Gin

Review: Black Fox Oaked Gin by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
42%
Aging
6-8 months, American oak
Recipe
100% triticale spirit with botanicals
Distiller Black Fox (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)

This aged gin is sold as a single barrel product. The gin has a bit of a bigger profile, particularly with more anise, than the other Black Fox gins - this gives it a bit more body to balance out the oak. The distillery releases about 20 casks of this per year.


Review (2019)

  • Batch:

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The wood comes off initially – vanilla, caramel, dry white oak – but behind it we have spice, cucumber, sawdust, juniper, leather, and cinnamon. The palate has nice sharp spice, citrus, and floral characteristics embraced by sweet woody notes, vanilla, and structured with light wood tannins. Very nice! The finish has a bit more cucumber, caraway, dried floral notes, and almost a marshmallow-type wood characteristic.

For whisky enthusiasts, you might notice characteristics of a nicely toasted cask here – specifically the toasted, not charred wood characteristics. Excellent!

A very nice aged gin. It’s one that I like to sip neat. It’s good chilled – some of the complexity is lost and the woody notes come out at the core. Still quite good chilled, but I’d take this neat so as not to lost all the complexity and balance.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.


Review: Black Fox Cucumber Gin #7 by Jason Hambrey

Black+Fox+Cucumber+Gin.jpg
ABV
42%
Aging
Not Aged
Recipe
100% Triticale Whisky with botanicals and cucumbers
Distiller Black Fox (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)

Whole cucumbers are added to the gin after it is finished to macerate in flavor and colour. Once the gin is finished, the used cucumbers are used in the production of the next batch of gin. The recipe is distinct from their dry gin and aged gin, to appropriately surround the cucumber notes.


Review (2019)

  • Batch:

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The nose is very rich in cucumber – it takes me to peeling field cucumbers. It reminds me particularly of sharp, slightly bitter cucumber peel rather than cucumber flesh. The palate is spicy, with cucumber at the centre and coriander spice surrounding it, alongside white pepper and a slight drying nature. There is a touch of cucumber peel bitterness in the palate which I actually really like. Caraway, quite brilliantly, comes out in the big finish. It’s a bit soapy – perhaps a combination of the cucumber and coriander, reminding me of some natural soap shops (not a bad thing). The cucumber on the finish is enduring.

I find the herbal notes are quite prominent, and at times too much – this sometimes smells a bit like the crisper section of my fridge when herbs have been in there a bit too long. This is not always to my liking, when sipped neat. But, chilled or in a cocktail these notes are lost and the freshness of the gin really shines through. I tested this with friends and many of them didn’t make any such association, so it might be a fairly personal preference. When chilled, the cucumber notes really come out, so it does exactly what you would want in a cocktail. This is a cocktail gin for me, not a sipping gin (as most gins are). As suggested, it works great in a gin & tonic or with ginger ale.


Review: Black Fox Dry Gin #3 by Jason Hambrey

Black+Fox+Dry+Gin.jpg
ABV
42%
Aging
Not Aged
Recipe
100% triticale with botanicals
Distiller Black Fox (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)

This gin is the basic dry gin from Black Fox, designed as a martini gin - and it certainly works very well in a Martini (as in a honey gimlet). It is made with 15 different botanicals including Calendula flowers and rhubarb from the Black Fox farm. Also, an amazing bottle - they use the glass stoppers like Shelter Point does. The base for the spirit is Black Fox’s tasty triticale spirit which is spicy and fruity, and gives the gin good depth.


Review (2019)

  • Batch:

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The nose is deep, with a nice contrast of flavours to it – slightly sweet, slightly floral, slightly spicy.  The bottle, also, is beautiful. Orange and rhubarb play off a slightly tangy sweetness (similar to yoghurt – this doesn’t smell like yoghurt; but the tangy/sweet characteristic is analogous to it), with a rich spice backbone that is quite woody like cloves and cinnamon. The palate is big, rich with floral notes (violet and chamomile) again contrasting woody spices. This is held together by a clean, slightly sweet spirit which isn’t lost either – quite excellent! The finish is sweet, spicy, and lightly tannic. The notes start with citrus and floral characteristics, but fade slowly to lightly grainy, woody, and sharp spice notes. Awesome!

When chilled, this retains the sweetness and the spice, which makes it for a kick-ass martini gin (as advertised). I do love the woodiness of the spices – these are not lost amidst being chilled. Similarly, in a pink gin or a gin & soda, this has a great character – so this is a premium mixer, too.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.


Review: Willibald Gin by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
43%
Aging
6-8 Months; Virgin American Oak Char #4
Recipe
Triple distilled corn, rye, and barley with 6 botanicals
Distiller Willibald (Ayr, Ontario)

This gin stands out to me for a few reasons. First, it’s the flagship gin of the distillery and it’s aged - they don’t even have a white version. Most distilleries focus on a clear, unaged version and then age it or create variations - not so here. It’s different to craft a gin to be aged in a barrel rather than bottled as a white spirit. Second, it’s made from three different grains - corn, rye, and barley - rather than a simple grain spirit. Third, they are using new oak, not used oak - not something that I’ve ever seen in Canadian gin yet - it brings in an intensity to the gin and not simply a complex subtlety. Fourth - it’s big and bold, which lets it remain a gin but compete a bit more fully in other cocktails.

It might not surprise you to know that the distillery is heavily influenced by American straight ryes and bourbons.


Review (2019)

  • Batch:

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The nose is very deep for a gin, perhaps due to the age of the stuff. There is a nice matching of oak to juniper, of sharp spice like fennel and earthy coriander to the bright citrus. I must say, it’s a rather impressive nose. The palate is rich in its woodiness – but the remarkable feat is that the woodiness balances all the botanicals, adds great grip, and great tannins. There is a nice bit of vanilla and sharp woody spices, earl grey, clove, and licorice at the end, and something like anise. Really nice finish, intense, and smooth – and very easy to drink!

 A bit elegant, almost some earl grey in there at the end. I really like to sip this one – it is very moreish. I like to sip gins, but this one is unique – it’s one I’m often in the mood for unlike many gins, which are much more occasional. Makes a great pink gin, too.

A highlight in my exploration of Canadian gins. It’s an aged gin that reveals that these aged gins have some great potential.

Assessment: Very highly recommended.

Value: High. I have no problem laying down $45 for this, as someone who isn’t eager to spend too much on spirits - in fact, it will likely become a regular occurence.


Review: Parlour Gin (Eau Claire Distillery) by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Eau Claire (Turner Valley, Alberta)

This gin is made from Alberta grain and a mix of botanicals that include juniper, coriander, lemon, mint, rosehip, and saskatoon berries. The spirit base itself is the exact same as the single malt, which lends a rich grain character to the spirit - as the base is a malted barley whisky new make. I have a personal preference for gins with a grain characteristic, so this has me! The new make is macerated with the botanicals to impart flavour, and then re-distilled to lighten the spirit and bring out the desired flavour profile.

The gin uses saskatoon berries, a berry native to the prairies as a key flavouring components. Other botanicals include coriander, rosehip, coriander, lemon, orange, and mint.

The gin won the best London Dry Style of gin in Canada last year, and for good reason!


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 1821

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The nose is spicy with coriander, rose, fresh fennel, and a green set of spicy flavours – but also juniper and sharp, almost bitter baking spices. There is sharp lemon peel on the nose, too.  It has a really nice sweet grainy character to it which I quite like – I like gins which display a bit of the grain character underneath them. The finish is lightly spicy and sweet, with a terrific finish which is complex and holds floral, citrus, and spice characteristics in great balance – even a touch of toffee and the mint comes out nicely. A really complex, well balanced gin.

If you want to analyse this, I suggest that you do so first on its own and then compare it to some other gins in a flight, especially some lighter gins – it highlights the incredibly rich, farm character of the grain spirit behind the gin. Most excellent.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended. Very complex, very well balanced, and it has a nice bite to it. Another outstanding Canadian gin.


Review: Sheringham Akvavit by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
42%
Aging
None
Recipe
Spirit made with caraway, dill, angelica, star anise, lemon, and orris root
Distiller Sheringham Distillery (Sooke, British Columbia)

I hadn’t had much akvavit before, but I was rather curious after this took home the Canadian Artisinal Spirits Competition’s “Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year”. Akvavit is a grain spirit flavoured of dill or caraway, in this case both, but with a dose of kelp as well to give it a sense of belonging to Vancouver Island. Akvavit hails from Scandinavia, where it has been produced since the 15th century - and caraway is a magnificent spice, even if it isn’t used much in North America. I am rather fond of it, so it’s no suprise that I like this.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 1347

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

Brilliant herbal aromas full of caraway, dried dill, and sea salt but with an incredibly rich and buttery grain spirit behind. Caraway is in the centre of this, through and through – but there are other spices all around it. The palate is still full of caraway, but with a rich grainy character which carries the spice and provides a nice bite. There is a nice, soft, marine character throughout. The finish is slightly citrusy, with caraway, dried dill, and light baking spices. The best part, perhaps, is that the grain spirit characteristic is not lost on this.

This is just a terrific spirit – I haven’t had many akvavits (they are hard to find) but I’ll be on the lookout for more, although this one is really dialed in so I think it’s a pretty high benchmark. It isn’t as broadly complex as some spirits, but there is a real depth here.

Also, terrific for cocktails.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.


Review: Sheringham Kazuki Gin by Jason Hambrey

Sheringham+Kazuki+1.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
None
Recipe
Gin made with local and Japanese botanicals
Distiller Sheringham Distillery (Sooke, British Columbia)

Out in western Canada it seems these Japanese style gins are increasingly popular - this one made with cherry blossoms, green tea, and yuzu.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 1308

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose is pretty heavy, with deep citrus notes, citrusy spice (like coriander), green tea, cherries, and a heavy floral character. Despite all the floral characteristics, the nose is still a bit heavy with thick citrus notes, like the heavier side of lemon peel rather than the floral side. The palate is rich, with a light grain character, limestone, and a spicy and citrus-laden finish. There is a reasonable amount of grip on the palate, and the finish is biting and enduring. There is a really nice spicy finish which builds towards the end. It is very well balanced, through and through.

This plays out really well in cocktails with the central citrus character and balance - but especially those with an Asian influence.

Assessment: Recommended.


Review: Sheringham Seaside Gin by Jason Hambrey

Sheringham+Seaside+1.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
None
Recipe
Gin made with juniper, rose, coriander, kelp, lavender and citrus
Distiller Sheringham Distillery (Sooke, British Columbia)

This gin is quite well known in Canadian craft circles - made on Vancouver island with land and ocean botanicals, including local hand-harvested winged kelp which is a signature of most of Sheringham’s products. It definitely supports the coastal character implied by the label.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 1521

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose here is really nice, and rather unique – a very nice maritime influence, mixed forest (i.e. desiduous and evergreen), citrus, sea salt, mint, and rich spice – a nicely balanced, rich, and bright nose. The palate has a deep set of vegetal characteristics, but it also carries classic juniper woodiness and spice. I really like the subtle maritime character of the gin, and these seaweed gins tend to carry some nice intrigue and umami at their core. This is even a touch salty! And, it’s hard to deny the lavender edge throughout – it’s not at the centre, but at all the edges. Very nice gin.

Assessment: Highly Recommended.


Review: Steinhart Haskap Gin by Jason Hambrey

Steinhart+Haskap.jpg
ABV
47.5%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Steinhart (Arisaig, Nova Scotia)

Haskap berries are a new “superfood” and grow abundantly in Nova Scotia, having been heavily promoted in the last few years. Why not make a gin from them? Haskap berries are known by other names, like the honeyberry or blue-berried honeysuckle (they are in the honeysuckle family). As with all Steinhart gins, no artificial flavours or additives here.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Another rich, fruity, and spicy gin. The fruitiness is more like elderberry – rich and slightly tannic. Licorice notes, dried mixed berries, strawberry jam, marmalade, and the cinnamons which have more of a woody than a spicy characteristic. The palate is dense, and lightly sweet – with the rich berry notes, light bitterness (almost like clove) and a finish where cereal notes emerge alongside more rich dried berry. Throughout, there are light incense characteristics.

I haven’t tried haskap berries before – but this reminds me a fair bit of elderberry, and it’s rather nice. I suppose it’s not surprising – the berries are both in the honeysuckle family.

Assessment: Recommended. Very unique and well put together. It would mix well, with all the dense fruity and spicy flavours. In fact, a case could be made to use this as a Campari substitute in a “negroni”, with one part gin, one part this, and one part sweet vermouth – or even dry in this case.


Review: Steinhart Blueberry Gin by Jason Hambrey

Steinhart+Blueberry.jpg
ABV
47.5%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Steinhart (Arisaig, Nova Scotia)

Arisaig, where Steinhart distillery is located, is famous for its blueberries - some call it the blueberry capital of the world. Why not, then, make a gin with blueberries? This is made with local wild blueberries, not additives or colouring.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

A bit of a dark, rich earthy start – blueberry is indeed there, along with a rich spiciness and some pickled lemon. The nose is sweet, but quite spicy – in a woody sense, like nutmeg and cinnamon. It isn’t fruity in a bright fruity sense, but denser – like the dried flower, woody, and spicy notes in dried berries. The palate is fascinating, loaded with berry notes, juniper, lemon peel, and a rich berry, citrus, and spice finish. It is incredibly rich, and isn’t as sweet as you might expect – compared to most sweetened fruit gins. Terrific!

On another note, it’s made me see different sides to blueberries, which isn’t insignificant.

Assessment: Highly Recommended. This is really rich, unique, and tasty stuff. The bottle is beautiful, too.