Rum

Review: Gosling's Black Seal Bermuda Rum 151 Proof by Jason Hambrey

Gosling's Black Seal 2.jpg
ABV
75.5%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
From Molasses
Distiller Gosling's (Bermuda)

Gosling’s is iconic in particular for its part in the Dark N’ Stormy cocktail, a mixture of ginger beer, lime, and rum. The cocktail name, indeed, is trademarked by Gosling’s and the two have become synonimous.

This one packs a punch at 75.5%, but I like it more in a dark and stormy since you only need an oz, instead of two, which means more bubbles from the ginger beer since you aren’t adding as much non-bubbly liquid to it.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

 The nose feels very “generic” from a rum sense: white sugar, molasses, baking spice, orange peel, licorice root, and clove. The palate is clean, lightly sweet and a bit cloying. It is surprisingly light, perhaps so because of the artificially-enhanced colour. The finish is light with molasses and light baking spice.

While I like overproof rums quite a bit, this one doesn’t have the richness to match the proof and I end up just watering it down if I’m drinking it neat. You lose a bit of the finish with water but overall it tastes better. With ice, it narrows a bit on molasses and rich spice with a great spice – perhaps why it shines so well in cocktails.

A pretty flat rum. It isn’t really made for sipping the way I like to analyse spirits – on their own and neat. However, it’s hard to shy away from the fact that there is a reason this is so synonymous with the dark & stormy cocktail: few rums do it better. It marries perfectly with the lime and ginger. And that’s how I’ll drink my bottle of this…

Value: Good if you like dark and stormys or similar rum cocktails. Not much going on though if you drink this one differently…


A few favourites from 2021 by Jason Hambrey

Well, it hasn’t been a huge Canadian whisky start to 2021 – from what I’ve tasted. Since January, I haven’t had too many new Canadian whiskies that really stood apart, but I’ve had a number of other spirits that are worth mentioning. Here are my top 2 in a few categories (all Canadian) that I’ve tasted this year.

Whisky

Well, we might as well start with whisky. My first notable whisky this year is from Two Brewers Batch 25 – they don’t make any whisky that is bad. In my book, Two Brewers and Shelter Point are the only small distillery so far to challenge the best of the large producers from a quality perspective (there are a few others on the cusp). Batch 25 is a peated single malt loaded with tropical fruit notes. While excellent, it’s still below average from them!

The other memorable whisky for me this year comes from the Liberty Distillery in Vancouver. Their Trust Single Grain is made from unmalted barley and has a creamy character with a really nice balance of grain and fruit notes.

I had a few other good whiskies (Scotch/bourbons) but we’re all about Canadian-made on Canada day!

Honey Spirits

The two most exciting discoveries for me this year have been aged honey spirits. They are incredible complex, rich, interesting, and different. I highly recommend trying any that are available to you. Despite all the good whisky I’ve had this year, these have been far more memorable and exciting in the past year.

Burwood make a few different honey spirits, and I recently tried and loved their single hive (rye whisky cask). But, they make others – I’d try any of their aged honey spirits – their “single hive” or their “honey rum” (if you can find it) which is made from the intense caramelized honey stuck on spent beehives.

Wayward Distillery’s Drunken Hive Rum is also excellent, and makes the list too.

Gin

It’s hard to narrow to just two gins here, but two have stood above the rest. The first is St. Laurent’s Gin Citrus, a gin that has captured the essence of fresh citrus more genuinely and intensely than any other gin I’ve had. It’s made with multiple citrus fruits and is vacuum distilled to ensure that the fresh character of the citrus is captured without cooking any of the peels.

The other gin that’s really stood out to me is Confluence Distilling’s Pink Gin. The reason it stood out is because it is so similar to your classic recipes but makes small, and impressive, steps into unknown territory – grapefruit instead of lemon, red chilli peppers instead of black pepper, and chamomile to bring it all together. It holds lots of suprises while remaining true to the gin theme.

Ok, I can’t quite stick with two. Two honorable mentions are well deserved for the woody Stump Coastal Forest Gin from Phillips Fermentorium and the rich character of the colour-changing Gin Royal from compass distillers.

Vodka

Some pandemic-inspired cocktail research has made me discover vodka in some new ways in the past few months. While I don’t appreciate them as “sippers” I do appreciate them. Served in the right ways, they can really be an experience. Two vodkas really impressed me so far this year – the first a very flavourful vodka made from corn, rye, and barley coming from Willibald Distillery. It’s buttery, clean, with some nice berry notes.

The second really impressive vodka comes from Lone Pine Distilling in Edmonton – one of the best vodkas I’ve tasted. Their parkland wheat vodka (review coming soon) has an incredible long, creamy finish while displaying an incredible complex and subtle grain character throughout. It is very impressive.

Other spirits

One of my favourite spirits this year so far has been a Sons of Vancouver Barrel-Aged Amaretto that has been partially aged in Westland whisky casks. It has an incredible fruit character with all the barrel-aged goodness and complexity you could hope for in a spirit.

Dragon Mist Distillery also makes a Baijiu – an aged earthy, grainy white spirit originating and widely consumed in China. I don’t have much experience with Baijiu, but the spirit is just so interesting and deep that I can’t stop talking about it.

And of course, I do love a good aquavit, a Nordic spirit flavoured with fennel, anise, and/or caraway. Confluence makes a flavourful, balanced, and powerful one that I love (Vinland Aquavit). It certainly belongs on this list.

My Top Two

Of all these, my top two spirits are Burwood’s Single Hive and the Sons of Vancouver barrel aged amaretto, although the St. Laurent Gin Citrus and Confluence’s Pink Gin made me pause. They aren’t whiskies, but fall is really the time for whisky (and things would be different if we had a stronger Two Brewers release).

Review: Rapture of the Deep Dark Molasses Moonshine by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Still Fired Distilleries.

ABV
45%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Distilled from fancy molasses and sugar and infused with spices
Distiller Still Fired (Annapolis Royal, NS)

This is made from a mash of fancy molasses and organic cane sugar, distilled and then infused with molasses, maple syrup, vanilla, and coffee from the local roaster Sissiboo. In this way, it is quite similar to Still Fired’s Diver’s Envy spiced molasses moonshine but with different components added. These components give a richer, deeper character than the other moonshine products made at the distillery. It is infused and mellowed for two months, and designed to be sipped over ice or mixed.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Sweeter and richer than Diver’s envy, but still very spice-dominated. Maple syrup, coffee, cinnamon, nutmeg, and rich molasses combine with some bright berry notes from the moonshine. It really isn’t in a dark rum category, flavor-wise, but more in a rich spiced rum category. And not a vague, commercial concoction of flavours – this one has sharp, clear cut and identifiable flavours.

Works very nicely as a mixer, especially for someone like me that likes a good amount of spice to come through on a lot of my cocktails. Very enjoyable!


Review: Diver's Envy Spiced Molasses Moonshine by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Still Fired Distilleries.

Image courtesy of Still Fired Distilleries.

ABV
45%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Distilled from fancy molasses and sugar and infused with spices
Distiller Still Fired (Annapolis Royal, NS)

This is made from a mash of fancy molasses and organic cane sugar, distilled and then infused with clove, cinnamon, vanilla, and coffee from the local roaster Sissiboo. It is infused and mellowed for two months, and designed to be sipped over ice or mixed (as wiht most spiced rums).


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The spices lead, and dominate, on this one. It’s rich in baking spices and it’s hard not to think of nutmeg. Sweet cinnamon and vanilla create bright top notes, with light sweet rum notes in the middle and  supplemented by the dark richness of coffee and clove underneath.

This is a nice alternative to sweeter spiced rums which can feel very artificial – this one is big, spicy, and still fairly light.


Review: Three Sheets to the Wind White Molasses Moonshine by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Still Fired Distilleries.

Image courtesy of Still Fired Distilleries.

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Distilled from fancy molasses and sugar
Distiller Still Fired (Annapolis Royal, NS)

This is made from Crosby’s fancy molasses and sugar, and distilled through the first still designed and built in Nova Scotia, Kirby (well, the first legal one…). The moonshine is mellowed for 8 months in stainless steel tanks before bottling, a technique often used by wine and spirits producers to soften and mellow their products. This prevents the moonshine from tasting like something that might “melt your face off”, in the words of one of the founders of Still Fired, Andrew Cameron.

I do quite like good white rums, and it’s nice to see these sorts of products being produced across Canada (although, there still aren’t enough in my opinion!).


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The nose is light and nutty, with some great classic white rum notes – blueberry, coconut, white pepper – and even some sweet jammy notes combined with peppery spices. The palate is subtle and easy, lightly fruity, and lightly spicy without any roughness. Molasses comes through in a slight flourish toward a clean finish.

This is just the sort of thing I look for in a lighter white rum – light and subtle while playing up fruity and spicy notes. And it’s very clean, too, which makes it mix very well. Excellent in a mojito.

Recommended.