On Thursday, June 20th, in the middle of the day (about noon) a massive flash flood hit the town of High River, in Southern Alberta. Initial estimates are that this flood was an unprecedented event with levels of water not seen in the documented history of the town. This was a true tragedy as town residents literally had to flee to the roof tops of their houses to await rescue by boat and helicopter. There were even reports of local farm equipment (tractors and combines) driving in to rescue stranded people from the roofs of their homes.
One particular business in High River that I have a strong connection to is Highwood Distillers. I have visited the distillery and wrote about it numerous times (see The Highwood Distillery Tour). The folks who work for Highwood impressed me with their blue-collar work ethic and the clean honest taste of their brand of Canadian Whisky.
Alas, the distillery lies near the heart of the downtown directly in front of the small creek that on that day instantly became a giant river. The Highwood Distillery was unfortunately directly in the path of the flash flood. The folks working in the distillery that day report that they had only 6 minutes to find safety. The safety they found was upon the roof tops of their cars, and they were amongst those who had to be rescued by boat and helicopter, (and yes I have a report that some of the staff were rescued by combines).
Indications are that the distillery was a mess. All of the bottled goods inventory had to be destroyed; much of the distilling and bottling equipment has been damaged; and inventories of barreled whisky have almost certainly been compromised.
But here is the thing, the folks at Highwood are resilient. That small-town blue-collar work ethic which I admired during my visit to the distillery is serving the town well. The process of cleaning up and rebuilding has begun, and according to the Highwood Distillers website they are working hard and hope to be able to recommence business in a short two months!
I for one, am absolutely certain that Highwood Distillers will be back and that they will continue the path that they were upon making great whisky (see review for Century Reserve (Lot 1525) Canadian Rye Whisky) after great whisky (see review for Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky) not to mention their fantastic Vodka (Pristina) and their Rum Howler Award winning gin (Sahara Dry Gin).
Note: I also declared Highwood’s Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky the Best in the World when I published my 2012 Rum Howler Awards for Whisky! Trust me, these folks make great whisky!
I urge all of you who have come love Highwood’s clean honest family of spirits to have patience, if your favourite brand becomes unavailable for a time. They will rebuild, and they will continue to impact the landscape of Canadian Whisky in a positive manner when they are back. Highwood has recently become a shooting star of sorts amongst Canadian Distillers, and I am sure that their star will continue to shine, Come Hell or High River!
(Note: I have a bit of experience with floods (although not nearly on the scale as this). On July 4rth, 2004, a massive storm centered itself above West Edmonton Mall (where my retail business is located) and compromised the drainage system of the second floor parking lot directly above my Sports Memorabilia Store). I was working alone at the time, and I can remember the ceiling tile above me breaking and water pouring in from seemingly everywhere. I rushed to get my stock out to safety, but unfortunately, there was no safety. My store, my stock, indeed my entire business was a 100 % write-off. As horrible as my experience nine years ago was, the experience for the people of High River was and is much worse. Today, a full three weeks after the event, many residents still have not been allowed to go back to their homes as the water is still impacting the area such that some neighbourhoods have been deemed too dangerous to re-enter. My heart goes out to the people of High River, and I wish all of them the best that God can offer in a time such as this. May other Canadians and Albertans be generous in their support of your community, and may your insurance claims all be redeemed at full value.)