White Owl Spiced Whisky
Review: White Owl Spiced Whisky 89/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on December 18, 2012
The guys at Highwood Distillery are at it again. In 2010, they broke all the rules, (and a few sales records too), when they introduced their premium aged White Owl Whisky (a clear Canadian Whisky which is aged up to 10 years). To say this product was s success is a vast understatement, as the only problem that surfaced with respect to the White Owl Whisky was that Highwood could not make it fast enough to satisfy the demand across Canada.
As I said, they are at it again. Highwood has just introduced White Owl Spiced Whisky. While other distillers are producing young brown whisky and using the spice to smooth out the flavour. Highwood is taking the other road, using a well aged clear whisky, and then using the spice to add a little depth and polish to an already smooth spirit. Of course the base spirit for this spiced whisky is none other than the original White Owl Whisky.
I was recently given a sample bottle of the White Owl Spiced Whisky (pictured left) to review on my website and this is what I have learned:
In the Bottle 4.5/5
As you can see, the bottle has a very similar design to that of Highwood’s White Owl Whisky. However if you look close you will see that the bottle has been changed just slightly. The new bottle has a slight curve or narrowing near the base which gives the bottle a slightly feminine look. I have been told that this is the bottle design which will be used for the spiced and the regular white Owl Whisky. I like it, and I wish all of the Highwood line-up had the class and elegance of this bottle design. My only quibble is that difference in the labeling between the Spiced White Owl and the regular White Owl is so minor that I fear consumers may not even notice the difference at first glance.
In the Glass 9/10
When you take your first sniff of the White Owl Spiced Whisky you are greeted to a subtle montage of vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, butterscotch and delicate rye spices. Subtle is the key word as the initial impression from the glass is that Highwood is going for a soothing rather than an assertive spice profile. If you bury your nose in deeper, some citrus zest takes form, and some hotter more zesty spices which remind me of mace and ginger rise up into the breezes. These hotter spices seem to grow above the glass carrying more vanilla and perhaps a little almond/marzipan upwards as well.
I really like what I am sensing on the nose, and during one of my tasting sessions when I had invited my friend Lucasz to join me I discovered I was not the only one who really liked it. We both sat in our chairs for a good ten minutes just enjoying the subtle soft aroma of the spiced whisky smiling and exchanging those knowing glances of anticipation as we both relished the scents above our glasses.
In the Mouth 53/60
The whisky leads out on the palate tasting a little less sweet than what the nose would have suggested. But that suits me just fine as the lack of sweetness allows the rye flavour of the whisky to join in with the vanilla and spices rather than to be buried by them. In fact, I think these spices work great in tandem with the delicate rye flavour of the White Owl Whisky. Even though I taste a spicy mix of ginger and cloves (and maybe even a little cumin), these hot spices are never assertive enough to disturb the essence of that wonderfully light White Owl Whisky flavour.
Of course I wanted to experiment a little with my new whisky sample, and so my friend Lucasz and I each tried a little with an ice-cube added. What we discovered was that a bit of ice softens the whisky considerably. The butterscotch flavours kind of melt into a wonderful praline cream, and the spiciness is subdued a little further. I had a really hard time deciding whether I preferred the spiced whisky neat, or whether I liked the ice in my glass.
Next we poured a little into our glasses with a splash of ginger-ale and the result was pure bliss for a couple of whisky drinkers who love rye and ginger. Everyone knows that a good rye whisky always mixes well with ginger-ale, but this spiced whisky adds a whole new dimension to the simple rye and ginger drink. As good as the Spiced Rye and ginger was, the real show stealer is the Spiced Metro Cocktail I constructed afterwards. (See recipe below)
In the Throat 13.5/15
Surprisingly creamy and so so smooth in the exit with trails of warm spices followed by a fading butterscotch. There is absolutely no burn at all in the throat, just a warm spiciness left over on the palate that feels soothing.
The Afterburn 9/10
My good friend Davin de Kergommeaux in his recent review of this whisky makes the assertion that White Owl Spiced is not a whisky for connoisseurs, rather it is a good whisky mostly for just having fun with. I am going to respectfully disagree. In fact, I am going to suggest that connoisseurs ought to be lining up for this one. If they don’t, they are going to miss out. This is a great whisky to have fun with to be sure, but White Owl Spiced Whisky is such an extraordinary leap above what everybody else is doing in the spiced whisky category that if connoisseurs don’t line up for it, they might get left behind.
I think sales records are going to be broken again, because Highwood just knocked this whisky out of the ball park!
You may read some of my other reviews of Liqueurs and Flavoured Spirits (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
A spiced up take on the standard Rye and Ginger cocktail:
A Splash of Spice
2 oz White owl Spiced Whisky
2 or 3 Large Ice-cubes
Splash of Ginger-ale
Slice of Lime
Add the Ice-cubes to a rocks glass
Pour the White Owl Spiced Whisky over the ice
Add a splash of Ginger Ale
Garnish with a lime slice
And here is a nice spiced up take on the Cosmopolitan Cocktail
1 3/4 oz White Owl Spiced Whisky
1 oz Triple Sec
1 oz Cranberry juice
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
Add all the ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the sides of the shaker frosts
Strain into a chilled glass.
Garnish with a Lime Slice
As always you may interpret the scores I provide 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 more 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)