Malcolm Jolley enjoys a new Canadian whisky from some old wine hands.
Howitzer Canadian Whisky | $34.95 750ml | LCBO# 621557
The apex of my hockey knowledge occurred when I was 10 years old in 1982 when my friend Danny Leblanc and I achieved the series. I think most hoser inclined Canadian men of my vintage know what I mean about the series: between the two of us we managed to collect every single hockey card published that year. Joint ownership meant joint custody, so the shoebox that housed our collection of 1980-81 Gretzky’s, Bossy’s, Lafleur’s and Sittler’s was passed between us on a regular basis. But somewhere along the line, things broke down. Danny left the shoebox in his locker, but didn’t lock it. When it was time to retrieve the collection at the recess after lunch, it was gone. I am afraid my friendship with Daniel did not survive the trauma of the loss, nor did my interest in the best game you can name. Such are the hard lessons of heartbreak.
All of which is to say, I had no idea what Craig de Blois was going on about when, at lunch just before the holiday break, he pulled out a bottle of booze labelled Howitzer Canadian Whisky. I assumed the name had something to do with Canada’s military history and the contributions of the women and men who have served our country. It does, but I missed the hockey reference, which Craig had to patiently explain to me (and Jamie who was there, but he’s Scottish, so he has an excuse): a howitzer is also a common name for a powerful slap shot, and if I’d watched Hockey Night in Canada at some point in the last couple of decades, I would’ve known that.
What I did know, and what anyone with even a passing acquaintance of Crag de Blois knows, is that the man is passionate about the game. So, if he was going to get into the business of making Canadian Whisky the odds are that it’d have some kind of hockey reference on its label. Craig’s day job is running the import agency he bought a few years back, Noble Estates Wine & Spirits (which, full disclosure, is one of the Good Food Fighter sponsors of this website). His partners in the Howitzer project are the sommelier turned agent (and bitters maker) Mark Coster, who directs Noble’s sales to bars and restaurants, and Michael Brown, a former professional athlete who is the CEO of Rugby Ontario. All three men are descended from family members who served in the military and Craig explained to Jamie and me that the Howitzer label is as much a tribute to them as to their love of hockey.
Once we’d cleared up the origins of the name, I touched on Craig’s other great passion and asked him if Howitzer was made as a whisky for wine lovers? He chuckled, said he didn’t know adding, “You tell me,” and handed me the bottle. The three of us were too far into a bottle of Adam Lowy’s beautiful Cloudsey Cellars Twenty Mile Bench Pinot Noir to ask if we could taste the whisky at the pub, so I took the bottle of Howitzer home and tried it out with family and friends over the holidays. I answered my question: yes it is.
The Howitzer whisky, which is made mostly from a corn mash, is sweet, though not cloying, and smooth. There’s a note of kirsch and an earthiness in the finish. It’s killer application, in my humble opinion, is as a digestive, served after dinner as a break from wine, although I served it once with a chocolate dessert that I thought went quite well. (For those more in step with booze fashion, the Howitzer website has a cocktail recipe section.) At $35 it’s a great deal and handy to have in the drinks cabinet to offer friends after dinner, or to sip on in the evening in the company of a good book.