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Liberator Rye Whisky 

Review: Liberator Rye Whisky  (87/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on May 20, 2022

The Liberator brand is an authentic small batch craft spirits brand produced by Highwood Distillers to honor the WWII RCAF base that was located in their home town of High River as well as to honor the brave men and women who fought in WWII. This is a hand crafted offering created such that Highwood Distillers would have a line-up of 100% Alberta made craft spirits produced for the local market.

According to Michael Nychyk, Operations Manager at the Distillery:

This is a small volume brand in our portfolio; but we are proud it honours the RCAF and their connection to High River. And not to mention the spirits are great quality!

To be fair to the other brands which are produced at Highwood, one could consider almost every product which they distill to be a ‘craft’ brand. The distillery doesn’t use a continuous column still, rather they distill their products using a batch process as described in my previous posting, The Highwood Distillery Tour.  In a way, you could say that they were craft distilling, before craft distilling became the next big thing.

Liberator Rye is distilled using locally sourced wheat in small batches. Highwood uses water from a Rocky Mountain fed aquifer to bring the distillate to 75 % abv. and then ages the whisky in a single fill used bourbon barrel for five years. Once the whisky is mature it is blended with aged rye grain whisky to achieve the desired rye-forward whisky flavour profile. At that point the whisky is processed through a multi stage filtration system to polish the final product, after which it is bottled at 42 % alcohol by volume with hand applied closures and labels.

Each batch is limited to a maximum of maximum of 300 cases.

In The Bottle 4.5/5

Liberator Vodka is sold in a rectangular (almost flask style) clear bottle with a medium sized neck and cork closure. The labeling is much nicer that may of the Highwood offerings, I think perhaps because the have a good story to tell regarding the WW II Liberator Aircraft and its connection to High River (where the Highwood Distillery is located).

The back label of each bottle tells the story of the RCAF base located in High River Alberta and pays tribute to the 1.1 million Canadians who served in WWII.

I should note that each bottle is individually numbered with the batch number which identifies the particular batch of each bottling. As you can see, my sample bottle was from Batch # 007.

In the Glass  8.5/10

Colour: Straw

Legs: Medium thick droplets form at the crest dropping sluggish legs.

Nose: Things begin with a nice push of fine oak spices and rye-like grain spices. There is a lovely toffee sweetness with almond and vanilla emerging as well. A somewhat grassy tobacco aroma lifts out of the glass with hints of ginger spice and perhaps a touch of cinnamon, nutmeg and milk chocolate.

As I give the glass time to breath the dusty grain and fine oak spices become more dominant and I find myself thinking that it has been quite a while since I have treated myself to this dusty dry whisky style. The nose is moderately complex, and very appealing especially as I cannot find any wayward notes that would spoil things.

In the Mouth 52.5/60

The Liberator Rye Whisky is quite smooth for such a young spirit with a flavour profile I would call classically Canadian. Rye and grain spice combine with oak spices at the front of the delivery. A melded trio of light butterscotch, almond and vanilla follow with no discernible harshness of alcohol or off flavours from the distillation spoiling the parade. Ginger, nutmeg, orange peel and cinnamon appear as does a distinct impression of  tobacco. Frankly I really like what I taste. It’s not overly complicated, just good honest Canadian Whisky.

The whisky is smooth enough to sip neat or over ice, although my inclination was to add a little ginger ale with that ice. Rye and Ginger ale compliment each other wonderfully. I also got a little adventurous and mixed a delicious Old Fashioned Cocktail.

In the Throat 13/15

The whisky has a just a touch of oiliness which gives it a little length in the finish that is full of rye grain and wood spice. Like any good rye whisky there is a little tap to the tonsils from this rush of spice. A light toffee sweetness settles in with just a touch of menthol coolness.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

Liberator Rye Whisky is a really nice offering from Highwood. The spirit has a classic Canadian rye whisky flavour profile turned up just a bit by the higher alcohol proof. Because the whisky is distilled in small batches rather than on a continuous column still, it has a little oiliness and body which allow those classic flavours to linger just a little longer on the plate. If you want a good, honest Canadian Rye Whisky, this fits the bill perfectly.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipes

The Liberator Whisky Cocktail

2 oz  Liberator
1/3 oz Lemon Juice
2/3 oz Grapefruit Juice
Dash of Fees Cocktail Bitters
1/2 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
Lemon Peel

Chill a small cocktail glass until it is very cold.
Place the five ingredients into a metal shaker with cracked ice.
Shake until the outside of the metal shaker begins to frost.
Strain into the chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a twist of lemon peel

Enjoy Responsibly!

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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