The independent Highwood Distillery has been producing in the village of High River, Alberta, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, for almost 40 years. Highwood has a broad Whisky range but is still a small family-run distillery with only about 30 employees.

Information about the Distillery
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Details about the Distillery

The Whisky

Canadian law also requires grain spirit to be matured for at least three years to become Whisky. However, in contrast to Europe, Canadian Whisky producers are free to use flavouring. Highwood has perfected this art, and in addition to various rye and grain Whiskies they also sell numerous “spiced Whiskies”, some of which are bottled at only 35% or 36% ABV. One of these spiced Whiskies is the Maple Whisky. It's a blended Highwood wheat Whisky flavoured with maple syrup from Quebec.
One of Highwood's main products is the Century Reserve, a Canadian rye Whisky sold with different age statements but also as a ‘lot’ made of Whiskies varying in age. The Century Reserve LOT 15/25 offers sweet marzipan and nut aromas but also spices such as clove or nutmeg. The rye character is complemented and sweetened by the influences from corn Whisky.
Also well-known is the new White Owl Whisky, which surprises with its clear colour. No, it's not a vodka, and it has actually been matured in wooden casks. With this Whisky, Highwood Distillers continue the tradition of the Canadian “Whisky blanc”, which used to be matured in copper casks and therefore stayed colourless. The basis for the White Owl is a grain spirit made mainly from wheat and matured in oak casks. It is then blended with rye Whisky for more flavour and filtered through charcoal powder in order to lose its colour. There are also variants such as White Owl Ginger Lime Whisky or White Owl Spiced Whisky.
The Centennial label represents a smooth, pleasing Canadian rye Whisky. There's a ‘pure form’, too, the Centennial 10-Year-Old Canadian Rye Whisky, but also various variants flavoured with vanilla and clove, maple syrup or even chocolate.
In 2005 Highwood bought Potter's Distillers. The Potter's Special Old Canadian Rye Whisky is a smooth and full-bodied Whisky that contrasts creamy toffee with spicy ginger and cinnamon notes, and fruity grapefruit aromas with a notch of white pepper.


Highwood produces in small batches. 100% wheat is the basis for the basic alcohol of most of the Highwood Whiskies. However, the taste of the different products is determined by the amount and the age of the added rye Whiskies. The rye Whisky is also produced in small batches with the same fermentation and distillation procedures. With the acquisition of Potter's Distillers and their entire stocks, Highwood now own many additional casks of old rye Whisky.
Highwood don't produce their own corn Whisky for blending with the wheat and rye Whisky but buy it as new spirit from other distilleries and then store it on their own premises.

The Mashing

2,500 kg of grain and 12,000 litres of water go together in the mash tun, where everything is cooked under pressure. This results in 14,000 litres of mash. The water used for production doesn't come from nearby Highwood River but from a specially built well. When the first batch of mash has been finished, it's transferred into the fermenting tanks, and the next batch of mash is prepared. There are seven batches each week.

The Fermentation

The mash stays in the fermenters until the yeast has done its work and has produced a beer with a considerable alcohol content of 12% ABV.

The Distillation

In the first distillation step in the beer still, this beer is brought to 70% ABV. But the alcohol is reduced to 40% before being redistilled, this time in a big kettle still with attached rectifier. The result is a very pure alcohol that's free of fusel oils and aromatic by-products, which can only be reduced through a long maturation in the cask. This distillation method was introduced by a German distiller whom the founders of Highwood Distillery trusted with implementing the production.
The alcohol passes through copper condensers and tubes, which is necessary for aroma generation. 

The Warehouses

The Canadian climate with its extremely cold winters and high temperature fluctuations causes a lot of activity of the Whisky and high exchange with the cask in the non-temperature-regulated warehouses. The extremely arid air furthermore causes a phenomenon that might appear strange to Europeans: Since more water than alcohol evaporates, ihe Whisky is filled into the cask at 72% ABV, but quite often comes out of the cask at a strength of 75% ABV. No trace of the angels' share.

The History

In 1974 investors from Calgary got together and hired a German distiller to plan a Whisky distillery. It was built as Sunnyvale Distillery and was renamed Highwood Distillery in 1985. The distillation procedure and the equipment haven't changed much over the years, and Highwood is still an independent distillery. The acquisition of Potter's Distillers in 2005 granted Highwood access to a large stock of matured Whisky and well-known labels and recipes. Potter's Distillers in Kelowna, British Columbia, were Whisky brokers and blenders and had their own bottling plant. However, they didn't produce themselves but bought their alcohol from other distilleries, something Highwood Distillers are still practicing today to complement their own alcohol production.

Visitor Centre

The Highwood distillery has no visitor centre and is not open to the public.

Highwood Distillers Ltd.

114-10th Avenue S.E., Box 5693

High River, Alberta, Canada


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