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HIgh River Canadian Whisky

Review: High River Canadian Whisky (88.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted On June 27, 2018

The explosion of new Canadian Whisky brands continues as every time I venture into a local liquor store I see new brands that I have never tried before. And each year when I serve as a Spirits Judge for the Annual Canadian Whisky Awards, I am again introduced to Canadian Spirits which I was otherwise unaware of. One of these new whiskies, High River Canadian is owned by Sazerac, the producers of Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

Master Blender Drew Mayville (Buffalo Trace), oversees the blending of the High River Canadian Whisky. According to the Sazerac website:

The best Canadian whiskies are made from rye grown in the prairies, and the most fertile soils are near local rivers which occasionally overflow during the spring thaw. High River takes its name from this phenomenon, and delivers a smooth finish which leaves a lasting impression.

I sampled High River Canadian Whisky as part of my judging duties for the 2018 Canadian Whisky Awards. I kept brief notes for each of the spirits which I tasted, and after the reveal, I decided to pen a brief review based upon those tasting notes, as well as from a sample I was able to obtain afterwards. The High River Whisky carries no age statement and is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

High River arrives in the stubby bottle shown to the left. The short squat bottle has a look which implies ‘substance’. I also like the graphics and the label both of which give the spirit a feeling of craftsmanship.

I do wish I knew something about the statement on the bottle which indicates that this is recipe number 9108. I assume this has some meaning, unfortunately whatever meaning this is is lost upon me, as well as upon potential consumers.

The bottle is cork sealed, and I am pleased with what I see.

In the Glass 9/10

I will begin with my nosing notes from my small Canadian Whisky Awards Sample.

Colour: Copper

Legs: Reluctant fat leglets

Initial Aroma: Dusty oak spices with caramel and vanilla, tobacco

Decanted Aroma: Oak builds up, with hints of tea and chocolate

That sounds pretty good doesn’t it? When I tried the whisky in isolation from the other samples for this review, I was able to spend more time with the dram. There is a light impression of maple and cedar which combine with grain to give me an impression of graham wafers dipped in syrup. Oak builds with vanilla and almond making me think of marzipan. Marmalade and chocolate complete the nose which seems to be rich and full of whisky goodness.

In The Mouth 53/60

Again I will begin with my notes from the Canadian Whisky Awards:

Initial Taste: Fresh oak and tobacco, marmalade, vanilla, clove and nutmeg

Follow up: Caramel and cola, walnuts, menthol and cedar

Those brief tasting notes do not do a good job of conveying my feelings. The descriptors are correct but there is much more to the spirit than the notes can convey. There is a light bitterness which is very appealing as this puckers the mouth slightly making the palate more receptive to the rich flavour of the spirit. Just enough sweetness is present to balance the bitterness and the light menthol like sensation additionally cools the palate making the spirit easy to sip. When I add ice the whisky oozes out bittersweet chocolate.

In The Throat  13/15

Body and Length: Medium body and long finish

Flavours during Swallow: Oak and cedar with caramel

Lingering Flavours: Tobacco and a touch of herbal menthol

The light sweetness and cool menthol provide just the right counterpoint to the more bitter flavours of tobacco and cedar.

The Afterburn  9/10

My summary remarks at the conclusion of judging were as follows:

Final Thoughts: I wanted just a touch more sweetness and maybe a firmer push of spice. Otherwise a very nice whisky which I think would make a fantastic Old Fashioned cocktail.

My feelings changed upon re-tasting the sample in isolation. The sweetness is just about right as is the light push of spice. I was right about the Old-fashioned though (see recipe below).

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


Suggested Cocktail

Bitter Chocolate Old Fashioned
an original cocktail By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)

1 1/2 oz High River Canadian Whisky
1/4   oz Simple syrup
Aztec Chocolate Bitters (Fees Brand)
Orange Peel

Add Ice to an old-fashioned glass
Add the High River Canadian Whisky and Simple syrup
Add a dash of Aztec Chocolate Bitters
Stir and Garnish with a strip of orange Peel

Enjoy Responsibly!


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

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)

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