Following up on our review of Highwood Distiller’s Centennial 10 year old rye, we now turn to its albino twin — White Owl Whisky. While both products are a 60/40 blend of wheat and rye, the Centennial is aged a minimum of 10 years, due to its age statement, whereas the White Owl is mostly 10 year old whisky, but a minimum of 8 years. The White Owl blend is then ran through triple filtration to remove color and impurities, leaving you with, yes, a clear whisky. At first glance, you might think you’re purchasing a vodka, but the translucent bottle (think the clarity of a Grey Goose bottle, but the shape of an old-fashioned decanter) is clearly labelled as whisky. At first whiff, this is clearly not vodka; but it’s not obviously whisky either. Here’s our take:
In the glass, the White Owl Whisky has the look of vodka, with light legs and a slight viscosity to it. The nose is remarkably clean, with a hint of floral notes. Strangely, this whisky seems to present its real gems of flavour not on the nose, but in the mouth. The first hit to the palate is sweet raisins and pears, with a light butterscotch hiding underneath. Additionally, a hint of anise hits at the start, and lingers through the finish, which is long with a honeycomb sweetness.
While my first impressions of this whisky were biased by preconceptions that it would be a true Canadian rye, but without color, when I came back to it a week or two later, I was amazed by how pleasant this whisky is. While it doesn’t have the complexity to keep me interested as a regular dram to drink neat, where I feel it will excel is as a mix. Try substituting White Owl Whisky for vodka in a dry martini. Or, test the effects of replacing the bourbon in a Manhattan or Old Fashioned. The subtle characteristics which set this whisky apart from other whiskies, as well as vodkas, makes this a create addition to the aspiring mixologist’s bar.
Lastly, here’s a Q&A from Highwood, describing the product, and hopefully clarifying what we haven’t.
How old is the whisky aged?
We use mostly 10 year old wheat grain and less mature rye grain for more of a bite and taste.
Why is it clear?
We triple filter it to remove the color, like high end vodkas and remove all impurities, and indigestible alcohols. We can’t give exact production information as the process and recipe is priority.
What are the benefits of clear whisky?
It is more mixable! As well as your favorite whisky mix you can now be creative and make Martinis (Apple White Whisky), Screwdrivers, Caesars, or cranberry juice are some of the many mixes you can enjoy. The taste is also cleaner, crisp, & a smoother taste with filtering.
It doesn’t smell like whisky?
What you smell in all whiskies is the flavoring that is allowed to be added to make whiskies palatable. By law you can add up to 9.09% additives & flavorings. Some of the most common additives are caramel coloring/flavoring, artificial flavors, sherry, and/or brandy. To White Owl we add none of these. The taste therefore is a softer rye flavor and smoother than premium vodka thanks to the 10 years of aging and filtering.
No, moonshine is not aged or filtered and contains many impurities.
I am/know people who can’t drink rye?
They can drink ours as with triple filtering – “we clean the evil out”. This also helps in reducing the occurrence of hangovers.
What can I mix it with it?
Enjoy it as you normally like your rye cocktails, but now with White Whisky the drinks options are limitless.
It is expensive?
Not expensive at all as it is cheaper than most high end vodkas that are not even aged. White Owl is distilled from the finest Canadian grains, then aged for 10 years and finally triple filtered for smoothness. No premium vodkas are aged and no premium ryes are filtered so in comparison it is a great value compared to other premium spirits.