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Rig Hand White Dog Malted Barley Distillate

Review: Rig Hand White Dog Malted Barley Distillate   (81.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on April 11, 2017

The Rig Hand Craft Distillery (formerly Big Rig 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 Vodka and Wildrose Gin; their selections of White Dog Distillate (not whisky for three years yet); and as well as their their intriguing Sugar Beet Brum. Additionally, they have been experimenting with an array of flavoured Vodkas some of which are bottled and ready for sale, and others which are in development. (I took a tour of the craft distillery last year and have slowly been working through the samples they gave me.)

The distillery’s White Dog Malted Barley Distillate is produced from 100 % Alberta grown Malted Barley distilled upon the company’s main still (Mighty Morley). This is a versatile still consisting of a large wash still, two columns, and a condenser. The columns are different sizes, a short 4-plate column is used for stripping the spirit (reducing the water content), and a tall 16-plate column is used for Vodka production. The malted barley distillate is distilled twice through the through short 4-plate column to produce a more flavourful spirit than if the 16 plate column had been used. After distillation the spirit is either filtered and reduced to bottling proof (51.4 % alcohol by volume for my sample) to be sold as White Dog Malted Barley Distillate, or it is placed in re-used oak casks to become whisky in three years.


When sold as White Dog, the spirit arrives with a stick of oak which the consumer can place in the bottle to ‘flavour’ the spirit so as to glean at least a small understanding of how the spirit’s flavour profile will change do to the oak flavours permeating the whisky. With my sample I decided to go a step further by placing my bottle of White Dog into a brand new charred 1 litre oak cask. I allowed it to sit for 6 weeks in an aging simulation. I thought it would be cool to share the results with my readers as a ‘Whisky in Progress Review’.

In the Bottle 4/5

The Rig Hand bottle presentation captures the heart of Oil Country (in Alberta, Canada) quite well. The Bottle is shaped like an oil derrick complete with ribbing on the bottle designed to look like the trusses from which such rigs are constructed. The label is simple, I like the Canadian Flag (it’s good to be proud of you home country) and I like how each bottle is hand numbered. My bottle of White Dog Malted Barely Distillate is from the very first batch, and is bottle number 80.

(Note: the newer bottlings have the same shape and design, however the Distillery’s name has been changed to Rig Hand.)

The only detriment to the presentation is the growing sentiment throughout North America against ‘big oil’ caused by the perceived negative effect fossil fuels are having on the environment and climate change. The bottle presentation, and indeed the name of the distillery, may unfortunately limit the product’s consumer base. On the other hand, it may also inspire more loyalty among those who rely upon the oil industry for their livelihood.

In the Glass 8/10

When I poured the White Dog into my glencairn after it had aged for six weeks in my small barrel, it was very surprising how much the distillate had changed. Rather than being a clear spirit, the White dog has become golden amber colour (see photo above), and the harsh astringency and strong vegetal tomes of the new make distillate have been soothed to a large extent by the six weeks in the small 1 litre oak barrel. Soft caramel notes are now apparent alongside some fine oak spice, orange peel and malty barley notes. There are also mushy banana aromas, and still a light vegetal tone of a very young spirit. It would be fair to say, that the spirit which I placed in the oak barrel has improved dramatically over the six weeks which is a great sign for the whisky to be.

In the Mouth 49/60

My first reaction to the first taste was, “Wow!” The white dog spirit which I received as a sample was never reviewed because I found it almost undrinkable. Now after 6 short weeks in my small oak barrel the improvement is startling. It just goes to show how perilous it would have been for me to draw any conclusions after tasting a new-make spirit.

I can taste the influence of the oak as light butterscotch and chocolate flavours now reside alongside oak and grain spice. The spirit is still developing yet I can already sip my glass and find enjoyment. Orange peel and banana and a light almond-like flavour have also joined in the parade. The spirit tastes a tad harsh yet; but when I checked with my hydrometer, I realized that the alcohol strength had actually increased from 51.4% to something a little over 54 %. Apparently my dry climate evaporates the water within the spirit just a little faster than the alcohol.

I added some ice and noticed that this harshness was diminished to the point that I could easily sip the rest of my small sample, and I added a splash of ginger ale to the next glass and found even more enjoyment.

In the Throat 12/15

The ‘whisky in progress’ has a short finish which features a light ebbing sweetness of butterscotch combined with hints of chocolate and almond. Things are still just a little harsh when served neat, but with ice the ‘whisky in progress’ is quite acceptable.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

My short aging simulation demonstrated to me that the harsh, vegetal spirit which I tasted as ‘new-make’ has the right components of flavour to be complimented by oak aging. At this point, it would be my layman’s opinion, that the folks at Rig Hand appear to be on the right track and their Malted Barley Distillate is going to be just fine after three years in a full-sized oak barrel.

You may check out this link for more reviews of similar spirits if you would like a few comparative reviews (Moonshine and Other Spirits).


Suggested Recipe

White Dog Splash

2 oz Rig Hand Malted Barley Distillate (lightly aged)
Large Splash Ginger Ale

Add ice to a medium-sized rocks glass
Pour the lightly aged Rig Hand White Dog over the ice
Add a large splash of Ginger-ale

Enjoy Responsibly!

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


You may (loosely) interpret the scores 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 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)



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