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Posts Tagged ‘Highwood Distillers’

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

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: 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

Review: Potter’s Superior White Rum

Posted by Arctic Wolf on October 14, 2012

According to Highwood DistillersPotter’s Superior White Rum is sourced in the Caribbean. They do not specify a country of origin (which may mean that the rum is sourced from more than one location), and they do not make any age claim. However, I have been told that the rum in the bottle is not an infant spirit, and I can verify that based upon Canadian Law all rum in Canada must be aged for at least one year in the oak barrel. And according to my understanding, all the rum used in the Potter’s blend has been aged for at least a year its the country of origin. As well, some of the rum is also additionally aged in oak barrels at the Highwood facility in High River, Alberta. The blend is charcoal filtered to be clear, and then is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

Here is an excerpt from my review:

“… The rum in the glass is crystal clear with no hints of colour at all. It displays a bit of a candied flair when I bring it to my nose, with scents reminiscent of cotton candy and ever so light hints of candy cane. There are very light notes of caramel and brown sugar, banana, and citrus zest and maybe even a little fresh from the oven meringue… “

Here is a link to the full review:

Review: Potter’s Superior White Rum

I provided two nice recipes at the end of the review, Rum and Tonic, and Red Sky at Night.

Please enjoy the review and the delicious cocktails!

Cheers!

Posted in Cocktails & Recipes, Rum, Rum Reviews, White Rums | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off

Review: Sahara Dry Gin

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 30, 2012

Highwood Distillers 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. I have visited the distillery and watched first hand as they turned the local wheat into whisky, vodka. and gin. Sahara Dry Gin is produced in the London Dry style. This spirit is produced from Canadian wheat and naturally sourced Rocky Mountain water. 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. I was provided with a sample bottle of this gin from the folks at Highwood Distillers (early in the summer) for the purpose of a review on my website.

Here is an excerpt from the resulting review:

“… 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 …”

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: Sahara Dry Gin

I have also provided a very nice ‘cooler’ style cocktail to enjoy with the Sahara, one I call the Jumping Buffalo Cooler. Please enjoy my review and my suggested cocktail.

Cheers!

Posted in Cocktails & Recipes, Gin, Gin Review | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off

Review: Marushka Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 7, 2012

Marushka Vodka is a wheat distilled Vodka produced at the Highwood Distillery in High River, Alberta. This distillery is situated near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains just 40 minutes south of downtown Calgary. This is Highwood’s original vodka. Over the years they have made numerous refinements in an attempt to continually improve on the exact flavor that works best for what they refer to as their Russian/Ukrainian style vodka.

Of the six vodkas produced by Highwood, Marushka is considered by the distillery to have the most flavour. It is the number one choice amongst the bars and restaurants which serve Highwood Vodka. I was given a sample bottle of Marushka Vodka by Highwood Distillers to put through the paces of my Review Methodolgy.

Here is an excerpt from the resulting review:

“… In the shot glass the Marushka Vodka displayed a stronger than usual aroma above the glass. I could detect a firm note of citrus zest, a grainy spiciness, and the vegetal aroma of a young spirit. The first sip confirmed these impressions especially the grainy spiciness… “

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: Marushka Vodka

As well I have include a new cocktail of mine called Civility. Please enjoy the review and my new cocktail!

Cheers!

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

Review: Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on June 28, 2012

Just over a week ago, I introduced the Calgary Stampede Commemorative 25 Year Old Whisky here on my website. The whisky is a single bond offering produced entirely from corn distillate and aged for 25 years in charred American white oak. It is blended entirely with naturally sourced Rocky Mountain spring water, and has a limited production of only 6000 bottles. In order to maintain good contact with the oak during the lengthy aging process, this bond was re-gauged or re-barreled twice during its aging 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 in which the spirit began its maturation.

I was given a sample bottle to review by the folks at Highwood Distillers who produced the whisky and I am sharing my review of this whisky here on my website.

Here is an excerpt:

“… As you let the glass breathe, the flavours (and the aroma) become deeper and richer. There are some almond flavours that over time develop towards marzipan, and there is some orange peel that begins to taste like marmalade as the glass sits and the flavours meld. Some pungent baking spices (cinnamon, vanilla and ginger) and flavours of melted vanilla ice-cream appear as if by magic… “

You may read the full review here:

Review: Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky

Please enjoy the review!

(Because a 25 Year Old Canadian Whisky is special, my friend Davin de Kergommeaux of Canadian Whisky and I agreed to review this spirit on the same day. As part of my review I have provided a link to Davin’s opinion as well)

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

Introducing: Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on June 20, 2012

Over 100 years ago an entrepreneurial cowboy named Guy Weadlick visited Calgary, Alberta and envisioned a tribute show to the pioneers of the west complete with a Cowboy Championship Contest. He arranged $100,000.00 in financing from the “Big 4″ (George Lane, Archie McClean, Patrick Burns, and A.E. Cross) who were influential Calgary area ranchers and businessmen. In September 1912, Guy Weadlick’s vision, the first Calgary Stampede, came to life for six glorious days. An estimated 80,000 people attended the first Stampede Parade, which was an astonishing number considering Calgary’s population at the time was only three-quarters that figure at 60,000. The major events at this “Cowboy Championship” offered each winner first prize cash of $1000, as well as a Saddle and a Gold Buckle!

For over 100 years now the Calgary Stampede has brought people from all over the world together to experience the region’s unique western heritage and values. Highwood Distillers, Alberta’s only privately owned distillery, has joined in and is celebrating the Centennial of the Calgary Stampede by producing an exclusive Limited Edition Ultra-Premium 25 Year Old Commemorative Canadian Rye Whisky.

The handsome heavy-set 8-sided bottle is adorned with a medal label, and a high quality wooden capped synthetic cork seals this rare wonderfully old whisky.

Here are my initial tasting notes:

Colour: Brilliant amber with flashes of gold.

Nose:  Deep scents of oak and cedar, butterscotch bathed in corn and honeyed oak spices, melted vanilla ice-cream, and delicate aromas of sweet bourbon whiskey

Taste: Luscious oak spices, butterscotch and honey, corn on the cob, and sweet dank Kentucky Bourbon. The whisky grows in the glass getting richer and more complex with flavours of marzipan, orange marmalade and lots of melted vanilla ice cream.

Finish: An explosion of tonsil licking oak spices with echoes of vanilla, butterscotch, and honey lingering in the throat.

The Centennial of the Calgary Stampede is an event worth celebrating!

The launch of Highwood’s Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky is the launch of a whisky worthy of this celebration.

PS: My full review will follow in a few weeks!
(If Highwood’s Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky is not in stores now, it will be soon.)

Posted in Canadian Whisky, Howls, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Review: Centennial 10 year Old Canadian Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on May 8, 2012

Centennial is a 10 Year Old Whisky produced by Alberta’s own Highwood Distillers. Rather than using corn to as the base grain for this whisky, Highwood uses soft Canadian winter wheat. This gives the Centennial a smooth and soft flavour profile unlike any other Canadian whisky I have encountered. In fact, using grains grown exclusively on the Canadian prairies, distilling the grain in their home Province of Alberta, and aging the spirit in the severe Western Canadian climate for a minimum of ten years, makes  Centennial is a Whisky unlike any other in the world.

Here is an excerpt from my review (originally posted on December 8, 2009) :

“… 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 sits too far backward in the taste profile, but I disagree… “

You may read the full review here:

Review: Centennial 10 year Old Canadian Rye Whisky

As well I have provided a nice recipe for Canadian Rye Whisky, The Canadian Whisky Splash!

Please enjoy the review!

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

Introducing: Coyote Ugly Canadian Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on March 8, 2012

On January 27, 1993, Wall Street intern, Liliana Lovell opened the first Coyote Ugly Saloon in New York City. If you watched the Jerry Bruckheimer movie, Coyote Ugly (released in 2000), then you know all about this place where the waitresses, called ‘Coyote Girls’, serve the drinks, dance and sing, and even (apparently) down shots of whisky with the customers.

According to the movie, at the Coyote Ugly Saloon, things are kept pretty simple. The drinks are served straight up with no frills (unless you call things like girls dancing on the bar a frill). They don’t use soda for mix; they don’t even add a drop or two of water. In fact, if you ask for water, rather than receiving a little for your whisky, you are more likely to get doused with the stuff to a chorus of customers chanting, “Hell No … H2O!”

It was a flick that was panned by critics, but loved by the public becoming a box office hit during the late summer and early fall of 2000. The movie must have been good for business because in 2001, another Coyote Ugly Saloon opened up in Las Vegas followed by other locations across the USA, and even as far away as Russia.

With all this success, it is apparent that the Coyote Ugly brand has reached what I will call, ‘celebrity status’. The term ‘Coyote Ugly’ has in fact become firmly entrenched into the public consciousness. When that happens, the resulting cache of the brand is well worth capitalizing on. Which is why Celebrity Cellars International founder, Jeff Harder, teamed up with the founder of the Coyote Ugly Saloon, Liliana Lovell. They have decided that it is time to get Ugly (Coyote Ugly that is) with the launch of the new Coyote Ugly Canadian Whisky!

I received a sample bottle of this whisky from PURE Global Imports who asked me to provide a review here on my website to serve as a preview for the world-wide launch of the new Coyote Ugly Canadian Whisky on March 12, 2012. I was, to be honest, quite happy to oblige…

Here is an excerpt from the review:

“…The whisky smells of rich butterscotch and caramel. Light rye scents waft into the breezes with dabs of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. A light footprint of vanilla and almond compliment the delicate baking spices leaving impressions of marzipan in the air above the glass…”

As always you may find my full review by using the following link:

Review: Coyote Ugly Canadian Whisky

Enjoy the review!

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

 
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