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Archive for the ‘Awards’ Category

The 2018 Rum Howler Awards for Micro Distillers

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 24, 2018

A great change has occurred in the landscape of spirits worldwide which is sure to change the industry forever. This change, which began several years ago is all about the economics of distilling. It wasn’t that long ago, that spirits writers could write confidently about the significant start-up cost of a distillery which served to act as an effective barrier to entry into the industry. The cost of a new distillery, was not millions; it was tens of millions if not hundreds. Not so anymore.

The start-up cost of a new distillery has been reduced by at least an order of magnitude, if not two. The same type of innovation which was the hallmark of the Micro-Brewers is now being realized by Micro-distillers. Single Malt Whiskies, Blackstrap Rums, Small Batch Vodka and Gins, and all manner of flavoured spirits have began to pour into the market place taking up retail space that once belonged to the big guys.

The Micro-Distillers are here, and more are coming. Whisky, Rum, Vodka and Gin will never be the same again.

In recognition of the importance of the new arrivals, these are My Rum Howler Awards for the Best Micro-Distilled Spirits in North America:

The 2018 Rum Howler Awards – The Micro Distillers

Chimo!

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The 2018 Canadian Whisky Awards Announced

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 19, 2018

During the months of November and December, I was busy with an important Canadian Whisky project initiated by Author and fellow Whisky Blogger, Davin De Kergommeaux, whom I affectionately name The Rock Star of Canadian Whisky.

Corby Distillery Team accept 2018 Canadian Whisky Awards – Whisky of the Year for J.P. Wiser’s 35 Year Old Canadian Whisky. (from left to right – Brand director Chris Bhowmik, Colin MacDougal, Spencer Gooderham, Co-host Heather Leary, Chair & Co-host Davin de Kergommeaux and Dave Mitton.) (CNW Group/Canadian Whisky Awards)

Davin created the independent Canadian Whisky Awards in 2010 and now these Awards have become the most prominent signal bearers of excellence in the Canadian Whisky industry. For each of the past 7 years a North American Panel of Canadian Whisky Experts has received a set of blind samples to be judged independently, and then Davin amalgamates the scores into various categories depending upon the nature of the whisky, and the market for which it is intended.

2018 Canadian Whisky Awards – Whisky of the Year

I was asked to be part of this panel for 6 of the past 7 years (including this year), and I am happy to announce that the results of the annual Canadian Whisky Awards Competition were awarded this past Thursday evening at the Victoria Whisky Festival in Victoria, B.C.

The 2018 Canadian Whisky Awards Whisky of the Year was J.P. Wiser’s 35 Year Old Canadian Whisky. Othe Top Award Winners were: Caribou Crossing (2018 Multi-Market Connoisseur Whisky of the Year), Collingwood Town Collection Double Barreled (2018 Domestic Sippin Whisky of the Year), Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel (2018 Export Sippin Whisky of the Year), Highwood Rye (2018 Domestic Value Whisky of the Year), and Hiram Walker & Sons , (2018 Distiller of the Year.)

For the full listing of all the Award winners and medallists here is a link to the full breakdown on Davin’s Canadian Whisky Website:

Canadian Whisky Awards 2018

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The 2018 Rum Howler Awards for Vodka

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 17, 2018

I have written before that I believe Vodka is the most maligned of the popular mainstream spirits. It is considered by many people to be a colourless, odourless, and tasteless spirit. In fact, many people believe the only utility Vodka possesses is that of a mixer.

This simply is not true. There are subtle aromas and flavours which can be appreciated when Vodka is sipped or when it is consumed as a shot. As well, when served with good food, a quality vodka has the ability to enhance the gastronomic experience by cleansing the palate between bites allowing you to taste each morsel more completely.

When I review Vodka on my website, I try very hard to convey my appreciation of these subtle nuances and the pleasure I derive when I encounter them.

Ketel One Vodka Martini

This year, I added a new Craft Distilling category to my Vodka Awards. This is in recognition of the efforts of the new Craft Micro Distilleries which have spread across the continent. These small distilleries are bringing about a change in the culture of consumers who are beginning to embrace the small batch spirits these distillers provide. Micro distilling is now more than a trend, it has become a permanent fixture in the landscape of spirits worldwide.

As is the case each year, all of my Rum Howler Awards are based upon my tastings and reviews of each vodka. I taste the spirit neat, and I may also mix a few cocktails with each spirit. All samples which I receive to review on my website are automatically considered for my awards for the year in which they are reviewed as well as the following year. I do my reviews, and then I set aside the remainder of the spirit aside until the end of the year when I reassess for the purposes of determining my award winners. As indicated, I also include those samples which were provided in the previous year so as to have a larger field to judge. (I may also receive additional industry samples specifically for these awards.)

Here is a link to my 2018 Award Winners:

The 2018 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Vodka

Chimo!

Posted in Awards, Extras, Vodka | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The 2018 RumHowler Awards for Gin

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 11, 2018

Beginning in 2016, I began to seek out and review as many juniper based spirits as I could get my hands on. It would be true in fact, to state that in the past two years, I have been as likely to be found enjoying a nice gin cocktail as I would have been found to enjoying a nice sip of Rum or Whisky. I have learned two important things in my gin journey. The first is that gin is much more complicated than I first suspected with several divergent styles of gin being produced. The second important thing I have come to realize, is that of those styles, my preference leans towards traditional London Dry Gin with juniper at the heart of the spirit’s flavour profile.

Sentimental Bloom

That is not to say that I cannot appreciate a more floral style; but in my opinion, floral botanicals within the spirit’s construct should serve the purpose of enhancing and elevating the juniper rather than ambushing or hiding it. This means that I am sort of at odds with the current trend in North America where many of the new producers are seeking a gin with a broader botanical base, and with new flavours which serve to propel the spirit forward. The spirit which is being produced often doesn’t taste like my idea of gin at all.

As one producer even confided in me,

“I don’t really like gin, so I have made a gin that doesn’t taste like gin.”

That statement caught me off guard, but it certainly explained a lot regarding my gin experiences of the past few years.

My 2018 Rum Howler Awards for Gin are of course based upon my enjoyment, not the enjoyment of others. This means that my award winners are a celebration of the juniper berry above all other botanicals. That does not mean that floral spirits have been ignored, it just means that those floral spirits which have garnered awards, were first and foremost spirits of the cypress berry genus Juniperous.

Here is a link to my Awards page:

The 2018 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Gin

Stay tuned for more of my Award Winners in the days to come!

Chimo!

Posted in Awards, Extras | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

The 2018 RumHowler Awards for Tequila

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 9, 2018

Tequila has been a part of my website almost since the beginning. When I first made the decision to write about the Mexican spirit, it was with some trepidation. You see, I wasn’t familiar with agave, and I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to write a meaningful review. However, my website is about exploration and discovery, and I felt that it would be a growth experience to push myself in directions I had never trod.

One thing I discovered quite quickly, was that Tequila had much more to offer than I originally anticipated. The agave plant (more specifically its cooked and fermented juice) brings rich flavours though the distillation and unlike whisky, it is the agave rather than flavours drawn from an oak barrel which is at the centerpiece of the spirit’s character. My first reviews were cautious, but by focusing my discussion upon the my enjoyment of the spirit, my reviews found favour not only among Tequila novices like myself, but also among many seasoned agave enthusiasts.

Tequila Old Fashioned

I have learned a lot in the last eight years as my understanding of the Mexican Spirit has grown. So this year I plan to re-boot my Tequila Reviews section revisiting many of my early reviews with new tasting notes and new scores for each spirit. That doesn’t mean I will ignore new agave spirits which come my way, in fact I hope to expand the tequila section at the same time. I hope everyone sticks around for the ride.

Last year was a good year for the Tequila, and if you are starting your own home bar, a great place to begin will be with my Rum Howler Award Winners for 2018.

Here is a link to my Awards Page for the Agave Spirit:

The 2018 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Tequila

Stay tuned for the rest of my Award Winners in the days to come!

Chimo!

Posted in Awards, Extras, Tequila | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

#Top100CanadianWhisky #1: Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 23, 2017

Five years ago, I encountered Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old Whisky as a random sample in the group of 45 such samples which I was assessing as part of my duties when I served on the jury for the 2012 Canadian Whisky Awards. Whenever I participate as a spirits judge I always make note of any of the samples which strike me as being particularly good, and the small sample bottle which contained the Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old Whisky was one which I had earmarked as a superior whisky. So, when the Awards Competition was complete, it was to my dismay that I learned this particular whisky (Random Sample number 7 by the way) was a brand destined not for Canada; but instead for Taiwan.

Fortunately Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old is now a standard bottling available in Canadian markets as well. According to the information provided me, the spirit is (as it was before) distilled and aged by Highwood Distillers. It is a 100% corn whisky bottled at 46% alcohol by volume.

In a year which saw the best field of Canadian Whiskies ever produced, Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old stood out as the best. Here is a link to the Rum Howler #1 Canadian Whisky in my list of the 100 Best of 2017:

Review: J.P. Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old

“… This is a full-bodied whisky (rare for a Canadian) with a long satisfying finish. Sweet butterscotch and corn flavours are chased down by oak and cedar spices which leave a lightly bitter echo in the throat. The palate is left glowing with little bursts of cinnamon and orange peel, and then a soothing almost menthol-like sweetness appears leaving me little choice but to pour another dram …”

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We have reached the best whisky in my 2017 countdown of Canada’s top 100. Just to make sure I got it right, I re-tasted each of the top 5 spirits side by side to determine my final scores and rankings.

You can view the entire list by viewing my Reveal Page here on this website:

The Rum Howler – Top 100 Canadian Whiskies of 2017

I hope everyone enjoyed the Countdown!

Merry Christmas!

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review, Whisky Review | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

#Top100CanadianWhisky #2: J.P. Wiser’s Dissertation

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 22, 2017

While Dr. Don Livermore was earning his PhD., one of the topics he was researching was the relationships between barrel aging, time and flavour. He did this by analyzing various types of oak barrels which were maturing whisky in the warehouses at Pike Creek, Ontario. The work he was doing eventually became the basis for his Thesis Dissertation which earned him his PhD. in Brewing and Distilling.

Fortunately for us, the Hiram Walker Distillery Master Blender has taken those same whisky barrels which he studied while earning his PhD. and artfully blended his J.P. Wiser’s Dissertation. The whisky is a rye forward blend bottled at 46.1 % alcohol by volume.

Here is a link to the Rum Howler #2 Canadian Whisky in my list of the 100 Best of 2017:

Review: J.P. Dissertation

“… There are some notes of burlap and maple syrup dipped graham wafers, rich marmalade, canned apricots and oodles of beautiful rye and oak spices. After my tasting sessions the empty glass was full of rich brown sugars, maple and baking spices reminding me of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls coming out of the oven …”

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We have reached the top 5 whiskies in my 2017 countdown of Canada’s best. Just to make sure I got it right, I re-tasted each of the top 5 spirits side by side to determine my final scores and rankings.

Note: To follow the countdown list of the Top 100 Canadian Whiskies of 2017, you should follow me on twitter (Rum Howler on Twitter) using the hashtag #Top100CanadianWhisky.

Alternatively you can view the list as it grows by viewing my Reveal Page here on this website:

The Rum Howler – Top 100 Canadian Whiskies of 2017

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review, Whisky Review | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on #Top100CanadianWhisky #2: J.P. Wiser’s Dissertation

#Top100CanadianWhisky #3: J.P. Wiser’s Last Barrels

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 21, 2017

JP Wiser’s Last Barrels is an interesting new Canadian whisky which was produced from the last batches of whisky barreled under the direction of former J.P. Wiser’s Distiller Jim Stanski.

According to the media reports, in early 2001, Stanski decided to go rogue by making some whisky in more of a bourbon style. He began by blending the grains (80% corn grist, 11% rye and 9% barley malt) prior to mashing them. Then he let milk go sour in the J.P. Wiser’s lab and harvested the resulting bacteria (Lactobacillus) to use a starter culture for his bourbon-style mash so as to have a fermentation process similar to the sour mash process south of the border.

The whisky was set down in barrels later that year and are said to be the last barrels of Jim Stanski Whisky produced, hence the name Last Barrels. (Don’t worry, Jim didn’t get fired as a result of this experiment, he just moved up the ranks into management.) Incidentally, the mashbill of grains used was chosen by Stanski to replicate one used by the original J.P. Wiser in 1869.

Here is a link to the Rum Howler #3 Canadian Whisky in my list of the 100 Best of 2017:

Review: J.P. Wiser’s Last Barrels

“… The breezes above the glass indicate to me that the Last Barrels is indeed very much like bourbon with aromas of rough oak and cedar, honeycomb, roasted corn, and baking spices (vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon). Rich brown sugars are evident as is maple toffee, bittersweet chocolate, pipe tobacco and walnuts …”

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We have reached the top 5 whiskies in my 2017 countdown of Canada’s best. Just to make sure I got it right, I re-tasted each of the top 5 spirits side by side to determine my final scores and rankings.

Note: To follow the countdown list of the Top 100 Canadian Whiskies of 2017, you should follow me on twitter (Rum Howler on Twitter) using the hashtag #Top100CanadianWhisky.

Alternatively you can view the list as it grows by viewing my Reveal Page here on this website:

The Rum Howler – Top 100 Canadian Whiskies of 2017

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review, Whisky Review | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on #Top100CanadianWhisky #3: J.P. Wiser’s Last Barrels

#Top100Rums of 2017: #1 – Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Rum

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 20, 2017

Joy Spence, Master Blender for Appleton Estate Rum is celebrating her 20th anniversary as Master Blender of Appleton Estate Rum. She joined Appleton Estate Rum in 1982 as Chief Chemist and was appointed as the brand’s Master Distiller/Blender in 1997. At that time, Joy Spence became not only first woman to be the Master Blender of a premium rum brand, but also the first woman in the world to be the Master Blender of a global spirits brand. Since then, she has earned numerous awards, including the honorary Doctorate of Science degree from the University of Louborough.

To acknowledge her extraordinary career, Appleton Estate is paying homage to the revolutionary Joy Spence by releasing Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Blend, a rare 25-year-old minimum aged limited edition rum.

 

Joy Spence personally selected all of the rums within the blend and created all of the prototypes. She chose two very particular marques of rums to form the heart of her Anniversary blend, a 35-year-old rum (which I like to believe pays homage to her 35 years of service at Appleton Estate) and a very special 25-year-old Pot Still rum which was representative of the characteristic Pot Still style of Appleton Estate Rum. Particular attention was paid in this selection process as Joy’s aim was to choose rums which displayed harmony between the well aged oak character and the underlying Appleton Rum spirit.

Here is a link to my review for the Rum Howler 2017 Rum of the Year:

Review: Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Rum

“… Jamaican pot still character (camphor and resin, bits of menthol, and vague hints of tar and iodine) very much in evidence within the oak and spice. Also within the merry little breezes was the Appleton Estate Rum signature of orange peel combined with dark brown sugar and rich baking spices (vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and hints of allspice) …”

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We have reached the top 5 rum spirits of 2017. In mid November, I tasted each of the top 5 rums side by side to determine the final rankings. These final rankings may not absolutely agree with my previous scores when reviewing each spirit, but they do reflect my feelings regarding the relative merit of each rum in mid-November 2017.

You can continue to follow the countdown on twitter (Rum Howler on Twitter) using the hashtag #Top100Rums.

Alternatively you can view the list as it grows daily by viewing my Reveal Page:

The Rum Howler – Top 100 Rums of 2017

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#Top100CanadianWhisky #4: Gooderham and Worts Little Trinity

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 20, 2017

Corby Spirit and Wine Limited has added yet another premium brand to its Gooderham and Worts whisky line-up, Gooderham and Worts Little Trinity (Three Grain) Canadian Whisky. The whisky pays homage to the former whisky giant, Gooderham and Worts which in the latter half of the 19th century was the largest spirits producer in Canada. (The company was founded in the early to mid-nineteenth century by James Worts and his brother-in-law William Gooderham.)

Gooderham and Worts Little Trinity is named for the oldest surviving Toronto area church (Little Trinity Church) established by William Gooderham in 1842. The church was established for his mill and distillery workers who could not afford the high pew fees in the nearby  local churches. In keeping with the theme of the Holy Trinity, the whisky is produced from three grains, corn, wheat and rye (I’ll leave it to you to decide which is the Father, which is the Son, and which is the Holy Spirit).

Here is a link to the Rum Howler #4 Canadian Whisky in my list of the 100 Best of 2017:

Review: Gooderham and Worts Little Trinity

“… The breezes above the glass bring merry notes of rye spice and oak sap complimented by maple and toffee. Vanilla wafts into the air along with some lightly sweet corn syrup. Then I notice damp straw, some fresh leather and tobacco. There is also some almond-like nuttiness which soon melds with the vanilla and the corn-like sweetness to bring me an impression of marzipan …”

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We have reached the top 5 whiskies in my 2017 countdown of Canada’s best. Just to make sure I got it right, I re-tasted each of the top 5 spirits side by side to determine my final scores and rankings.

Note: To follow the countdown list of the Top 100 Canadian Whiskies of 2017, you should follow me on twitter (Rum Howler on Twitter) using the hashtag #Top100CanadianWhisky.

Alternatively you can view the list as it grows by viewing my Reveal Page here on this website:

The Rum Howler – Top 100 Canadian Whiskies of 2017

 

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Rum, Rum Reviews, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review, Whisky Review | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on #Top100CanadianWhisky #4: Gooderham and Worts Little Trinity

 
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