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Highwood Distillers: A Family of Canadian Whiskies to Satisfy Every Palate
Highwood Distillers (HD) has been producing some of the finest Canadian whiskies on the market since 1974. The company takes pride in its prominent local roots, the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. “We use wheat to produce our whiskies and because we’re situated right on the prairies here in Alberta, it’s a point of pride for us to source all of our wheat locally,” affirms Barry Wilde, president of HD. “Not only that, but we take great pride in being a small distillery. It allows us to have more involved employees and to be a nimble and responsive company when it comes to market changes. We’re able to involve people in the decision making process and pursue a variety of niches more quickly than some of the larger corporations can.”
From concept to design, HD handles every aspect of the product development and production. The company produces a line of vodkas, rums, gins, liqueurs and specialty items in addition to its signature whiskies. With the majority of its business in western Canada, HD has a strong following of loyal consumers. “In this industry there are a select handful of giant corporations who make up the lion’s share of the market,” explains Wilde. “We have incredible employee and consumer loyalty because of our size and market agility. We’re comfortable and confident in the markets we are already in, but we’re not so big that our efforts to expand into new niches would be a huge undertaking.”
The Clean, Crisp Taste of Growth
The company has grown over the past three and a half decades allowing us to invest in other brands and facilities to ensure it keeps up with demand. “The year of 2005 was a major date for us, we acquired the Potters brand from Andre Wines and it allowed us to increase our operations,” says Wilde. “We essentially acquired a whole separate brand identity and that helped us to establish our signature products, especially within British Columbia. Previous to the acquisition, we had a number of different facilities to handle distilling, packaging and distribution. We consolidated much of that into a brand new bottling facility with new equipment and 50,000-square-foot warehouse space.”
One of HD’s most newly introduced products has become its signature, a traditionally distilled whisky with an exceptionally distinctive appeal. “The White Owl Whisky has been a huge success for us. It’s an amazing product because it has been distilled the way traditionally whiskies are, but it’s been filtered, which gives it a cleaner, crisper finish. This makes it more like vodka. Whereas our typical whisky consumer is traditionally male above 50 years of age, the Owl is primarily being consumed by the 25-year-old to 40-year-old demographic and is equally split between male and female consumers.”
The company’s success with its new product has led Wilde to anticipate slow, yet constant growth. “We have seen very steady growth over the past 15 years. “The new consumer is more cautious and understands that the gravy train only goes so far before it has to come to a stop. The consumption habits have changed in this market place. Despite that change, we are still pursuing the expansion of some of our brands at the moment, especially to overseas markets and we look forward to staying ahead of these markets.” As a small, yet well established company, Highwood Distillers will continue to make its mark in the industry for years to come.