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Review: Highland Park 12 Years Old (2015)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 23, 2016

Highland Park 12

The 12 Year Old Highland Park Whisky is the core expression of Highland Park Distillery, that is to say, it is their flagship brand. Highland Park prides itself in not making any compromises when making whisky. The twelve-year expression is bottled at 43 % alcohol by volume, and is the youngest in Highland Park’s impressive lineup.

I reviewed this particular expression of Highland Park Single Malt Whisky back in 2009, and for several years it was one of my all time favourites. Recently, I received a newer bottling. I decided to put the whisky once again through the paces of my review system to see how this bottling (2015) compared to the great 2009 bottling.

Here is a link to my latest Single Malt Whisky Review:

Review: Highland Park 12 Years Old (2015)

“… The whisky has had more time to breathe, and when I examine the breezes above the glass I sense more of the familiar aromatics of Orkney peat. There are light heather and lavender smells as well as smells of willow trees sitting atop a boggy peat. A very light butterscotch and honey sweetness is present as well, and this helps to make the Orkney peat more approachable …”

Please enjoy my review.


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

Cocktail Hour: Blood and Sand

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 22, 2016

Mixing a cocktail with a Single Malt Whisky always brings out a few cat calls from persons who believe such a thing is sacrilege. However, having discussed the topic with more than a few of the master blenders and whiskey makers from Canada, Scotland (and elsewhere), I have found almost unanimous support for my point of view which is that a spirit of any quality may be the focus of a cocktail. In fact, ‘the better the spirit, the better the cocktail’ is a sentiment I hear often. With that in mind I have chosen to follow my chosen path and bring together a classic Scotch whisky cocktail, Blood and Sand, with the highly regarded Single Malt, the Highland Park 12 Year Old.

Blood and Sand (the cocktail) was apparently named for the Rudolph Valentino 1922 bullfighter movie of the same name. The connection is by no means certain, as the first printed recipe for the bar drink did not appear until 8 years later in the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930).  The Savoy Cocktail Book’s recipe calls for equal parts orange juice, scotch whisky, cherry brandy and Italian vermouth which makes the bar drink easy for both the home and the profession bartender to master.

Today, it is common to see recipes which replace the orange juice with the juice of the Blood Orange. Not only does this play nicely with the name of the cocktail, but the tart, almost raspberry-like flavour of the blood orange is complimentary to the bar drink making it slightly drier (and to me more appealing). When a high quality peated single malt whisky is used as well, the Blood and Sand becomes a wonderful wintertime cocktail.

For my suggested construction, I tweaked the ratios slightly to increase the light punch of smoke and to further limit the sweetness of the serving. This of course allows the Highland Park 12 Year Old Whisky to be the star of the libation.

Blood and SandBlood and Sand

3/4 oz Highland Park 12 Year Old
5/8 oz Sweet Vermouth (Martini Rosso)
5/8 oz Cherry Brandy (Bols)
3/4 oz Fresh Squeezed Blood Orange Juice
Orange Zest or Peel (optional)

Add the first four ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker frosts
Strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with orange peel (optional)

If  you are interested in more cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more mixed drink recipes!

Note: a new review based upon a recently acquired bottle of Highland Park 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky will publish tomorrow.

Posted in Cocktails & Recipes | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Big Rig Craft Distillery

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 20, 2016

On January 12, 2016, I took a little tour south of Edmonton along the Queen Elizabeth II Highway to the Hamlet of Nisku. The small hamlet, which sits adjacent to Edmonton, is surrounded by what is called The Nisku Business Park. This industrial park contains an important assortment of businesses which provide support to the Oil Industry here in Alberta. What brought me to Nisku was Alberta’s newest craft distillery, the Big Rig Craft Distillery and their Pure Alberta Spirit.


I had been invited by the company President & Head Distiller, Geoff Stewart to come on down for a private tour of the facility, and of course to sample some of their new spirit in their newly opened Big Rig Craft Distillery Tasting Room. When I arrived I was greeted by Geoff and introduced to his team which included his General Manager & Co Distiller, Mike Beile and Blenders, Adam Smith and Joanne Keller.

The Big Rig Craft Distillery opened their doors on October 17, 2015 and they already have an impressive line-up of spirits for sale at their boutique store within the facility. These spirits include their Premium 16x Distilled Vodka and Wildrose Gin; their selections of White Dog Distillate (not whisky for three years yet); and their intriguing Sugar Beet Brum. As well, they are experimenting with an array of flavoured Vodkas some of which are bottled and ready for sale, and others which are in development. The most intriguing of these flavoured spirits was their Garlic Vodka which makes an entirely delicious Big Rig Garlic Caesar Cocktail (recipe coming soon).

Big Rig Team

The Big Rig Team: Adam Smith, Mike Beile and Geoff Stewart

During my tour, the team was busy producing both Vodka and Gin, and I was able to see both the equipment and the team in action. The distillery truly is a craft operation, as the entire process from grain to glass is completed in about 2 weeks in a batch-style by the Big Rig Team.

If you are interested in how the Big Rig team actually produces these premium spirits, here is a link to my description of the full tour.

The Big Rig Craft Distillery Tour

Note: Please contact the Big Rig Craft Distillery for information regarding your own opportunity to tour their Craft Distillery (and Tasting Room).

Posted in Distillery Tour, Extras | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Review: Dulce Vida Organic Tequila Lone Star III (Anejo)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 19, 2016

Dulce Vida Lone Star IIIDulce Vida Tequila is produced from 100% organic agave grown in the Los Altos highlands which are situated in the Tequila Region of Mexico. The company produces the only 100° proof, 100% organic tequila (also free from additives of any kind) in the world. As well as being 100% organic, their tequila is also produced in a manner which embraces the concept of sustainability. During production of the spirit a complete waste recapture program is set in place which results in the production of a nutrient-rich soil supplement which is supplied to the local farming community. The methane gas which is produced as a by-product of the waste collection & processing is captured and utilized to help power Dulce Vida’s production facilities in the village of San Ignacio Cerro Gordo at Campanario.

Dulce Vida Organic Tequila Lone Star III (Anejo) has been aged in Garrison Brother’s Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey barrels. The Garrison barrels are a special cooperage, 10-gallon barrels which were used to age the first Texas Bourbon produced.

Here is a link to my review of this wonderful añejo spirit:

Review: Dulce Vida Organic Tequila Lone Star III (Anejo)

“… The breezes above the glass carry indications of a lightly sweet honey and fruit scent which seemed to reflect impressions of vanilla, canned pears and sweet apricots the combination of which seems to me to be quite unusual for a tequila spirit. I also sense light indications of fine oak and sandalwood spices combined with mild indication of white pepper. The typical earthy/fruity aroma (reminiscent of garden squash or pumpkin) of the agave is buried deep within the spirit as is the typical peppery squeal of highland spice …”

Please enjoy my review.


Posted in Anejo Tequila, Tequila, Tequila Review | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cocktail Hour: Tequila Añejo Old Fashioned

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 18, 2016

The Old Fashioned Cocktail is usually associated with whisky, perhaps rum and even brandy; but only recently has it become fashionable as a cocktail suitable for the agave spirit, Tequila. This is perhaps because the spicy flavour characteristic of tequila (añejo or otherwise) does not lend itself easily to this simple cocktail. The peppery spice and the earthy fruity agave flavours are aggressive, and in an Old Fashioned, these aggressive flavours are given free rein. Many persons find the result just a little too demanding and intimidating for a drink we aspire to enjoy in our easy chair after a long day at work.

What I have found is that rather than adding simple syrup as the sweetener, a better course of action is to add a mixture of agave syrup and orange Curacao. In particular, the orange Curacao plays wonderfully with aged tequila tempering its wild side, without diminishing its rich depth and character.

Anejo Old FashionedWith a wonderful tequila like the Dulce Vida Organic Tequila Lone Star (Anejo), the results of this simple tweak can be quite stunning.

Tequila Añejo Old Fashioned

2 oz Dulce Vida Organic Tequila Lone Star III (Anejo)
1/4 oz Orange Curacao
1/8 oz Agave Syrup
Orange Peel

Add a thin coil of Orange Peel to the bottom of a rocks glass
Add a few cubes of ice
Pour 2 oz Añejo Tequila over the ice
Stir Gently
Enjoy Responsibly

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

Note: My posting for Dulce Vida Organic Tequila Lone Star III (Anejo) will publish tomorrow.

Posted in Cocktails & Recipes | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2015

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 17, 2016

Canada's Best of 2015

Canada’s Best of 2015

Canadian Whisky continues to go through a resurgence as whisky aficionados all over the world are becoming re-acquainted with the great Canadian Spirit. We saw the beginnings about 10 years ago when the two largest Canadian Distillers, Wiser’s and Crown Royal released new Ultra Premium Whiskies (Wiser’s Red Letter & Crown Royal XR Waterloo). These new whiskies which were each priced above $125.00 and established a new high water mark for Canadian Whisky at least as far as price was concerned. Admittedly, the market was rather tepid towards these new offerings as the local Canadian consumer was much more comfortable with their Canadian whisky priced in the low twenties, and even the flag bearer of premium whisky at the time (Wiser’s 18 Year Old) was still to be found in the mid forties and low fifties.

As time went one other super premium Canadian whiskies began to appear. Alberta Premium’s ridiculously low-priced 25 Year Old Whisky was introduced in 2007 (only $30 a bottle) followed by a more moderately priced 30-year-old offering five years later ($60.00 per bottle). Canadian Club joined the parade bringing forward their own Ultra Premium 30 Year Old offering and then making their 20-year-old whisky a permanent part of their whisky family. During all of this Highwood Distillers was quietly producing a premium 21-year-old 100 % corn whisky as well as their LOT 1525 which was a blending of premium whiskies aged 15 to 25 years.

As well as beginning to produce premium aged whiskies, Canadian distillers also started to innovate. Forty Creek was leading this innovation as John Hall began distilling and aging whisky from three separate grains blending them and then using unique casks to finish the job. In the US, more experimentation with our national spirit was underway as companies like 35 Maple Street in Sonoma California began to play with our straight Canadian Rye. Not to be outdone, Wiser’s and Crown Royal joined in each experimenting with new styles of oak barrels and new rye forward whiskies bringing more diversity to the spirit we call Canadian. In the midst of all of this, a distilling revolution began as micro distillers began popping up across the country each of them bringing a new twist to Canadian Whisky.

This all brings us to the present, 2015. Canadian Whisky is in demand in Canada (and all over the world) like never before. The spirit is now a more varied and diverse than it ever was. Speaking in ‘whisky terms’, it is a great time to be a Canadian!

Just follow this link to see the full list:

The Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2015

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

Review: Ron Abuelo Anejo 7 Anos

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 16, 2016

Abuelo Anos 7Ron Abuelo Rum is produced by Varela Hermanos SA in Panama, Central America. This company has a history which dates back to 1908 when Don José Varela Blanco launched the first sugar mill in the then recently formed Republic of Panama. In 1935, the site began to distill sugar cane juice for the production of various kinds of spirits. Now today, the company produces an impressive array of products which includes over one million boxes of spirits and of course a strong variety of rums. The Ron Abuelo brand is just one brand from this wide assortment.

According to the website, the Ron Abuelo Anejo 7 Anos is produced from molasses and aged for 7 years in white oak bourbon casks.

Here is a link to my latest rum review:

Review: Ron Abuelo Anejo 7 Anos

“… Dark brown sugary baking spices have evolved with vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and hints of clove. There is also an impression of pecans. The menagerie reminds me of the smells of cinnamon buns baking in the oven. Hints of orange marmalade rise up as well …”

Please enjoy may review of this Panamanian Rum!

Posted in Rum, Rum Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cocktail Hour: My Rum Club Cocktail

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 15, 2016

My Rum Club Cocktail has its roots in the Brandy Crusta which is a classic cocktail traced back to Joseph Santini (circa 1840). Santini was a celebrated bartender and caterer in New Orleans at that time. Almost forty years later, Leo Engels used Santini’s 1840 Brandy Crusta as the basis for his Rum Crusta recipe in his Bartender’s Guide, American and other Drinks, 1878). The recipes in Leo Engels guide give us an important glimpse at the bar drinks of his time and how they had already began to evolve into more complex forms.

My Rum Club Cocktail has its roots firmly in Santini’s and Engels’ early Crusta recipe; however I have tweaked the proportions and added a small splash of ginger-ale to lengthen it slightly. My bar drink is perhaps a little harder to construct than a typical rum and soda; but the effort is well worth the prize.

Abuelo rum club cocktailThe Rum Club Cocktail

2 oz Ron Abuelo Anejo 7 Anos
1/4 oz Orange Curacao
1/4 oz tsp Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1 tsp Sugar Syrup
1 dash Fees Bitters
1 dash Maraschino Liqueur
Lemon Peel
Splash Ginger-ale

Add the first six ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice
Shake until the sides frost
Rim the edge of a chilled cocktail glass with a lemon slice and dip it in sugar
Strain the contents of the shaker into the chilled, sugar rimmed, cocktail glass
Garnish with lemon peel and a lump of ice
Complete with Ginger-ale

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

Note: My review for Ron Abuelo Anejo 7 Anos will publish tomorrow.

Posted in Cocktails & Recipes | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Review: Havana Club Añejo 7 Años

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 14, 2016

Havana thumbSometimes when I take the first sip of new rum, I close my eyes; and I let the rum show me where it belongs. This rum brought me to an old tavern, close to the docks.  The kind of place you see in old movies where the rum flows and stories get taller in the telling.  The place has an oily, tobacco stained floor. Cigarette smoke drifts up to the ceiling mingling here and there with the occasional smell of a Cuban cigar.

A girl sits on a boardwalk stage, singing slightly out of key, as the patrons in the tavern pay more attention to their stories than to her. A burly bartender, who looks like he can handle whatever trouble comes his way, wipes the sweat from his brow, and then with the same towel wipes the bar-top. He glances at me playing solitaire in the corner of the room and sipping the rum he served me. I had told him I would stay and pay him well if the rum was good.

He served me a soft oily, smoky rum called Havana Club.  I smile… the tip will be generous tonight.

Review: Havana Club 7 Year Old Cuban Rum

“… The nose displays a moderate amount of smoke which seems to subdue the aroma from the glass to a certain extent. Over time, molasses, dark brown sugary baking spices, dried fruit (raisins and prunes) and a lurking tobacco all find their way out of the glass and into my nostrils. I would have scored this a little higher had the nose been more assertive …

Posted in Dark Rums, Rum, Rum Reviews | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Review: Forty Creek Spike Honey Spiced Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 13, 2016

FC SpikeForty Creek Spike Honey Spiced Whisky is produced by the Forty Creek Distillery (now owned by Campari). Former owner of the distillery and brand, John Hall is the Whisky Maker (as he likes to refer to himself) at Forty Creek, and this spirit was produced under his direction.

According to the label on the bottle the ingredients are, Canadian Whisky (presumable John Hall’s flagship whisky Forty Creek Barrel Select), sugar, and natural flavors (presumable honey and spices). It is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: Forty Creek Spike Honey Spiced Whisky

“… The spirit caries a deep golden colour with reddish hues visible in the glass. The breezes are mild, and along with the notes of honey are additional notes of butterscotch, vanilla, banana, ginger and cinnamon …”

Please enjoy my review which concludes with a nice tall back deck drink, the Spiced Mammy.


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


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