Gin

Review: Newfoundland Seaweed Gin by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
None
Recipe
Spirit, Dulse Seaweed, Juniper, and Savoury
Distiller Newfoundland Distillery (Clarke's Beach, Newfoundland)

Newfoundland Distillery produces two gins, one focused on cloudberry (an inland flavor) and this one, focused on dulse seaweed (a maritime flavor) with some savoury and juniper as well. You often see gin loaded with multiple ingredients, but this is just about three simple and deep flavours.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

This is fairly marine in character, with sea-spray, sweet and oily grain spirit, and some juniper in the background. It’s probably the gin with the most seaside character that I’ve ever tasted – quite remarkable. It’s slightly sweet on the palate, and has a nice honeycomb character as well as a nice, delicate woodiness. The savoury is perfect, here. Spices come through quite richly at the end – slightly bitter spices like clove, with a light drying nature. It works a nice trick! Caramel comes through at the end too.

Works really well in cocktails, especially lighter gin cocktails where the marine character really pops (like, for instance, a cocktail made with basil, elderflower, soda, and a bit of lime).

Assessment: Highly recommended.

Value: High, if you like premium gins. $35 isn’t bad for that.


Review: Newfoundland Cloudberry Gin by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
None
Recipe
Spirit, Cloudberry, Juniper, and Savoury
Distiller Newfoundland Distillery (Clarke's Beach, Newfoundland)

If you notice, most of Newfoundland’s products are centred around three ingredients, often with one local and unique ingredient - roses and kelp (their Rose & Gunpower rum), chaga mushrooms (their Chaga rum), dulse seaweed (their seaweed gin), or - in this case - cloudberries. Cloudberries grow in Newfoundland, and taste (I’m told) similar to a blackberry or raspberry and are a big delicacy in Scandinavia and fetch high prices. However, they aren’t widely cultivated. This gin is made with just three botanicals - juniper, savoury, and cloudberry. It’s rare to see a “bridge” in gin between the juniper and the brighter fruit character other than coriander, but savoury plays a really nice trick and it’s a very different play on traditional gin.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

There is a real woody-juniper nature to this one, reminding me more of juniper wood than the berries themselves. Big herbal characters blend into woody juniper and dense, dried mixed berry notes. Simple, clean, balanced, and elegant. Very well put together, and I like how the grain character comes through but it’s still a very clean spirit and I like the centrality of the herbal notes here – many gins are focused on citrus, spice, or juniper and not many venture this far into the herbal side of things. Savoury, also, is one of my favourite herbs…

The finish carries the herbal notes quite nicely, along with a bit more intense wood.rit.

Assessment: Highly recommended.

Value: High, if you like premium gins. $35 isn’t bad for that.


Review: Willibald Pink Gin by Jason Hambrey

Willibald+Pink+Gin+2.jpg
ABV
38.3%
Aging
Merlot and Pinot Noir Wine Casks; 1 year
Recipe
Triple distilled corn, rye, and barley with 6 botanicals
Distiller Willibald (Ayr, Ontario)

Another aged gin from Willibald, but with a bit of a different take than their big, oaky, and spicy new-oak aged gin. This is a slightly different formulation, with a bit less caraway and cardamom so that the fruit and floral notes from the wine cask wouldn’t get lost. The wine casks are sourced mainly from Palantine Hills - the gin also has a bit of honey (from the Willibald farm) added to it to round out the drink and give a slight sweetness.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Awesome! Nice licorice notes, intense juniper, baked arugula, berries, wildflower honey, and light oxidized wine. Not as oaky or quite as big as Willibald’s typical gin, but it still has the big spicy richness. The wine character is there, but it’s light. Slightly sweet on the palate, resulting in a bit of a different experience – and perhaps one which makes it even more drinkable: it is relatively soft, complex, and lightly sweet with more subtlety rather than big and bold, like the usual Willibald gin which is big, oaky, spicy, and rich. It is very much in the Willibald “family” (which I always appreciate from a brand) but it is a very different take, and a very good one. Worth a try, especially if you like bigger gins. Great on ice, too.

It isn’t as versatile as some gins in cocktails due to its bold character, which is fine because I think this is best drunk neat or a little chilled. Interestingly enough, if it’s too chilled I find the wine character dominates. Both Willibald gins have some of the best reception of any gins that I pour during whisky tastings to whisky enthusiasts and connoisseurs.

Assessment: Very highly recommended.

Value: High. I have no problem laying down $40 for this, as someone who isn’t eager to spend too much on spirits - in fact, it will likely become a regular occurrence.


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

Willibald+1.jpg
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

Parlour+Gin+2.jpg
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

Sheringham+Akvavit+1.jpg
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.