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Highwood Premium Vodka

Review: Highwood Premium Vodka    (86/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted 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.

The First Impression 8/10

You might say I have a bit of a split personality when it comes to Highwood Distillers. Generally speaking, I love the quality of the spirit I have found on the inside of their bottles; but, it is equally true that I have been very critical of what I see as far as the labeling on the outside of their bottles. However, I notice the first indication that change might be afoot with respect to the Highwood bottle presentation. The label for the Highwood Vodka has a silver border running around the outside edge of the label. It’s a small thing, but it makes a very big difference. Suddenly the label no longer looks like a design I could print off my home printer. I admit that the label has a way to go, but considering that this is a budget priced vodka, I am quite happy with the presentation.

The First Sip 17.5/20

When I tasted the Highwood Vodka for the first time I had three friends gathered with me to help. I had chilled the bottle to about 2 degrees Celsius, and at this temperature the spirit was nice and creamy. There was very little aroma apparent as we raised our shot-glasses to our noses. We noticed light wispy bits of starch and grain, 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 zest which I had noticed in the aroma.

After I swallowed, I felt that the vodka brought forward just a whisper of a burn in my throat which was accented by the rye-spice I had tasted earlier. It was not unpleasant, and in fact for a vodka that occupies a low-price niche, this is very good.

Taking a Shot 17/20

I watched each of my friends take their first full swallow ‘shot’ style, and I could tell from their reactions that the vodka was going down smoothly. I followed suit, and the only deterrent to my enjoyment was a very light metallic aftertaste. The flavours I had noted in my initial sip were all present in varying degrees with perhaps a little more citrus apparent in the finish than I was expecting. I guess if I wanted to quibble I could say that there was also a very light burn associated with the vodka, but it was the sort of burn that did not detract from the experience. all of my friends felt that the Vodka was better than they had expected and was on par with several more expensive Vodkas we had tried recently.

Out for Dinner 17.5/20

We had all brought a little food over to the tasting the result was a platter of smoked sausage, pickles, pepperoni sticks, mini tomatoes, celery sticks, broccoli spears cauliflower, fresh buns and cheese. Of course this is the part of the tasting which we seem to spend the most time at. The food disappears, the vodka disappears, and we generally have lots of fun. Everything is subjective as we try to figure out if the Vodka we are drinking improves our enjoyment of the food and if the food improves the Vodka experience. Generally speaking a clean vodka which carries no metallic or bitter aftertaste will go well with most of the foods we try. When the vodka carries light citrus flavours or rye-like spices it seems to have a cleansing effect on the palate which will enhance our taste perceptions.

All of this is very subjective, and I have found a committee type approach is most valuable during this part of the review. In the case of the Highwood Vodka all of those at my tasting noticed that nice cleansing effect upon the palate from the vodka, and none of us noted any detrimental aftertaste. The Vodka tasted good with the food, and the food tasted good with the vodka.

Cocktails 26/30

The Cosmopolitan is the cocktail which I turn to the most when I assess vodka. A Cosmo is easy to make, and I have found that a good vodka will make a nice lightly tart and fruity Cosmopolitan. This is exactly what you get with  Highwood Premium Vodka. The spirit also worked well in the other Vodka cocktails I constructed during subsequent tasting sessions (the Pink Pussy Cat, the Vodka Daiquiri, and the Vodka Darby).

In my opinion Highwood makes a solid vodka for mixing bar drinks.


A Final Note:

This is the type of Vodka which is easy to miss on the store shelves. It is extremely reasonably priced, and it kind of blends in with the bottom shelf brands unless you look for it. However, if you have begun to trust my reviews, pick up a bottle, it just might be the best bargain on those lower shelves.


Final Score 86/100

(Good for Sipping and Shots; Great for Mixing Cocktails)

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Vodka Reviews.


Suggested Recipes

The two recipes I have chosen for the Highwood Vodka are basically the short and the long version of the same recipe.  The short version works great for sipping and the long version works great when you are a little more thirsty and want a taller drink.

The Kamikaze

1 1/2 oz Highwood Vodka
1 oz Triple Sec
1/2 oz Lime Juice
lime slice for garnish

Add the three ingredients with ice into a metal shaker
Shake until the sides of the shaker frost
Strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with Lime


You may (loosely) interpret my score 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 Vodka.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again for cocktails only.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this Vodka in shots, although cocktails are preferable.
85-89    Excellent!  Shots or cocktails!
90-94    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 – 80    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
81 – 89     Silver Medal (Recommended  for shots and mixing cocktails)
90 – 95     Gold Medal (Highly Recommended for Vodka Shots and Sublime Cocktails)
95.5+       Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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