Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 19, 2015
I have come to the last of my Rum Howler Awards as I determine my 2014 Rum Howler Awards for the excellence in the production of rum. This year, sadly, I have eliminated the Regional Rum Awards as time simply has gotten the best of me, and I must forge on into the year 2015 and leave 2014 behind.
In my discussions with different spirits companies I have noticed a welcome change in attitude regarding the oak barrel. Whereas, in the past these companies would only discuss how long their spirit had rested in that barrel, today those same companies are beginning to talk about the barrel itself. I hear terms like New Oak, First Fill, Second Fill, and re-charred oak barrels not just when companies are discussing whisky; but also now when they are discussing Rum. We are also seeing an influx of exotic finishing barrels like cognac casks, Sherry Casks and many more. It seems that as we are in this time of diminishing aged stocks, the spirits companies have embraced innovation to bring more flavours and more character forward in new and exciting ways. If this trend continues, then as the companies replenish their aged stocks over the next five and ten years, we will then enter into a new paradigm where the consumer may have the best of both worlds, a return to blends which contain only well aged rum as well as these same blends benefiting from all those years of innovation. We may indeed look back on this time as the shot in the arm that industry needed to bring something even more wonderful forward. Of course, only time will tell.
Here is a link to the Awards Page for the 2014 Rum Howler Award winners for excellence in the production of Rum. These are the spirits which have risen to the top and provided us with our greatest enjoyment in the World of Rum.
Posted in Awards, Extras, Rum, Rum Reviews | Tagged: 2014, Rum, Rum Howler Awards, Rum Reviews, The Year in Rum | Comments Off
Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 10, 2015
It is time for to unveil my Rum Howler Awards with respect to best Whisky I have tasted in 2014. 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 2014 Rum Howler Awards for Excellence in the Production of Whisky.
Here is a link to the Awards Page for the 2014 Rum Howler Award winners for excellence in the production of Whisky:
Posted in Awards, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: 2014, Rum Howler Awards, The Year in Whisky, Whisky, Whisky Review | 2 Comments »
Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 8, 2015
2014 was another strong year on my website as it relates to the spirit which is called Gin. During the month of August, I published the Rum Howler 2014 Gin and Tonic Challenge a competition where I chose 17 different gins to pit against each other in constructing the quintessential summer cocktail, the Gin and Tonic. A fortunate by-product of my summertime challenge is that I obtained a large sampling of gin spirits for review this year and have a strong field from which to select my award winners this year.
As I usually do, I invited one of my gin loving friends to help me in the judging process for the 2014 awards. Each spirit was served in two cocktails (Darby Cocktail, and a Dry Gin Martini) as well as served neat with no ice. I also included the results from my Gin and Tonic Challenge in my analysis.
Here is a link to the Awards Page for the 2014 Rum Howler Award winners for excellence in the production of Gin:
Posted in Awards, Extras, Gin, Gin Review | Tagged: 2014 Year in Gin, Gin, Gin Reviews, Rum Howler Awards | Comments Off
Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 7, 2015
Today I continue my 2014 Rum Howler Awards with a look at the year in Vodka. Last year I noted that my Vodka Reviews are amongst the most popular upon this website, both amongst producers who send me more vodka samples than I could ever hope to consume, and by my readers who seem to appreciate a review which incorporates not only my perception of taste and quality, but also my observations regarding cocktails and food pairings. My quirky style of vodka review also appears to have struck a chord with producers, especially those in Eastern Europe who have told me that my willingness to bring the gastronomic experience into my review process is much appreciated.
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 may 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 include those samples which were provided in the previous year so as to have a larger field to judge, and I may receive additional industry samples specifically for these awards.
Here is a link to the Awards Page for the 2014 Rum Howler Award winners for excellence in the production of Vodka:
Posted in Awards, Extras, Vodka, Vodka Reviews | Tagged: 2014 Year in Vodka, Rum Howler Awards, Vodka, Vodka Awards, Vodka Reviews | Comments Off
Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 6, 2015
I am a little late with my 2014 Rum Howler Awards. As some of you know, I took a sabbatical from my website at the end of the summer when my wife and my youngest son were each going through some medical difficulties. My time and attention was needed on the home front rather than on the web front, and as a result I made the decision in early October to postpone the publication of my Rum Howler Awards until after Christmas. I hope that no one minds the delay.
Earlier this year, I sent out a call to my contacts in the spirits industry as I was hoping to acquire 4 or 5 VSOP Cognac samples for a Rum Chums Tasting as well as for a short series of Cognac reviews to publish. The response I received was nothing short of amazing as instead of just a few VSOP Cognac, I also received an assortment of VS Cognac, and an even larger assortment of XO and super premium Cognac spirits. This meant that instead of a few VSOP spirits to review, I had suddenly acquired a bunch of Cognac spirits, sixteen samples in all. In fact I received enough sample spirits such that I am able to add the Cognac category to my annual Rum Howler Awards. (I also had a few very old Brandies which I added to the festivities.)
And thus it is time to reveal the recipients of the 2014 Rum Howler Awards for Excellence in the Production of Cognac (and Brandy). These Awards are for the best spirits which I encountered in the year 2014.
Here is a link to the Awards Page:
Note: The awards page contains links to my latest reviews for CAMUS VS, Courvoisier VS, and Hennessy VS Cognac.
Posted in Awards, Brandy and Cognac, Brandy Review, Cognac Review, Extras | Tagged: Brandy, Brandy Reviews, Cognac, Cognac Reviews, Rum Howler Awards, The Year in Cognac and Brandy | Comments Off
Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 2, 2015
2015 Edmonton Whisky Festival
(In Support of the MS Society)
Once again the folks at Vines Riverbend Wine Merchants have teamed up with the Alberta Division of the MS Society to bring you Edmonton’s Premier Whisky Festival. This is a unique chance to taste whiskies from around the world and to meet and discuss the noble spirit with industry and distillery representatives. Monies raised at the event will help those affected by MS in our community, as well as help to fund research towards a cure.
Where: Edmonton Delta South Hotel
When: Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Ticket Price: $85.00 each (purchase online here)
The Edmonton Whisky Festival is a must for any whisky enthusiast or for those new to the exciting world of whisky, and the price of a ticket includes entrance, whisky sampling, and the annual commemorative Glencairn Whisky Glass.
Please attend the festival and ejoy yourself chatting in a relaxed atmosphere with whisky and scotch principals and enthusiasts from across Canada and around the world.
Master classes are available again this year. They are all from 6:30-7:30 pm, and cost an additional $25 on top of your Festival ticket cost. The lineup is:
Compass Box Masterclass with Chris Maybin
Laphroaig Masterclass with Simon Brooking
Kavalan Masterclass with Nick Haltigin
Canadian Whisky Masterclass with Dan Tullio
All proceeds raised at this event are donated to the MS Society of Canada – Alberta Division.
For more information please contact:
Vines – Riverbend Wine Merchants (Edmonton)
or visit the Edmonton Whisky Festival Website
Tickets are now available from Vines or through the event website: (purchase online here)
Posted in Extras, Festivals | Tagged: Edmonton Whisky Festival, MS Society, Whisky | Comments Off
Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 31, 2014
Thank you everyone, for making my website (The Rum Howler Blog) one of the most popular independent spirit review websites in the entire world!
According to the information provided to me in the 2014 Annual Report (sent to me by WordPress), The Rum Howler Blog received over 2,000,000 page views in 2014. In fact, the report tells me that if my website were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 86 days for that many people to see it.
It turns out that last year people from 222 different countries (and from all seven continents of the world) visited The Rum Howler Blog. I received a visit from Vatican City, and yes, I even had a visit from a viewer in Antarctica who apparently read my blog.
I decided to dig into the numbers, and when I checked my web stats at the independent web metrics site ALEXA, I was pleasantly surprised to see that according to their calculations I was ranked as the 350,000th most popular website in the word. Considering the sheer volume of websites out there (over 20 million), that is impressive. According to ALEXA, each person who visits my website spends on average 2 minutes and 23 seconds when they visit. Taking that information along with the information provided by WordPress (which indicates that each person who visits views (on average) 2.5 pages each time they visit), this (if my math is correct) means that a total of 114.5 million seconds of time were spent by various people throughout the world reading what I have written. That translates into 31,778 hours or 1325 days spent by my followers and casual visitors reading my reviews.
All of these numbers translate into a total picture which as of December 31, 2014 ranks The Rum Howler Blog as the most popular spirit review website in Canada; and also, one of the most popular in the entire world.
I guess I want to say …
Posted in Extras, Howls | Tagged: Year in Review | 9 Comments »
Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 24, 2014
Wiser’s Red Letter was re-introduced to Canadians in 2007 to pay homage to the 150th anniversary of John Philip Wiser’s distillery in Prescott, Ontario 1857 – 2007), as well as to the original Red Letter Whisky which Wiser’s produced in the late 1800s. In 2009, when I reviewed the inaugural 150th Adversary Edition (see review here), I was told by my contacts within Corby, that the spirit contained various blends of whisky which (although they ranged in age) were all ten years old or more. After these mature whiskies were blended they were then finished in virgin white oak barrels for 150 days. Once the final characteristic of flavour had been achieved, the Red Letter was bottled at 45 % alcohol by volume (non chill filtered). In developing the spirit, the folks at Wiser’s apparently researched the original J.P Wiser’s Red Letter 19th century recipe using it as a guideline to construct their celebratory whisky.
Last year Corby once again in a tribute to their founder J.P Wiser released Wiser’s Red Letter Whisky (2013 Release). As with the 150th Anniversary edition the whisky was finished in virgin white oak casks and then bottled without chill filtering at 45 % abv..
Although it took me a full year to acquire my sample bottle, I am glad that I was persistent, as this year Wiser’s Red Letter Whisky is without a doubt the finest Canadian Whisky I have sampled all year, and well deserving of the accolade, Rum Howler 2014 Canadian Whisky of the Year!
Here is my review for Wiser’s Red Letter (2013 Release):
“… I taste a firm presence of sharp wood spices and orange peel, however, this sharpness ( which I am sure is also due to the 90 bottling proof) is contrasted by the silky mouth feel of a luscious corn whisky. Honeycomb and maple flavours slide through the hot spiciness of the whisky, and soon the orange peel tastes more like marmalade, and the fine wood spices more like a nice spicy maple toffee. Underpinning everything is a impression of lovely chocolate flavours which seem to ooze from the whisky as it is swallowed …”
Every year I seem to encounter a whisky gem which knocks me for a loop. The 2013 Red Letter Whisky is full of spice and attitude, yet it has its silky softer side which makes it all the more engaging. A wonderful whisky, one of Canada’s very best ever!
Note: You may find my full Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here: The Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2014
Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: Canadian Whisky, Top 25 Canadian Whisky, Whisky, Whisky of the Year, Whisky Review, Wiser's Red Letter, Wiser's Whisky | Comments Off
Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 24, 2014
This past May, I was invited by Thirsty Cellar Imports, to attend a Rum Master Class hosted by Hernan Parra Arango, Rum Master for Dictador Colombian Rum. At the event, the attendees were given the opportunity to taste the entire Dictador line-up which of course included not only the Dictador 12 Year and the Dictador 20 Year Solera Rums, but we also tasted and learned about the Dictador XO Perpetual and XO Insolent Rums.
At that Rum Master Class, I learned that for the Dictador XO Insolent in particular, the aging barrels used are pre-used oak barrels which have a significant percentage of oak obtained from Jerez Spain, as well as pre-used Port Wine Barrels. Near the end of the aging process, the barrels earmarked for the XO Insolent Rum are emptied (and the rum stored of course), and these barrels are subjected to an open flame process which caramelizes the rum soaked oak fibres on the interior of the barrel. These barrels are then refilled with the same rum allowing the spirit to draw the sweet caramelized flavours from the interior of the oak barrel. The final rum is blended and barreled at 40 % Alcohol by volume.
Of course the proof is in the tasting, and this year, the Dictador XO Insolent Rum was the very best that I personally tasted in 2014.
Here is a link to my review for the Rum Howler 2014 Rum of the Year:
“… The aroma is simply luscious with sweet toffee smells rising from the glass tainted with impressions of butterscotch, vanilla, corn syrup, creme de brulee, maple syrup and peanut brittle. There is a backbone of firm oak sap and spice melded wonderfully into these sweeter butterscotch like aromas with delectable baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves) and hints of milk chocolate lying underneath …”
The Dictador Insolent Rum is full of sweet and spicy character, and just might be as close to rum perfection as I have tasted. It is one of those rare spirits which I am loath to mix into a cocktail, and from me, that is high praise indeed!
Note: You may find my full Countdown list of the 25 Best Rums of 2014 here: The Rum Howler – Top 25 Rums of 2014
Posted in Awards, Extras, Rum, Rum Reviews | Tagged: Colombian Rum, Dictador, Dictador Insolent, Rum, Rum of the Year, Rum Reviews, Top 25 Rum | Comments Off
Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 23, 2014
This year I noticed that Wiser’s had increased its Limited Release production for its 18 Year Old whisky from a total of 3500 cases produced each year to 5600 cases produced. In the past the number of whisky barrels selected to produce each batch rum was relatively small. In fact, according to Hiram Walker Mater Blender, Dr. Don Livermore, the number of casks selected for each bottling of Wiser’s 18 Year Old was in the range of only 15 to 20 ex bourbon casks per batch. With such a small group of barrels to work from, it is inevitable that variations will exist between separate batches.
And, I have noted in my previous reviews how this particular whisky seems to be spectacular one year, and then falls to a level of mere excellence in the next. This year, (perhaps because of a greater number of barrels used to produce a larger production rum) the whisky has moved back towards the realm of the spectacular, and the 2014 edition of Wiser’s 18 Years Old Limited Release Canadian Whisky, is number 2 on my Countdown.
Here is my newly written review:
“… I let the glass sit for several minutes, and when I returned the clean wood and rye spices have not abated; however, alongside the wood spice I sense a growing sweetness of maple and butterscotch toffee. There is some lovely marzipan underneath and given enough time in the glass the orange peel begins to turn to marmalade as the orange peel spice melds into the butterscotch …”
Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here: The Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2014
Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: Canadian Whisky, Top 25 Canadian Whisky, Whisky, Whisky Review, Wiser's 18 Year Old | Comments Off