Review: Late-Harvest Vidal Vesper (Barchef Project) / by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Barchef

Image courtesy of Barchef

Custom Gin, Bitters, Late-Harvest Vidal
Producer BarChef (Toronto, ON) & Still Waters (Concord, ON)

One of my favourite things about my most beloved spirit, whisky, is that it presents an almost-endless complexity alongside delicious flavours without the need for anything other than a glass. The best cocktails are the same, however, they often require a fair diligent work and the best ingredients. Pre-made cocktails generally don’t even approach the arena where the top echelons of beverages reside. BUT - there are a few exceptions to this, notably, the Barchef Project.

In 2017, BarChef created a Toasted-Chamomile Old Fashioned, a bottled old fashioned that will likely trump every old fashioned you’ve ever tasted in a bar. The products coming from one of the best cocktail bars in the world are certainly in a category of their own when compared to the bottom-shelf mixers and pre-made cocktails currently on the market.

This late-harvest vesper is the second cocktail released as part of the “Barchef project”. It presents a clever take on the classic Vesper cocktail by using late-harvest vidal in place of the typical Lillet Blanc. But, if you know anything about Barchef, you’ll know nothing is that simple: this featured gin which is custom-distilled gin through hand-harvested spruce tips,

The cocktail is also vintage-dated, a nice touch that I certainly enjoy (along with other cocktail enthusiasts).

I trust the quality of Barchef to the extent that I’d recommend their products without even trying them (rare for me), but, I must caveat - these are all dangerously drinkable.

Review (2020)

  • Batch: 2019 vintage

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

The nose offers forward notes of juniper and spruce, but this is full of everything else you might want in a gin cocktail – spice, woody notes, fruit, and lots of spice – with a really great flourish of floral, spicy, and light mineral notes on the end. The vidal comes out, with nice clarity, on the finish. The texture of the cocktail is terrific.

I’m not much of a Vesper man but I’d take one of these any day.

This is a nice addition to the Barchef “lineup” – a lighter, gin forward cocktail as opposed to the richer whisky-based old fashioned. They both have fantastic finishes that beg another sip. I love cocktails like that.

Assessment: Very highly recommended.

Not convinced? See Blair’s article at