White Owl Ginger Lime Whisky
Review: White Owl Ginger Lime Whisky 87.5/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on June 28, 2014
Highwood Distillers is a Canadian distillery in the Town of High River, Alberta, which lies just about 40 minutes due south of Calgary, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Last, year the distillery 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. 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.
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. The flavoured whisky is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume, and I was given a bottle a few months ago to put the paces of my review methodolgy. I will start (as I always do) with the bottle the whisky arrives in.
In the Bottle 5/5
I am often critical of the bottle presentation of Highwood’s distilled spirits. In fact, I feel that the distillery has a tendency to undersell their products with mediocre bottles and labels which have no ‘pop’ on the retail shelf. However, with respect to the their White Owl brand I have no such misgivings. The bottle and labeling is fantastic! Everything about it is appealing from the frosted stubby bottle to the majestic Snowy White Owl logo. Small details are given proper attention to as well. The green cap on this bottle helps the bartender recognize at a glance that this is the ginger lime flavour, and the longish neck and slightly flared opening allows for quick pouring without spilling.
This bottle presentation is as good as it gets!
In the Glass 8.5/10
The whisky is (of course) clear in the glass looking more like vodka or gin than a whisky spirit. However, 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. There seems to be a bit of cotton candy sweetness in the air as well hinting at some sweetness which helps to meld the notes of ginger and the lime into the rye notes of the whisky.
The aroma is light and appealing, and stealing a sip is an impulse I cannot refuse.
In the Bottle 52.5/60
White Owl Ginger and Lime Whisky is a cocktail whisky meant to be a refreshing change from vodka, gin and white rum when mixing your favourite cocktails. However, I found the whisky easily found a home in my rocks glass with a few well placed cubes of ice as well. The whisky is smooth and flavourful with a nice zesty trio of lime, ginger and rye flavours. As I sipped on the whisky I came to appreciate how the lime and ginger flavours were not overdone. The lime and ginger act as accents upon the light rye whisky flavour, encroaching only so far as to enhance the experience, but not to steal the show. Some fine wood (sandalwood) spices add to the character, and there is just enough butterscotch sweetness present to make the flavoured spirit an enjoyable sipper.
As a cocktail spirit, the flavoured lime and ginger whisky reaches even higher heights. In fact, I am pretty sure that you could replace any white spirit you would normally use with the White Owl Ginger and Lime and be impressed with the resulting cocktails you create. I began my explorations by pouring a healthy shot of the whisky into a glass of cold lemonade (made with fresh squeezed lemons). The spiked lemonade was terrific, so I made another one and spent the rest of my afternoon relaxing in my back yard with my new tall deck drink. Next, I decided to try some fresh grapefruit juice with a cucumber garnish next (see final recipe below), and my enthusiasm for the lime and ginger flavoured whisky spirit continued to grow. I also mixed a Mojito, then a Gin and Tonic, and finally a Cosmopolitan on consecutive days replacing the base spirit with the White Owl Lime and Ginger. Each time I was very pleased with the result, and my conclusion is that many traditional cocktails can be improved with the White Owl Ginger and Lime Whisky.
In the Throat 13/15
The spicy ginger and zesty lime really pop during the finish, which is why I found myself preferring to serve the spirit over ice rather than neat as a sipper. Fortunately this zesty spiciness works great in those cocktails I mixed earlier adding extra flavour and character to the experience.
The Afterburn 8.5/10
I have been on a bit of a ‘white spirit’ kick lately sampling and reviewing a few new white rums, and a few new gins this year on my website. The spirits which score the best in these categories are those which not only make great cocktails, they also may be enjoyed on their own. White Owl Ginger and Lime Whisky fits that bill perfectly, and quite rightly scores very well as a great cocktail whisky. I believe it will find a permanent spot on my bartending cocktail shelf.
You may read some of my other reviews of Liqueurs and Flavoured Spirits (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
I am going to begin by suggesting that there is absolutely nothing wrong with serving the White Owl Ginger and Lime Whisky in a rocks glass over ice.
White Owl Ginger and Lime over Ice
2 oz White Owl Ginger and Lime Whisky
3 – 4 Ice-cubes
Chill the White Owl Ginger and Lime in the freezer for a couple of hours
Add Ice-cubes to a chilled rocks glass
Add Ginger and Lime Whisky
Garnish with a Lime slice.
(Of course adding a splash of ginger ale never hurt any good rye based whisky!)
A refreshing cocktail mixing grapefruit, lemon, and cucumber with White Owl Ginger and Lime Whisky!
2 oz White Owl Ginger and Lime Whisky
1 1/2 oz fresh Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 oz sugar syrup
3 or 4 Large Ice-cubes
Add the Ice-cubes to a rocks glass
Pour the White Owl Ginger and Lime Whisky over the ice
Add fresh Grapefruit and Lemon Juice
Garnish with lengthwise sliced cucumbers
Note: If you are interested in more of my cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)