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Archive for the ‘Awards’ Category

The Year in Whisky (2014 Rum Howler Awards)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 10, 2015

It is timeRH-winner2014 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:

The 2014 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Whisky

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The Year in Gin (2014 Rum Howler Awards)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 8, 2015

RH-winner20142014 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:

The 2014 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Gin

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The Year in Vodka (The 2014 Rum Howler Awards)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 7, 2015

RH-winner2014Today 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:

The 2014 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Vodka

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The Year in Cognac and Brandy (2014 Rum Howler Awards)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 6, 2015

RH-winner2014I 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:

The 2014 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Cognac (And Brandy)

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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 Reviews, Brandy Review, Cognac Review, Extras | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on The Year in Cognac and Brandy (2014 Rum Howler Awards)

Rum Howler 2014 – Canadian Whisky of the Year: Wiser’s Red Letter (2013 Release)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 24, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Wiser’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.

Red Letter SAM_1386Last 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):

Rum Howler 2014 #1 Canadian Whisky – 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!

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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: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Rum Howler 2014 – Canadian Whisky of the Year: Wiser’s Red Letter (2013 Release)

The 2014 Rum Howler Rum of the Year: Dictador XO Insolent Rum

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 24, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014This 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:

2014 Rum of the Year – Dictador XO Insolent Rum

“… 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!

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Note: You may find my full Countdown list of the 25 Best Rums of 2014 here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Rums of 2014

 

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Rum Howler 2014 #2 Canadian Whisky – Wiser’s 18 Year Old (2014 Edition)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 23, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014This 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.

Wiser's 18 SAM_1401And, 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:

#2 Canadian Whisky – Wiser’s 18 Year Old (2014 Edition)

“… 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 …”

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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: , , , , | Comments Off on Rum Howler 2014 #2 Canadian Whisky – Wiser’s 18 Year Old (2014 Edition)

Rum Howler 2014 # 2 Rum – El Dorado 21 Year Old

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 23, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014The DDL Master Blender is credited with the creation of El Dorado 21-Year-Old Rum which uses a blend of rums selected from their world-famous stills, the Enmore (wooden Coffey still), the Versailles (single wooden pot still), and the Albion (Savalle still). All of the rums in the blend have been aged in oak for a minimum of 21 years, making this one of the oldest production rums in the world.

This is also one of the very best, and for the third straight year it ranks as one of the top 5 rums in the world. This year the El Dorado Special Reserve 21-Year Old Rum moved up two spaces and grabs the number 2 spot.

SAM_1390Here is a link to my review:

# 2 Rum – El Dorado 21 Year Old

“… The immediate nose is full of baking spices, orange peel, vanilla, and dry fruits. There are absolutely no medicinal notes or harsh scents associated with the aroma. As the rum decants, I begin to sense glimmers of almonds and hazelnuts weaving through the tapestry of smells, and I sense a building oakiness which is bringing more spice to the fore …”

The oak has melted into the spirit (or perhaps the spirit has melted into the oak) and the result is a special aged rum which perhaps has no equivalent in its category. This rum is a marvel of aging and blending and belongs on every serious rum aficionado’s shelf.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Rums of 2014 here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Rums of 2014

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Rum Howler 2014 #3 Canadian Whisky – Crown Royal Cask No. 16

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 22, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Crown Royal® Canadian Whisky was originally introduced in 1939 (by Samuel Bronfman of Seagrams) as a special whisky bottling to commemorate the Royal tour of Canada by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in that year. Until 1964, the whisky was only available in Canada; however, today it is available world-wide and is in fact the number one Canadian whisky brand sold in the USA. Crown Royal is currently produced in Gimli Manitoba, at the Crown Royal Distillery which (since the dissolution of the Seagrams portfolio in 2000) is owned by the spirits conglomerate Diageo.

Cask No. 16 is according to the company website,

“handcrafted from more than 50 different aged Canadian whiskies and then finished in Cognac Oak casks from the Limousin forest in France”

Cask No. 16 SAM_1402Although rumours persist as to the demise of this outstanding blend, I note that as of the end of 2014, it remains listed on the Crown Royal website as part of the Crown Royal Family, and remains readily available in my home Province of Alberta.

And, I am quite happy that the Cask No. 16 is readily available, as I have placed it in the number 3 spot, in my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown of 2014.

Here is my recently updated review:

#3 Canadian Whisky – Crown Royal Cask No. 16

“… The first sensation in my mouth was of an incredible softness that this whisky presents. It is almost chewy soft. A mellow corn whisky is up front on the palate, but rich soft butterscotch, caramel and sweet brown sugar sit under the corn flavour supporting and enhancing the experience. A nice spicy bite which has the hallmarks of pears and grapes grabs at the taste buds … “

For those who prefer a more subdued corn profile and a milder rye like burn, this is probably the perfect Canadian whisky. It is wonderfully luxurious and rich, yet full of character and complexity. Sip it neat, or on the rocks, and you will not be disappointed.

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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: , , , , , | Comments Off on Rum Howler 2014 #3 Canadian Whisky – Crown Royal Cask No. 16

Rum Howler 2014 # 3 Rum – Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 22, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Although Ron Millonario, is headquartered in Italy (owned by Rossi and Rossi S.R.I.), the rums of Ron Millonario are distilled and aged in Northern Peru. The company website does not give us the exact location of the distillery which produces the Millonario rums although it does speak of a mid-sized Northern Peruvian distillery with three old Scottish column stills and a slow distillation process which is used to produce their rum from sugar cane molasses.

Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum is the premier rum produced by this Italian Company, and this year, it checks onto my list of the best rums of 2014 in the Number 3 spot.

Ron Millonario XO SAM_1404Here is a link to my review:

# 3 Rum – Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum

“… The main flavours of caramel/molasses, oak spice and baking spices seem to be perfectly melded together. Hints of raisin, figs, tobacco and chocolate seem to provide just the right accent to make this a suave mouth watering rum. There is plenty of sweetness, but this sweetness is tempered by the more pungent flavours such that the rum never seems to be too sweet … “

This is one of those really special rums that scores up in the stratosphere for me. The rum has it all, great depth of flavour, wonderful consistency from nose to mouth to finish, and wonderful balance between all of its elements. I simply love it.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Rums of 2014 here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Rums of 2014

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