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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



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Review: Alamo Gold Tequila

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 22, 2018

Alamo is a tequila brand sold by Minhas Distilleries in Western Canada. I reviewed part of the portfolio a few years ago; but recently I noticed that a change had occurred concerning the distillery of origin for the tequila brand. In my previous review I had noted that the Nom on my sample bottles was 1529, which indicated that the spirit was produced by Agaveros y Tequileros Unidos de Los Altos, a tequila producer which typically distills agave grown in Los Altos, the highlands of Mexico’s tequila producing region. However, the spirit sold by Minhas now carries a different Nom (1438) indicating that the distillery of origin for the current spirit is Destiladora del Valle de Tequila, S.A. de C.V., a producer which typically uses both highland and lowland agave in its production of Tequila.

The change of Nom upon the tequila bottle is a signal that the spirit may have undergone significant changes, and a new series of reviews is in order. I thought I would take the opportunity to review not only the Reposado and Anejo tequila which I analyzed a few years ago but also the Gold and Blanco tequila which are part of the Alamo line-up.

Here is a link to my review of the Alamo Gold Tequila:

Review: Alamo Gold Tequila

“… When I took my first sip of the gold tequila I noticed that the spirit was lightly sweet. The agave complexity was masked somewhat by this light sweetness with earthy agave flavours of baked squash, grilled pineapple and banana sitting a little further back in the flavour profile slightly behind the sweetness …”

Please enjoy the review which include my cocktail recommendation, the Toreador.



Posted in Mixto Tequila, Tequila, Tequila Review | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

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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Review: Flor de Caña 5 (Añejo Clasico)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 19, 2018

Today I am continuing to step through the Flor de Caña line-up. Last week I reviewed their premium white rum, Flor de Caña 4 (Extra Seco) and today I will be revisiting Flor de Caña 5 (Añejo Clasico) which is also part of the Flor de Caña Premium Rum Collection.

Flor de Caña 5 is a premium aged rum with the number 5 on the label representative of the average age of the rums in the blend with some variation in the actual age based upon blending to a consistent flavour profile. According to the folks at Flor de Caña this aged spirit is suitable for traditional cocktails or to be mixed with soda. As you will see from the review, I believe it also has sipping potential as well.

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: Flor de Caña 5 Añejo Clasico

“… As the glass sits, the caramel and oak spice combine bringing me indications of toffee and baking spices (primarily nutmeg and vanilla with hints of cinnamon). I noticed bits or orange peel and marmalade, as well as a ribbon of corn whisky. A light musty grassiness winds through the rum, and I also noticed vague nutty accents which reminded me of almond and walnut …”

Please enjoy my review which concludes with two delicious cocktails, the Cuba Libre, and the Autumn Daiquiri.


Posted in Rum, Rum Reviews | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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


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Review: Agave 99 Anejo Tequila

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 15, 2018

Agave 99 Tequila is product of Worldwide Beverage Imports (WBI) who are located in Los Angeles California.The  number 99 represents the bottling proof for the spirit which is bottled at 49.5 % alcohol by volume. As part of the media package I was given for the anejo spirit when I received my sample were two copies of official looking certificates. These indicated that Agave 99 Tequila is considered legally ‘organic’ by both the European Union and the USDA. It was also indicated to me that the tequila is kosher and is therefore suitable for both Cinco de Mayo and for Passover.

The producing distillery (Fabrica de Tequilas Finos, S.A. De C.V.) is located in the central lowlands. The distinction between agave produced in the lowlands instead of the highlands is important because lowland agave tends to carry more earthy and vegetal flavours into the final distilled product than agave grown in the highlands. These lowland characteristics should be even more assertive than usual given the high bottling proof of the spirit.

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: Agave 99 Anejo Tequila

” … As the Anejo spirit entered my mouth I noticed two very different aspects of flavour. The first was a firm butterscotch sweetness, and the second sensation was the sharp taste of herbaceous pepper which gave this spirit real bite …”

Please enjoy the review which includes a nice cocktail recommendation, the Fearful Yellow Eye.



Posted in Anejo Tequila, Tequila, Tequila Review | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review: Flor de Caña 4 (Extra Seco)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 12, 2018

Over the next few weeks I am going to be stepping through the Flor de Caña line-up all the way to their recently released Flor de Caña 25. I am going to start this step through at the lower rungs of the ladder with the Flor de Caña 4 (Extra Seco) which is part of the Flor de Caña Premium Rum Collection.

Flor de Caña 4 Extra Seco is a premium white rum with the number 4 on the label representative of the average age of the rums in the blend with some variation in the actual age based upon blending to a consistent flavour profile. Although the rums within the blend have been aged, they are filtered clear making the spirit suitable for mixed drinks and short cocktails.

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: Flor de Caña 4 Extra Seco

“… The aroma rising up from the glass has a very gentle imprint of butterscotch with just a hint of menthol alongside. As I let the glass breathe I also begin to notice a few mushy banana-like scents, hints of grassy tobacco and the light spiciness of orange and banana peel. There is also a light astringency in the breezes which hints at oak spice and more orange peel …”

I hope you enjoy this review which concludes with my cocktail recommendation, the Canary.





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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!


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!


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2018 Edmonton Whisky Festival

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 1, 2018

2018 Edmonton Whisky Festival

Once again the folks at Vines Riverbend Wine Merchants have teamed up with the Alberta Division of the MS Society to bring you Edmonton’s Premier Whisky Festival. This is a great opportunity to taste different whiskies from around the world as well as to meet and discuss the grain-based spirit with industry insiders and distillery representatives. Monies raised at the event will help those affected by MS in our community, as well as help to fund research towards a cure.

Where: Edmonton Delta South Hotel

When: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 (7:00 – 10:00pm)

For ticket information please contact:  Edmonton Whisky Festival Website

The 2018 Edmonton Whisky Festival is a must for any whisky enthusiast and for those new to the exciting world of whisky. Please attend and enjoy yourself chatting in a relaxed atmosphere with whisky and scotch principals and enthusiasts from across Canada and around the world (The Rum Howler will be there too).

The always popular whisky Master Classes are brought to you by some of the whisky world’s most prominent luminaries. They begin at 6:30pm (and cost an additional $25 on top of your Festival ticket cost).

Master Class Options

Glenmorangie Master Class in the Fort McMurray Room (20 tickets available)

Bourbon Master Class with Matt Jones in the Banff Room (18 tickets available)

Tomatin Master Class with Scott Fraser in the Lake Louise Room (18 tickets available)

Invergordon Distilleries Master Class with Lukasz Dynowiak in the Jasper Room (20 tickets available)


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I order Edmonton Whisky Festival tickets?

Tickets are available through the Edmonton Whisky Festival website: (purchase online here)

How much do tickets to Edmonton Whisky Festival cost?

VIP Hour Tickets $175 (100 tickets available)
Regular Admission Tickets $90
Regular Admission + Masterclass $115 (limited spaces)

What do I get for the price of a regular admission ticket?

You’ll receive a commemorative Glencairn whisky glass, an event program , a gourmet buffet throughout the evening and, of course, over 175 whiskies to sample plus a chance to win a bottle of whisky a month for a year and a chance to bid on a number of whisky themed silent auction items. If that wasn’t enough there is also music and Irish dancers!

What’s the difference between a Regular admission ticket and a VIP ticket?

In addition to what Regular admission ticket holders receive (above), VIP ticket holders gain admission to the ballroom a full hour prior to regular admission 6.00 – 7.00 P.M and each VIP attendee will also receive a goodie bag. With limited ticketing, and the extra hour of time in the ballroom, you can get the most out of this additional hour, having more time to talk with the distillery representatives. Some exhibitors will pour something extra special that’s available only during the VIP hour. These VIP hour whiskies are provided at the discretion of the distillers in extremely limited quantities, and as such, we cannot guarantee that every VIP whisky will be available to all VIP attendees. There are 100 VIP tickets available.

Are tickets available at the door?

Tickets are available at the door, if any are remaining. It is strongly advised that you order your tickets in advance.

What is a Masterclass?

As part of a small group of 20-25 people you will have the opportunity to sit down in a break out room on the first floor and focus on a number of whiskies from one particular distillery or listen to an expert on a particular genre within the world of whisky. All classes run from 6.30 – 7.30 P.M. Tickets available on November 1, 2017.

When is the “Whisky a Month for a Year” draw?

“Whisky a Month for a Year” draw will be a live draw on the evening of the Whisky Festival. Winner must be in the room.

Should I have a game plan?

Absolutely! Take a minute to study your program and decide which whiskies of the 175 being shown you have to try. You can only seriously taste and analyze a few before palate fatigue sets in. The key to surviving any event involving alcoholic spirits is not to over indulge, practice quality over quantity. You can help yourself by drinking lots of water during the tasting and having a solid meal before the event.

Should I wear perfume/after shave?

One of the joys of any whisky event is nosing whisky in the glass to identify the subtle and delicate aromas. These delicate aromas can be completely over powered by perfume, cologne and after shave worn on your own person or even by somebody else some distance away. Please refrain from wearing any scent for the duration of the Festival and advise your guests accordingly.

Is there parking at the hotel?

The hotel does have free parking available however, we encourage the use of public transportation and cabs. Better yet, stay at the Delta Edmonton South for the night.

Can I get a preferred rate to stay at the Delta?

Yes – Stay at the Delta Edmonton South for the night for a reduce rate on a room, tell them you’re attending the “Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada – 2018 Whisky Festival” Make reservations at:
Phone: 780-434-6415
Fax: 780-436-9247
Reservations: 888-890-3222

What should I wear to WhiskyFest?

Most commonly, business or business casual attire. Please feel free to wear a kilt if you have one or rent one from our friends at Scottish Imports!

Do I need to bring a glass with me?

There’s no need to bring a glass with you. A Glencairn crystal commemorative nosing glass will be provided to you at registration. It’s yours to use for the evening, and to take home with you.

What if I lose my nosing glass?

If you lose your nosing glass, we’ll have wine glasses available in the Grand ballroom. Sorry, we cannot replace any lost or broken nosing glass.

There’s a whisky on the list that I want to be sure to try. How can I find out which booth is pouring it?

The booklet you receive on entering is set out alphabetically by the local agent / importer responsible for that distillery. The tables in the ballroom follow that list in a clockwise direction. Each table is marked with the name of an agent / importer.

Do I need to purchase drink tickets to be able to taste the whisky I want to try?

Through the purchase of your General Admission ticket, you will receive 30 sampling tickets. For each sample that you take, you will give the vendor one sampling ticket. If you go through all 30 sampling tickets, you can purchase more at the rate of 1 ticket for $2.75 (as per AGLC regulations).

Should I keep my ticket stub?

Absolutely! Bring your stub into Vines Wine Merchants by the end of April 2018 to receive a 10% discount or $10 off, whichever is the better deal on a whisky purchase.

Is there a coat check available?

There is a coat check available at the event for a small donation. All donations will go to the MS Society.

May I bring my briefcase with me?

Backpacks, briefcases, tote bags, or any other such items, are not permitted inside of EWF. You will be asked to leave them at the coat check.

Will there be food available?

Food is provided throughout the evening, including beef on a bun and haggis sausage rolls.

When I discover a new whisky that I love at EWF, can I buy a bottle of it right there?

EWF is a tasting event only. Order forms will be available at each table for the whisky(s) that agent is presenting. Customers can fill them in there and then with their name and phone number and Vines Wines will order them for you the following week. Please note: your ticket stub (when presented at Vines Wines before the end of April 2018) entitles you to a 10% discount or $10 off (whichever is better) your whisky purchase.

I have a suggestion on how to improve the event. Who do I contact?

You may contact the event manager, Steve Richmond by emailing



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