Posts Tagged ‘rye

Spirits giant Campari buys Canadian whisky distillery

- March 12th, 2014
Forty Creek Image

Forty Creek Distillery has been bought by Campari. Supplied photo

Big news out of the Canadian whisky industry.

Gruppo Campari, the sixth-largest spirits company in the world, has purchased Forty Creek Distillery, makers of a range of quality Canadian whisky, for $185.6M.

From the release:  Gruppo Campari has reached an agreement to acquire 100% of Forty Creek Distillery Ltd. (‘FCD’), the producer of award winning premium Canadian whiskies. Its flagship brand Forty Creek Whisky is the fastest growing brand in the Canadian whisky category and is well positioned in the USA, one of the Group’s key markets.

Further details about the deal: “The acquired business includes the full portfolio of FCD: the stocks, the distillery facilities and a Hospitality Center located in Grimsby, Ontario. FCD brand portfolio includes whisky, vodka, brandy, rum and liqueurs, with Forty Creek Whisky as its core brand. The Forty Creek whisky family includes Barrel Select, Copper Pot Reserve, Forty Creek Cream Whisky and offers high-end, limited releases including Forty Creek Confederation Oak, Double Barrel and an annual special John K. Hall Reserve release. Forty Creek whiskies are 3-Time Canadian Whisky of the Year champions at the Canadian Whisky Awards (2010-12) and recently captured five gold medals as Best Tasting Whiskies at the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago (2014).”

John Hall, the founder and whisky maker at Forty Creek had this to say:

“Today’s deal represents a milestone for myself and the entire Forty Creek team. I believe this opportunity will further support Forty Creek’s vision to produce unique, quality, handcrafted, Canadian-made spirits. Campari has the global ability to take Forty Creek to the next level. Introducing customers around the world to my whisky is a dream come true. I am very excited to continue to devote my time to whisky making at Forty Creek distillery, continuing my whisky journey and exploring my passion for additional Forty Creek whisky expressions. In addition, I am proud to note today’s announcement ensures even greater added economic value to both the Ontario and Canadian economy through Campari’s investment in the Grimsby distillery and the Forty Creek family of brands.”

Hall will be staying on as Forty Creek’s chairman and whisky maker.

Noted Canadian whisky expert Davin De Kergommeaux offers a bit of background on the deal at Whisky Advocate.

Canadian Whisky Awards honour the greatest of the grain

- January 21st, 2014

WS_Whiskey_on_iceI almost missed this, and didn’t want to let it go by without mention.

The fourth-annual Canadian Whisky Awards were announced last Thursday at the Victoria Whisky Festival.

These awards honour the best in the distinctly Canadian whisky segment.

Calgary-based Alberta Premium took home Whisky of the Year Domestic Market for the fantastic Dark Horse , while its flagship won a bronze medal.

Highwood distillers also picked up a pair of silver medals — for Centennial Spiced and Highood Ninety 20 year old — and a bronzes for Ninety 5 year old and Century Reserve 15/25.

But who won the award for Whisky of the Year? Click below to find out what 100% rye grain whisky Chairman of the Judges, Davin de Kergommeaux, called “The very essence of what rye whisky is all about.”

A full list of winners can be found here

Fun with cocktails: Alberta Premium Dark Horse and whisky ambassador Matt Jones

- November 15th, 2013

First and foremost. If you’re looking for a really good rye and you haven’t tried Alberta Premium, you really should give the only 100% rye grain Canadian whisky a go.

And while you’re at the store buying the throwback-looking bottle, pick up a bottle of the Alberta Premium Dark Horse.

This relatively new product from Calgary-based Alberta Distillers is an interesting blend of mostly 6- and 12-year old rye, plus a bit of corn whisky for good measure, and aged in heavily charred oak barrels.

It’s rich in vanilla and caramel flavours, with distinct rye pepperiness. Pepperiness, that’s a word, right? Also, dried fruit.

It drinks just fine on its own, but it’s great in a cocktail.

I recently had the chance to sit down with whisky ambassador, bartender and mixologist Matt Jones, who gave me a taste of how well Dark Horse works in a cocktail as well.

Jones said while it’s meant to be a sipping whisky, it’s a very “mixable whisky.”

“It has a bolder, richer flavour profile because of the fact it’s aged in Bourbon barrels. The difference being for cocktails is it gives a lot more diversity,” he said.

Playing up the equine theme of the Dark Horse name — which is derived from the race-horse owner and early investor in Alberta Distillers, Frank McMahon — Jones created mixed a couple of easy-to-make cocktails highlighting some of the flavours of the whisky.

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The Horse Whisperer, made with Alberta Premium Dark Horse whisky. Photo by Dave Breakenridge

First up was the Horse Whisperer, a “play on a rye and ginger,” Jones said.

What’s in it:

1/8 of an orange

A few dashes Angostura Bitters

1 1/2 oz. Dark Horse

A good ginger beer, such as Crabbies (which also goes really well with the Macallan Fine Oak 10 Year, but I digress)

1. Muddle the orange in a glass with a muddler or a spoon: “We;re just looking to get the oils out of the orange and the juice.”

2. Add the bitters “A few good heavy dashes of that. Of course, that has a lot of synergy with the whisky.”

3. Add the whisky “A good healthy measure of Dark Horse.” No argument here.

4. Top off with ice

5. Add the ginger beer.

This is a great drink. A lot of flavour, even moreso than the Macallan and Crabbies. The spiciness of the ginger beer pairs well with the spice in the rye, and the orange picks up on the orange flavours that come out in the ageing of the whisky. And it’s all tied together with the bitters.

It makes for a good fall cocktail, and is easy to make if you’re entertaining.

Orange was also a key flavour in the second cocktail Jones concocted, the Copper Stallion, a play on an Old Fashioned.

“It’s a little bit more complex to make, but if I’m making it at home i  just build it in the glass,” Jones said.

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The Copper Stallion, a play on the Old Fashioned, featuring Alberta Premium Dark Horse.

The Copper Stallion

1 oz Alberta Premium Dark Horse

1.5 oz Maple, Spiced, or Simple Syrup (for spiced simple syrup, you can use vanilla, cinnamon, orange, star anise)

2 dashes Bittered Sling Extracts - Moondog or Kensington Dry Bitters (“Gives it a peppery, earthy flavour style.”) Look for them at Vine Arts on 1 St. S.W. in Calgary.

Orange peel

1.Add syrup and bitters to glass, express orange oil from peel into glass, drop in peel.

2.Pour in Alberta Premium Dark Horse, pack with ice, and stir. The stirring helps melt a bit of the ice to give some dilution.

This is a refined drink, and can even be made in batches if you’re hosting a party and you have a big enough mixing glass.

Rye seems to be undergoing a bit of resurgence as cocktail culture grows, and Alberta Premium has a unique place in the segment. The Dark Horse is a further extension of that.

If you’re looking for a whisky with a lot of character to enjoy, either on its own, or in an interesting cocktail, the Dark Horse is a standout, and doesn’t break the bank.

Fun with cocktails: Whisky Sour

- May 24th, 2013

This whole notion was inspired by necessity. It was hot, I was out of beer, no traditional mix and while I had no shortage of spirits I could’ve had straight up, I wanted something cold.

There was a good bottle of Highwood Distillers’ Stampede Centennial Rye Whisky in my pantry and a bunch of lemons in my fruit bowl.

Doesn’t get much more basic than a Whisky Sour, even though I know Bourbon is more authentic.

So I had the whisky, and the sour, just needed that sweet accent to cut through the other two. Instead of opting for plain sugar or simple syrup, I thought I would make use of all the lemon flavour I could. Lemon simple syrup coming right up.

Seems like a lot of effort for just one drink. So I had two. And I was left with plenty of extra lemon syrup.

Rye Whisky Sour:
1 oz. Highwood Distillers’ Stampede Centennial 25-year-old Canadian Rye Whisky (but your favourite whisky will work just fine)
1/2 oz. Fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz. Lemon simple syrup (for this batch I mixed 1 cup each water and white sugar, and added zest of one lemon. I simmered the works for about 7 minutes.)
Add the whisky, juice and syrup to a shaker filled with ice. Shake and pour into a chilled martini glass. Enjoy.

Belvedere raising the premium on premium vodka

- September 22nd, 2012

You are not going to catch this guy spending a lot of time sipping on Cosmos or vodka-tonics, or knocking back shots Stolli.

I may have enjoyed a paralyzer or two when I was a young man, but as I’m no longer looking for a sprint to inebriation, generally speaking, I wouldn’t mind finding beer, wine and spirits I can enjoy.

Like Scotch. Or new beer being produced in Alberta and Western Canada.

But give me a vodka that doesn’t taste solely like ethanol and I tend to take notice.

So I was pleasantly surprised with the creamy vanilla notes hitting my palate at a recent tasting of the Belevedere Pure, at new Mission eatery Candela Lounge.

Belvedere, a quadruple-distilled, rye-based spirit, is positioning itself as the premium vodka on the market, and while I’m not what you’d call a vodka expert, taste says a lot.

Offering a base spirit that is more than just neutral, that would add character to a cocktail instead of just alcohol, is something I’m sure would appeal to bartenders in some of Calgary’s trendier nightspots.

And a lot of that comes from what it’s made of, Belvedere’s brand ambassador Allison Dedianko told our assembled group.

While most vodkas on the market are primarily wheat-based (not potato, for those who were wondering), Belvedere is 100% rye. The kind bakers use to make bread.

And it adds supple flavour characteristics you don’t get elsewhere.

“In terms of Western styles, I think that’s what differentiates us from others,” she said.

Rye is the predominant grain in vodkas sold in poland, but any grain can be used to make a vodka.

All that matters is that it’s distilled to 96.5% alcohol before being diluted.

Dedianko says it’s the process and production that sets a premium vodka apart in a crowded market for a spirit that sells four times as much as any other.

“You could make vodka with corn in texas and distill it once, and make vodka with rye in Poland and distill it 4 times and call them both vodka, and there’s no possible way they could be the same thing,” she said.

For people who prefer a little more ease when mixing cocktails, Belvedere offers a handful of flavours, but just don’t let Dedianko hear you say ‘flavoured vodka.’

“One thing we really do that’s different than anything else is maceration. We don’t call it flavouring — we cdon’t want to be lumped in with the key lime pies, the fluffed marshmallow and the fruit loop.”

Instead of extracts and essences, Belvedere infuses its flavours with real fruit, such as lemon and lime, pink grapefruit, orange, black raspberry. They also do a Lemon Tea vodka, and a Bloody Mary infusion, all great for making cocktails such as the Belvedere Citrus-rosemary Gimlet or the Pink Grapefruit V & T we were served at Candela.

Obviously, for some people, premium vodka is not what they’re buying all the time when they go out, or for at home, just like I’m not buying the priciest whisky when my stash runs low.

But there is something to be said for spending that extra few bucks for a special occasion, or to make your party cocktails memorable.

The Belvedere Citrus-rosemary Gimlet
1.5 oz. Belvedere Citrus
3/4 oz. rosemary-infused simple syrup (It’s really not that hard. Just add a few sprigs of rosemary while you’re simmering a mixture of equal parts sugar and water.)
3/4 oz. fresh lime jucie
Toss all that into a shaker with ice, give a little shake and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with some more rosemary. Or some lemon.

The Belvedere Pink Grapefruit V&T
Pour 1.5 oz. Pink Grapefruit over ice in a tall glass
Fill with tonic (If you’re looking for something different than the usual offering at the grocery store, look for Fever Tree Tonic Water at specialty stores around town.)
Garnish with a thin wedge of pink grapefruit.
Enjoy!