for the company to bring itself back onto its feet. Fortunately for those of us who love Canadian whisky, the distillery picked up the pieces and literally came roaring back to life. In fact, this past Christmas when my tasting panel and I blind-tasted and judged over 45 of the best Canadian Whiskies, Highwood Distillers placed more bottlings in the top 25 than any other Canadian Distillery (see the Top 25 list here).

This should not be considered a recent success, as Highwood has for years now been producing some of the most unique (and under-appreciated) whisky in Canada. In fact, in 2010, they broke new ground, (and a few sales records too), when they introduced their premium clear cocktail whisky, White Owl Whisky (see review here). To say this product was s success is a vast understatement, as the only problem that surfaced with respect to the White Owl Whisky was that Highwood could not make it fast enough to satisfy the demand across Canada. In 2012, the distillery extended the White Owl brand with White Owl Spiced Whisky (see review here), and this year they extended the brand once more with their White Owl Ginger Lime Whisky. Like the previous spirits which have carried the White Owl brand, this is a cocktail whisky carrying at its heart, Highwood’s famous clear White Owl Whisky, but in this case, it is enhanced with zesty lime and ginger flavours.

Cucumber delight SAM_1140

Cucumber Delight

You may read my full review of the White Owl Ginger and Lime Whisky here:

Review: White Owl Ginger Lime Whisky

“… when you bring the glass to your nose you cannot mistake the mild butterscotch, sandalwood and rye notes which rise into the breezes telling you that the base of this flavoured spirit is a gentle rye whisky. As the glass breathes, spicy notes of ginger begin to increase in strength, and building with them is the unmistakable zesty, but retrained note of lime and citrus peel …”

This is a cocktail whisky, and so of course I had to try a few mixed drink recipes during the review process. At the conclusion of the review I decided to feature a recipe of my creation, Cucumber Delight.

Please enjoy the review and the cocktail recipe provided.  :)

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

#1 Canadian Whisky – Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 25, 2013

rum_howler_badge- 25WHISKYEighteen months ago, Highwood Distillers, (Alberta’s only privately owned distillery) released a single bond offering (Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky) which was produced entirely from corn distillate which had been aged for a full 25 years in charred American white oak barrels. The release of this whisky commemorated the Centennial of Calgary’s world-famous rodeo (The Calgary Stampede), and it was bottled as a Limited Edition, Ultra-Premium, 25 Year Old Commemorative Canadian Whisky. This single grain offering was blended entirely with naturally sourced Rocky Mountain spring water, and was limited to a production run of only 6000 bottles.

Stampede WhiskyIn order to maintain good contact with the oak during the lengthy aging process, this bond was re-gauged or re-barreled twice during its maturing life. New barrels were not introduced when Highwood distiller’s made the liquid consolidation. Instead they chose to maintain the aging process in the original barrels into which the spirit began its maturation.

The result was a very special whisky, one which my judges without exception scored extremely well. In fact, this particular whisky was ranked number 1 by three out of the four judges (and the dissenting judge had it ranked number 3). This means that the Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky not only wound up as the Number 1 Canadian Whisky in my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown, it actually separated itself from the rest of the field by a noticeable margin. Here is a link to my original review of the 25 Year old Commemorative Stampede Whisky which I published in July 2012, judged by my tasting panel to be the Best Canadian Whisky currently available in the world.

#1 Canadian Whisky – Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky

“… The initial nose is rich with smells of oak and cedar. Butterscotch notes rise into the air accompanied by strong scents of honeycomb and cereal. As the glass sits, the oak spices continue to grow above the glass. I also receive impressions of melted vanilla ice cream, some appealing notes of marmalade and marzipan, and some strong notes of corn whisky rising into the merry little breezes …”

This Stampede Whisky finishes with an explosion of spice and echoes of vanilla, butterscotch and honey. It has a long lingering finish which leaves the mouth heated, but also leaves me wanting another glass!

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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

#3 Canadian Whisky – Ninety “Decades of Richness” 20 Year Old

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 23, 2013

rum_howler_badge- 25WHISKYIn November of 2005, Highwood Distilleries Ltd. finalized the purchase of Potters Distilleries (founded by Ernie Potter in 1958). Part of this acquisition, was the purchase of all of the remaining barrel aged stocks of whisky in the Potters facility. These barrels of whisky were transferred from the Potters warehouse facilities in Kelowna, B.C. to the newly constructed warehouse facility in High River, Alberta, where they were allowed to continue to age at the foot of the Rocky Mountains on the western edge of the Canadian Prairies. The whisky brands which Potters Distilleries had established (Century and Potters) were added to Highwood’s portfolio of spirits where they have not only been maintained but also expanded upon. Part of that expansion was the recent addition of the ‘Ninety’ branded whiskies to the Century Distillers line-up. Like the other whiskies in the Century portfolio, the Ninety branded spirits are corn-based rather than wheat-based blends. (The Distillery uses the Highwood banner for all of its wheat based whiskies.)

Ninety_25_Year_Old_-_shadow_2013_06Highwood chose the brand name ‘Ninety’ because these new whiskies are bottled at 90 proof (or 45 % alcohol by volume) rather than the usual 80 proof (40 % alcohol by volume). The higher bottling strength means that the final whisky will retain a character closer to the original cask strength whiskies from which they were blended. In the case of the Ninety “Decades of Richness” 20 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky, the bulk of blend almost certainly has been drawn from Highwood’s treasured reserves of remaining Potters whisky stocks which are rumoured to contain barrels of whisky as old as 33 years.

Here is a link to my new review of the Number 3 spirit in my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown:

#3 Canadian Whisky – Ninety “Decades of Richness” 20 Year Old

“… As I enjoy the breezes above the glass, I notice impressions of creamy vanilla pudding, hints of almond, some sticky marmalade, and a light sweetened grain-like component which actually reminds me of Post Honeycomb cereal. The longer you let the glass sit, the more firm and unified the aroma becomes, until after fifteen minutes or so it resembles a luscious butterscotch-oak-syrup that begs to be sipped …”

The Ninety “Decades of Richness” Canadian Rye Whisky has quickly become one of my very favourite whiskies, and for my palate, it is on par with the best Bourbons, and the best Single Malt Scotches I have tasted to this point in my whisky explorations. I wrote four years ago that Highwood Distillers was one of the best kept secrets in the whisky world, I suspect that is about to change.

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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

#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

#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

#18 Canadian Whisky – Century Reserve 21 Year Old

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 8, 2013

rum_howler_badge- 25WHISKYIn November of 2005, Highwood Distilleries Ltd. finalized the purchase of Potters Distilleries (founded by Ernie Potter in 1958). Part of this acquisition, was the purchase of all of the remaining barrel aged stocks of whisky in the Potters facility. These barrels of whisky were transferred from the Potters warehouse facilities in Kelowna, B.C. to the newly constructed warehouse facility in High River, Alberta, where they were allowed to continue to age at the foot of the Rocky Mountains on the western edge of the Canadian Prairies. The whisky brands which Potters had established (Century and Potters) were added to the Highwood portfolio and have recently been expanded upon.

Century_Reserve_21_Yr_-_shadowAccording to the information provided me when I reviewed this whisky the first time, Century Reserve 21 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky, is a premium a 21-year-old single grain corn whisky. This makes the Century Reserve something of a rarity upon the landscape of Canadian Whisky as there are very few single grain whiskies produced in Canada. It is also true that this whisky serves a very good example of how wonderful and tasty our Canadian Whisky can be. The 2013 bottling of the Century Reserve 21 Year Old arrives on my Christmas Countdown as the Number 18 Canadian Whisky!

Here is a link to my newly written review of the most recent bottling made available to me:

#18 Canadian Whisky – Century Reserve 21 Year Old (2013)

“… The breezes above the glass are luscious. Indications of roasted corn-0n-the-cob, rich oak spices, toffee, butterscotch, and tobacco all rise up to greet my nose. As the whisky breathes, those scents and smells above the glass become even richer with oak sap, stronger tobacco accents, marmalade and hints of vanilla pudding marrying themselves into the overall aroma …”

Note: Although I did not include a cocktail suggestion at the conclusion of my new review, if you are inclined to break through the boundaries of rigid convention, I would heartily endorse the Century Reserve 21 Year Old consumed in the manner of the Old Fashioned Cocktail.

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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

Review: Pristina Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on October 3, 2013

Pristina Vodka TonicPristina Vodka is a quadruple distilled wheat Vodka produced in High River, Alberta in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains just south of Calgary. I have been a fan of Highwood Distillers for a while now; but I was not prepared for what greeted me when I opened a sample bottle Highwood’s Pristina Vodka. Maybe it was the uninspiring bottle and label, or maybe it is just a case of us Canadians being a little too self-conscious to believe we can be as good as everyone else in the world. Whatever the reason, when I put the Pristina in a flight of Vodka samples at a tasting where it was up against an Authentic Russian Vodka called Black Stallion, a real Polish Vodka called Alchemia Czysta, and a Vodka made in France called Grey Goose, I was not expecting what happened.

What happened was that every person at my tasting chose the same Vodka as their favourite, and every person said it wasn’t even close. That favourite, the clear head and shoulders winner without reservation in everybody’s opinion, was of course the Pristina Vodka from Highwood Distillers.

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

Review: Pristina Vodka

“… I was happy to taste no vegetal tones and to feel no burn at all in my throat. The swallow was clean and completely smooth. The back of my mouth received a mildly spicy warmth; but my throat felt no heat, even with a substantial swallow of the Pristina Vodka. This reaction was consistent amongst those who tasted the Vodka with me …”

Please enjoy my review and the included cocktail, the Vodka Tonic.

Posted in Cocktails & Recipes, Vodka, Vodka Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off

 
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