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Posts Tagged ‘Vodka’

Review: Highwood Premium Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 24, 2012

Highwood Vodka is a triple distilled wheat Vodka produced at the Highwood Distillery in High River, Alberta, situated near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains just 30 minutes south of Calgary. This vodka follows the recent trend of low-priced premium vodkas which take up the lion’s share of the market here in Alberta, Canada.

I used my Vodka Review Methodology, putting this spirit through the same paces as I have done for the higher priced spirits which I have reviewed. It turns out that the Highwood Vodka stands up to its higher priced competitors quite well.

Here is an excerpt from the resulting review:

“… There was very little aroma apparent as we raised our shot-glasses to our noses, light wispy bits of starch and grain perhaps, and maybe a touch a citrus zest in the air. As the vodka covered my tongue, my first impression was that this is a rather soft vodka which carries a nice bit of rye-like spice forward. I also seemed to be able taste just a hint of that lime citrus which I had noticed in the aroma…”

Here is a link to the full review:

Review: Highwood Premium Vodka

I have included a a nice cocktail with this review, The Kamikaze.

Please enjoy the review and the accompanying cocktail!

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The Rum Howler Awards – Vodka, Gin and Tequila

Posted by Arctic Wolf on November 15, 2011

Last week, I began to present my 2nd Annual Rum Howler Awards for excellence in the production of distilled spirits. The Awards last week were presented to those spirits which performed the best in what I considered to be a basic (but classic) cocktail for each category of distilled spirit. I had an award for the best rum in a Daiquiri; an award for the best whisky in a Horses Neck (Whisky and Ginger-ale): an award for the best tequila in a Margarita, an award for the best gin in a Gin Fizz, and an award for the best vodka in a Cosmopolitan.

Today I will recognize the best of the Vodka, Gin and Tequila spirits. I included all of the spirits I sampled over the past two years. (Going back two years allows me to include a larger volume of samples for each category which I hope makes the Rum Howler Awards more relevant.) The judging was based upon side by side comparisons using a combination of suitable cocktails and sipping the samples neat.

Here are my Rum Howler Awards for Vodka, for Gin, for Tequila.


The Rum Howler Award for Best Flavoured Vodka

and the winner is:

Pristina Espresso Flavoured Vodka

Honourable mention to Nemiroff Rye Honey and Zubrowka (Bison Grass) Vodka.

Because of the wide variation in product styles, this was a hard category to judge; but one which I feel I got right. All three of the nominees are spirits which I would have no problem sharing with which ever guests happen to pop by. They rise to a standard of excellence which was recognized when I did my initial reviews for them. I had some help deciding this category, and in a kind of committee approach, my friends and I decided that the Pristina Espresso Flavoured Vodka was the clear winner. 


The Rum Howler Award for Best Value Priced Vodka 
(Under $30.00 in my Alberta Marketplace)

and the winner is:

Russian Standard Original Vodka

Honourable mention to Nemiroff Original Vodka and Nemiroff Ukrainian Wheat Vodka

In my marketplace, taxes and storage fees can increase the price of a product by $13.00 a bottle (In some cases as high as  $18.00 a bottle). This means the value priced spirits usually begin at a price of $22.00 per bottle in most of the liquor stores. My upper limit of $30.00 per bottle,therefore,  eliminated a wide swath of products. I considered two major factors in determining the Best Value Priced Vodka. The first was the Vodka’s mixability in a range of cocktail styles, (the Screw Driver, the Cosmopolitan and the Vodka Tonic), and I weighed this equally against the performance of the Vodka served neat at room temperature. All three of the nominees are excellent choices, but the Russian Standard was not only my choice, but it was also the choice of my entire Vodka tasting group in this category.


The Rum Howler Award for Best Vodka
(Price irrelevant)

and the winner is:

Wyborowa Exquisite (Wodka)

Honourable mention to Patriot Excellence Vodka, Pristina Vodka, and Nemiroff Lex Vodka.

The Nominees for this category were judged in much the same way that the nominees for the Best Value Vodka were judged. However much more weight was attached to the performance of the Vodka when sipped neat at room temperature. To be honest, I have no complaints with any of these spirits and would happily receive them at any gathering. Having said that, the Wyborowa Exquisite is exactly what its name says it is, an exquisite Vodka which oozes class and luxury upon the palate. When I want a superior cocktail, this Vodka fits the bill beautifully, and when I want a great sipping bottle to share with friends and food, again the Wyborowa Exquisite is my first choice.


The Rum Howler Award for the Best Gin

and the winner is:

No. 3 London Dry Gin

Honourable mention to Tangueray No. 10

This was a two-horse race right from the start, and to make my determination I decided to mix three cocktails, a Gin and Tonic, a Key Lime Gimlet, and a Gin Fizz. Then I sampled each gin neat at room temperature. Half the score was based upon the taste of the cocktails, and half the score was based upon the performance of the gin when served neat. Although both of these spirits are wonderful. The No. 3 Gin was my clear choice.


The Rum Howler Award for Best Blanco Tequila

and the winner is:

Cabo Wabo (Blanco)

Honorable mention to PaQuí Tequila (Silvera)

Last week I awarded the PaQui Tequila Silvera with the award for the best Blanco tequila in a Margarita with the Cabo Wabo Blanco Tequila as the runner-up. This week the two spirits flip positions as the more complex earthy tones of the Cabo Wabo made it the clear winner in the head to head contest when I sipped the spirits neat.


The Rum Howler Award for Best Reposado Tequila

and the winner is:

Alamo Reposado Tequila

Honourable mention to Cabo Wabo Reposado, and Herencia de Plata (Reposado)

Cabo Wabo Reposado Tequila was the very first Tequila I reviewed on my website, and in a way it has served as the standard for all other tequila spirits that followed. It was the first tequila I reviewed because I really like it, and it became the Tequila I was most likely to serve when I made a margarita for myself or my friends. When I sampled the Herencia de Plata (Reposado), I began to serve the either of the two interchangeably depending upon whether I wanted the clean flavour of Herencia or the more funky flavour of Cabo Wabo. When I later sampled the Alamo Reposado Tequila, my serving habits for Margaritas did not change; but that is only because I do not serve the Alamo in a Margarita; I serve the Alamo neat at room temperature. It really is that good!


The Rum Howler Award for Best Anejo Tequila

and the winner is:

1921 Anejo Tequila

Honourable mention to Corzo Anejo Tequila

The 1921 Anejo Tequila is simply outstanding. It is one of those spirits which tastes great the first time you sip it, and then as you let the spirit breathe, the tequila  gains even more character in the glass. I did my side by side tasting with Corzo Anejo early in the fall. It was at first a very close contest, but as the 1921 Tequila decanted in the glass its character grew by leaps and bound making it the clear winner.


To recap:

The Rum Howler Award for Best Flavoured VodkaPristina Espresso Flavoured Vodka

The Rum Howler Award for Best Value Priced Vodka:  Russian Standard Original VodkaThe Rum

The Rum Howler Award for Best Vodka:  Wyborowa Exquisite (Wodka)

The Rum Howler Award for the Best Gin: No. 3 London Dry Gin

The Rum Howler Award for Best Blanco TequilaCabo Wabo (Blanco)

The Rum Howler Award for Best Reposado TequilaAlamo Reposado Tequila

The Rum Howler Award for Best Anejo Tequila:  1921 Anejo Tequila


Next week I will tackle whisky!


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Review: Signature Vodka (MASV)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on November 10, 2011

M. A. Signature Vodka is a spirits manufacturer based in Montreal, Quebec. They produce what they call a ‘Herbal Infused’ Vodka which is at its heart, a Canadian grain vodka, that has been infused with a rhizome herb called curcumin (a component of turmeric) also called curcuma longa. This herb has a distinctly earthy flavour. It is somewhat bitter, somewhat peppery, and perhaps a little like ginger or mustard. As far as I can tell it has many culinary uses including being used as an ingredient for Indian curry powder.

If you visit the Hang Over Free Vodka website you will see that it is the same as the website for Signature Vodka. That is because Signature Vodka promotes itself as an infused ‘hangover free’ vodka. In fact, the Signature Vodka website devotes a great deal of space to the hangover free concept, as well as other reputed medicinal benefits of curcumin.

The nature of the Signature Vodka website prompted me to email the company and try to get some more information about the herbal infusion. What I was told, is that the infusion is in such small quantities that the FDA, the LCBO and the SAQ could not actually find it using their regular lab tests.  I will be honest and say I really do not know what to make of all of this; therefore my review, for the most part, ignores the herbal infusion and instead concentrates on the merits of this spirit as a Premium Vodka.

Here is an excerpt:

” … We all noticed how there was very little aroma apparent in the  glass, and only wisps of flavour which resembled a faint touch of lemon and a mild citrus spiciness. After the sip, a nice feeling of warmth was imparted to the back of the mouth and into the throat. The Vodka is soft, mild, and very nice … “

You may read the full review here:

Review: Signature Vodka (MASV)

Please enjoy the review and the suggested recipes, the Russian Soldier, The Blue Glacier, and the Harvey Wallbanger!

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The 2011 Rum Howler Awards – Part 1 (Best Mixers)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on November 8, 2011

Last year I began my Rum Howler Awards which sought to recognize the most favoured spirits I had sipped and sampled over the past year. Today I am continuing what I hope will be an annual tradition with my Second Annual Rum Howler Awards! Of course, everyone should understand that I must introduce some provisos when I hand out these awards. I cannot judge any spirit which I have not tasted. I also cannot attempt a comparative final tasting when the previous sample I received for my review, was so small that I now have none left to compare. Fortunately for the most part, like last year, I was able to save enough of each product sample just for the purpose of these awards.

The Rum Howler Awards are meant to be a fun excuse for me to revisit my most favoured distilled spirits and share that re-visitation with you my readers. I am trying to choose the best of the best, but like all competitions of this nature, the awards are subjective and will reflect my personal preferences. The awards for today will concentrate on those spirits which I have found make particularly tasty cocktails. (I have added Gin, Tequila and Vodka categories to round out the awards to include all distilled spirits I review.)


Best White Rum in a Daiquiri

And the Winner is:

Newfoundlander’s White Rum

Honorable mention to Mount Gay Eclipse Silver.

I consider the daiquiri to be the benchmark cocktail for white rums. In my side by side tastings it was basically a contest which pitted the clean crisp flavour of  Newfoundlander’s White Rum against the funky character of the Mount Gay Silver Eclipse. I found that the new White Rum from the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation was simply outstanding in the cocktail. (The Silver Eclipse from Mount Gay is very ‘funky’ and delicious as well.)


Most Outstanding Gin in a Lime Fizz

And the winner is:

Tangueray No. 10

Honourable mention to No. 3 London Dry Gin, and Bombay Sapphire Gin.

A Gin Fizz (similar to a Tom Collins) is a simple cocktail which mixes gin with lemon or lime juice, simple sugar and soda. It is a very popular bar-drink/cocktail, and because I like ‘fizz’ style bar-drinks more than Martinis or the standard Gin and Tonic, I decided to use the Gin Fizz as my cocktail of choice for judging this spirit in a cocktail. It was the smoothness of the Tangueray No. 10, which won the day in my side by side comparisons.


Most Outstanding Whisky in a Horses Neck

And the winner is:

Chinook Canadian Whisky

Honourable mention to Gibson’s Finest Sterling Canadian Whisky, and Pendleton (Let ‘er Buck) Canadian Whisky.

Anyone who has read my reviews realizes that I love to mix cocktails and bar drinks. I believe that the vast majority of whisky drinkers do the same even when they buy a premium bottle. The Horse’s Neck (Whisky and ginger-ale) is the standard cocktail that I like to drink with my whisky, and as such it is a very suitable bar drink to use for judging the mixability of each whisky. All three of the Nominees above are great whiskies for serving with ginger-ale; but my friends and I have been ‘hooked on the Chinook‘ ever since we first tried it several months ago.

It was no surprise to me that it won the day in my head to head taste-off.


Most Outstanding Blanco Tequila in a Margarita

And the winner is:

PaQuí Tequila (Silvera)

Honourable mention to Cabo Wabo Blanco

Like the Daiquiri, the Margarita is another benchmark cocktail. Whenever I review Blanco Tequila, I mix a Margarita to begin to test the spirit’s cocktail range. I tasted four different spirits side by side in a Margarita taste-off this summer, and it came down to a choice between the Cabo Wabo and the PaQui. Both were excellent; but, by a small margin I preferred the Margarita made with PaQui Tequila. 


The Best Vodka in a Cosmopolitan

Pristina Vodka

Honourable mention to Patriot Excellence Vodka, Nemiroff Lex Vodka, and Last Mountain Hand Crafted Vodka.

Of all the awards presented today, I think perhaps that his was the toughest to judge. I (and some of my friends) sampled the Cosmos several times attempting to rank the spirits; but we seemed to come up with a different winner each time. It was the Pristina Vodka however, which always seemed to rank first or second each time I did a taste comparison. You cannot go wrong with any of these Vodkas for mixing premium cocktails, but by the slimmest of margins, I prefer the Pristina.


And there you have it, the first five Rum Howler Awards for 2011:

The Best White Rum in a Daiquiri, Newfoundlander’s White Rum.

The Best Gin in a Lime Fizz,Tangueray No. 10.

The Best Whisky in a Horses Neck, Chinook Canadian Whisky.

The Best Blanco Tequila in a Margarita, PaQuí Tequila (Silvera).

The Best Vodka in a Cosmopolitan, Pristina Vodka


Each week until Christmas I shall reveal some more of the Awards… Stay Tuned!

Posted in Awards, Extras | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Review: Last Mountain Hand Crafted Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on November 1, 2011

Photo Courtesy Brittany Bellamy (All Rights Reserved)

Colin Schmidt was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in 1992. After being drafted, he spent four years playing College Hockey and then signed his first pro contract in 1996. Colin’s pro experience was brief, cut off by a few shoulder injuries after a short spell of what Colin referred to as “playing left bench.” Fortunately, as far as we are concerned, Colin’s story did not end there.

A few years later, Colin, who was working in the mortgage industry, and his wife, Meredith, whose background was in banking, began to look for their own business opportunities in Saskatchewan. Colin had a friend who had started up a micro-distillery in Colorado, and the idea to begin a similar operation in Saskatchewan was very appealing to them. In August of 2010, Colin and Meredith’s hard work and perseverance paid off when they opened Saskatchewan’s first micro-distillery, in Lumsden, Saskatchewan, called the Last Mountain Distillery.

Colin arranged for me to receive a bottle from batch number 12 and asked me to provide a review. I set up a gathering with my friends, and we sampled the Vodka blind in a tasting with three other vodkas I had recently acquired.

Here is an excerpt from my review:

“… When I poured out the samples of Last Mountain Vodka into each shot glass for my guests, we discovered the vodka displayed a pleasing light citrus (lemon and lime) aroma and a clean mouth-feel that was very appealing. I noticed a mild rye-like spiciness in my mouth, and when I sipped the spirit those lemon and lime sensations seemed to grow as the vodka sat on my tongue…”

You may read the full review here:

Review: Last Mountain Hand Crafted Vodka

As well I have included a nice cocktail called, the Mountain Raspberry Cocktail and a nice Punch recipe called Mountain Raspberry Punch.

Please enjoy the review and the cocktails!

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Review: Slava Ultra Premium Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on October 25, 2011

Slava Vodka is a spirits company based in Oakville, Ontario. The Vodka brand itself is an authentic Ukrainian Vodka produced in the Cherkassy region of Ukraine at the Zlatogor Distillery from rye and wheat grain. This Ultra Premium Vodka is four times distilled and based on the advertising videos I have seen online, it is 12 times filtered. According to the company website all of the Vodka production is all done under the supervision of  their Technology Chief Anatoliy, who holds a PhD in Vodka.

I was invited visit the local office of the River Valley Beverage Group recently where I was allowed to sample some of the spirits which they were importing into Alberta. At the end of the visit I was given several sample bottles to review on my website, and Slava Ultra Premium Vodka was one of them. Here is an excerpt from my review:

“…As we brought the vodka to our noses it was very difficult to decipher any aroma from the shot glasses. Perhaps a light citrus entered the breezes above the glass as well as a light floral scent. The first sip was very clean with hints of a rye-like spiciness, and little dabs of light citrus flavour on the palate….”

Here is a link to the full review:

Review: Slava Ultra Premium Vodka

As well I have included a few of my favourite cocktail suggestions for this spirit including the Pink Pussy CatElectric Lemonade and The Sloe Comfortable Screw.

Please enjoy the cocktails and the review!

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Review: Lerskaa Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on October 18, 2011

Lerskaa Vodka is produced in Belize, the northernmost mainland country of Central America. A former British Colony, Belize lies just south of Mexico with the Caribbean Sea to the east and Guatemala to the west and south. The Vodka is a product of  Traveller’s Liquors Limited who have been involved in the production of 1 Barrel Rum in Belize since the early 1960s.

Lerskaa Vodka is distilled to over 190 proof, and interestingly, it is a sugar cane based spirit rather than a grain vodka. In my tasting sessions my guests and I each noticed a light caramel aroma and flavour associated with the spirit.

Here is an excerpt from my review:

“…This was the very first cane Vodka my group had ever tasted, and in order to keep everything unbiased, I conducted the session in a blind format … As the first sip sat on my tongue, I could taste that the vodka had a very lightly sweet caramel/syrup taste. There was also some noticeable spiciness of  lime citrus…”

Here is a link to the full review:

Review: Lerskaa Vodka

As well I have included a popular Vodka Cocktail called Blue Hawaii.

Please enjoy the cocktail and the review!

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Review: Patriot Excellence Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on October 4, 2011

The Patriot Excellence is a French Vodka which was brought into my local by Paul Charabin of PB Beverages, an Alberta based company which imports and distributes a wide selection of spirits from around the world. The Vodka is filtered six times, and is made from a blend of 100% natural grain spirits and pure spring water.  It is advertised as an exceptional vodka with an elegant, ideal, and smooth taste.

My friends and I approached this spirit blind against four other vodka spirits at one of my recent taste events. Much to our surprise, the Patriot Excellence Vodka (unlike other hyped spirits we have tried) lived up to its advertising being by far the best Vodka at the event.

Here is an excerpt from my review:

“…When I poured out the samples of Patriot Vodka into each shot glass for my guests it was obvious right from the beginning that the Vodka was going to be a hit with everyone. It was creamy, and displayed a clean aroma and mouth-feel that my tasting group has only experienced in the very best of Vodkas…”

Here is a link to the full review:

Review: Patriot Excellence Vodka

As well I created a nice cocktail featuring raspberry syrup and Patriot Excellence Vodka called, Rustic Breeze.

Please enjoy the Review and the Cocktail!

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Review: Zubrowka (Bison Grass) Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on September 13, 2011

Zubrowka or ‘Bison Grass’ Vodka is an original Polish Vodka distilled at the Polmos Bialystok Distillery located 200 km northeast of Warsaw. In this region of the world, Vodka(or at least a spirit similar to Vodka) has been flavoured with Bison Grass for over 600 years. The Bison grass (Hierochloe odorata or Herchloe Australis) grows in the Białowieża Forest (which lies in Northern Poland and Belarus), although distinct varieties of this herbal grass grow in other locations as well including North America where the plant has been known as ‘Sweetgrass’ or ‘Holy Grass’.

I should mention that received a bottle of Zubrowka Vodka from Ashley Calapatia, who is with the PR agency representing Zubrowka Vodka in Canada. I was requested to provide a review of the spirit here on my website, and here is an excerpt from that review:

“… The vodka carries a light herbal aroma in the glass but identification of any particular scent was remarkably difficult. Descriptors like vanilla, sage, thyme, rosemary and cinnamon were tossed back and forth amongst us, but I think it is somewhat safer to say we discerned a lightly pungent herbal quality on both the nose and the palate that was quite different from what any of us had encountered before….”

My full review may be read here:

Review: Zubrowka (Bison Grass) Vodka


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Review: O2 945 (Super Premium) Sparkling Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on August 30, 2011

O2 945 Super Premium Sparkling Vodka bills itself as the world’s first Super Premium Sparkling Vodka. When I sampled this spirit at the Wine and Food Festival last fall I was actually quite smitten by what I encountered, hints of citrus, and some awesome tiny bubbles filling my mouth. (Anyone who has read some of my reviews, and the cocktails which I like to construct for the various spirits I have sampled, realizes that I am a soda loving  person. A spirit that combines my love of soda bubbles with a light crisp taste really has my attention from the get go.)

I contacted the importer of O2 Vodka, Premium Imports, to see about getting a sample to review on my blog. After a few months they came through in spades with samples of each the O2 Premium Sparkling Vodka and the 945 Super Premium Sparkling Vodka. Both versions carry nice light citrus notes and those wonderful champagne-like bubbles to the palate. These bubbles are supposed to stimulate the taste buds accentuating the flavours of food the vodka is served with, and the flavours of the cocktails the vodka is served in.

I invited several of my good friends over for a Vodka Tasting where we put the O2 (945 Super Premium) Sparkling Vodka through the rigors of my review methodolgy.  Here is an excerpt from what we discovered:

“…The first sip brought forward a stronger citrus presence which one of my friends at the tasting likened to a spear’s thrust of citrus zest. The carbonated bubbles seem to be bringing forward much more of the citrus flavours of the vodka…”

You may read the full review here:

Review: O2 945 (Super Premium) Sparkling Vodka

As well I have included a nice cocktail with the review, Rustic Soul.

Please enjoy the review and the cocktail!

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