White Owl Spiced Whisky (40% alc/vol)


Subtle vanilla, crisp oak, rich butterscotch and subtle rye spices, then hot pepper, lots of citrus pith in the finish with tingling ginger and cloves.Alberta's whisky-loving orinthologists are beside themselves with delight. Just when they thought all the birds had flown south for the winter, an exotic Canadian white owl (Nyctea épiçicus) was spotted in the vicinity of liquor stores across the province.  And it has arrived just in time for Christmas.  Of course, in Canada, winter bird watching is a lot like ice fishing: the most important thing is what’s in your flask to keep you warm.One of the most innovative new additions to the Canadian whisky line-up in 2010 was White Owl Whisky. White whisky - real rye whisky - that tastes like whisky but looks and mixes like vodka. White Owl, in its unmistakable frosted bottle, was so well received that the distillery had a hard time keeping up with demand.  Actually, they had lots of whisky on hand. It was those custom bottles that just couldn’t arrive fast enough for them to fill.Century Distillers, who make White Owl, have just added a spiced-up version to the line-up.  White Owl Spiced is being rolled out now in Alberta and will be introduced across the country in 2012.  Pity the rest of us who have to wait.  This is not some marketer’s cynical concoction. It does not trade on the strength of bizarre made-up stories, the rye renaissance, or the cocktail craze. No, its a real whisky made by real distillers, but whisky with the colour removed and just a dash of spice added.Spiced rum is so popular that it makes up about one-third of all rum sales.  Spiced whisky, on the other hand, has not been quite as well received to date. White Owl Spiced Whisky, following in the steps of Revel Stoke, Red Stag, and other successful flavoured whiskies, may help to change this. Thankfully, the blenders have resisted the urge to smother it with flavouring. It's subtle, to be sure, the flavours are nicely integrated instead of being layered on top, and it’s definitely taking its own path.The label tells us that White Owl Spiced Whisky is made by Century Distillers, but we know that’s code for the high-end products of Highwood Distillery in High River Alberta. Like the original White Owl, the spiced version, is as clear as water. Let’s give it a taste and see if it’s a Christmas egg-nog whisky, or worth sipping on its own. Nose: subtle vanilla, tempered with hints of crisp wood then followed by rich aromas of butterscotch that dissolve into subtle rye spices. The blenders have been careful to preserve the rye notes which bodes well for sipping and for mixing. So far, it’s exactly like the label said it would be. The barrel smells are distinct and the vanilla spices mild enough to emphasize whisky flavours without distracting from them.  Overall it is mild but flavourful, just as the original White Owl was.Palate: mild vanilla. Not the vanilla extract you might expect but just the essence of vanilla which emphasizes the butterscotch and a creamy smooth custard feel.  The spices are hot, flavourful, and assertive without spoiling the creaminess.  There is something corn-like but it is doubtful there is any corn whisky in the blend. Hot peppery spices and clean dry oak lead into a crisp dry finish with just traces of cloves and tingling ginger.Finish: somewhat citrusy with a bit of pull and some peppery heat.  The vanilla has all but disappeared and the oak has cleaned away the creamy middle.Whisky connoisseurs are not going to be lining up for this. Still, it is an enjoyable “sippin’ by the fire” whisky, one that will mix well in ginger ale, and because they left the whisky flavour in (albeit somewhat subdued), it moves nicely into egg-noggin’ country as well.Definitely ice-fishing-bird-watching flask material.  Mostly – just great fun.$40.00 - $45.00The original White Owl Whisky is reviewed here.Other flavoured whiskies include:Black Velvet Toasted CaramelDock 57 SpicedDock 57 BlackberryForty Creek Cream Liquor Gibson’s Maple 100th Grey CupHighwood Canadian Maple Whisky Revelstoke Spiced