Deep Cove Gin – Review

First off, I applaud people for having the tenacity to operate a distillery. I am so happy that there are more local craft distilleries popping up in British Columbia! Not as fast as craft breweries or cider houses, but definitely making a significant impact.

And then sometimes, you come across a craft brewery that wants to dip their toes into craft distilling. One example of this is Deep Cove Brewers & Distillers (another example of this is The Fermentorium – the distillery brain child behind Phillips Brewing in Victoria, BC). Some people would argue that just because someone knows how to make beer dDeep Cove Ginoes not mean they know how to make a good gin. Some people would argue that (craft) alcohol production is all the same thing….or is it? Would you trust a wine maker to produce a yummy beer? Would you go into a Scotch distillery expecting to find a good wine? Now, I’m certainly not against people trying their hand at it, or even bringing in a “resident expert” to produce under an already established name. That’s good marketing. But, is it good alcohol? Furthermore, in an increasing craft market, how does a company make something distinct enough to be remembered and yet still palatable?

Enter Deep Cove Gin. They named their gin “Oliver” because they added olives and rosemary into their production. It is common to find rosemary as a botanical, but far less common to find olives. Seems to fit, since a lot of Martinis come with olives as a garnish, or one can order a “dirty Martini”, which is a Martini with some olive brine in it.

The bottle smelled great but the straight up flavour on its own was overpowering. Definitely not a sipping gin. Would not go well in sweet cocktails, and much to my surprise, I also did not like it in a Caesar. I did however enjoy it in a Martini, and an Avocado Gimlet (see here for the recipe). I also wonder how different it would taste if I merely left olives and rosemary in some gin myself to infuse? I did not get a chance to try it with tonic water, so it could mix well into that. Overall, I was disappointed and perhaps I expected it to be more versatile than it was. It had a smooth body to it and little after burn.

I give it 2.5 stars

Even though I haven’t given it a high rating, I am still eager to try their vodka, their sweet tea vodka, and their whiskey. Some distillers are better at one spirit than others.


VCBW – An Insider’s Look

I have to admit, I was little sad that I didn’t make it to any of the Vancouver Craft Beer Week special tasting events. Had I been able to attend any of the special nights, I would have gone to the “Rookies vs. Legends” event, which compared 3 “Rookie” and “Legend” craft brewers side-by-side, and the “Cicerone vs. Sommelier” event, which compared a chef-prepared 3 course meal with suggested beer and wine pairings. At the end of the meal, the attendees got to vote on if the Cicerone or Sommelier “won” – that is, who chose the best food and beer/wine pairings.

Alas, I did make it to the grand tasting hall on the last day of the event, and seeing this was my 3rd or 4th time attending, I thought I would “give back” to the community by volunteering. This meant that for relinquishing 4 hours of my afternoon, I would get into the hall for free and be given 5 free tasting tokens (about a $40 ticket + token value; essentially the equivalent of working for minimum wage).

Volunteering to keep you hydrated!This was a fantastic deal to me, and my job was really easy. All I had to do was fill the water jugs outside of the brewer’s tasting stations (and occasionally, empty their slop bucket), and since the place was massively sized, my section was only about 12 brewers all in a row. It was really hot outside that day, but even still, people were not drinking all that much water. It was fun getting a chance to talk with the brewery reps – it made me happier to know which craft brewers were getting my money, and which ones I was less enthused about supporting based on our conversations throughout the day. One of the horrible head-shaking moments was watching one of the breweries get told to pack it up and leave because the VCBW staff caught the booth operators drinking on the job, not even an hour after the festival had opened. Since that compromises the event’s liquor license, they were sent home immediately.

VCBW mapThe only challenging part of this benevolent endeavour was, after my shift was finished, I only had under 2 hours to try all the breweries that I wanted to check out! I also bought some tokens, knowing I would run out of 5 tokens quickly, and a friend I ran into also gave me 2 of their tokens, so now I had 15 tokens to spend in record time. I’m not at all a fast beer drinker, and I didn’t have much food in me, but away I went! One token got you one 4 oz tasting glass, and drinking 60 oz or 3-4 pints in such a short amount of time was asking for trouble!

I prioritized trying beers from breweries that we carried at the liquor store I work at, as well as other ones I just wanted to try. I did stop half way through to eat from one of the food trucks, and thankfully, the wait for my order was not very long. I wouldn’t have been so adamant to spend all my tokens, except that last year, we were allowed to cash in any unspent tokens. This year, they told us we could only use our previous years’ tokens the following year. I became so determined to spend all my tokens and TRY ALL THE BEERS that I ended up dumping half my taster glasses in the slop buckets. This filled me with some shame of wasting beer, but I needed to preserve my brain cells for the hot bus ride home.

Of the many beers I tried, none of them were particularly outstanding, but they were all above average in tastiness. I would definitely try them all again, and keep my eyes peeled for more styles from the same breweries.

My “local” brewery recommendations to check out:

1) Category 12 Brewing (Victoria, BC): The brewmaster has a PhD in microbiology and biochemistry and makes some yummy beers. I recommend trying the Insubordinate Session IPA or the Disruption Black IPA.

2) Dageraad Brewing (Vancouver/Burnaby, BC): Fantastic Belgian-style beer, made locally! I recommend the De Witte, if it’s still being made. It’s a wheat beer brewed with passionfruit, which is only noticeable in its finish. Very refreshing and not overbearing on the Belgian yeast flavour. The first one I had ever was their Amber, which was tastier than most amber beers I’ve had.

3) Tofino Brewing (Tofino/West Coast Vancouver Island, BC): I have never had a beer from Tofino Brewing that I didn’t like. Their smaller facility forces them to be more choosy on what they produce. Their year-round beers comprise a blonde ale, an IPA, and a pale ale, but if you can get your hands on one of their seasonals, I highly recommend their stout and spruce tips pale ale.

Best part about volunteering: the volunteer appreciation party in a couple months. Free and we can bring a friend for the all-you-can-drink extravaganza! I hope to be able to return to volunteering from them again next year and get a chance to check out their other events during the week.

Vancouver Tequila Expo 2015 (A Comprehensive Tequila Review)

Getting the chance to go to the Vancouver Tequila Expo was a treat! No tokens required as a trades person, we were able to try as many samples as we wanted. My only complaint was that the many food stations which were free for the general public, since we were not the “general public” and were being kicked out when they were to arrive, the food stations largely had not opened yet, and therefore, I was more drunk that I had cared to be at that time. Which resulted in me texting my partner for some “emergency sushi” (is there any other kind?). ;)

If you don’t know much about tequila, here is some information to serve as a crash course on what you need to know:

  • Good tequila should be made from 100% blue agave. The cheaper tequilas that we over did in our youth were likely only 51% blue agave. If your stomach wretches at the thought of Jose Cuervo or Sauza, there is good reason for that; it’s not pure. Careful when you do your research; some tequila will state it uses “100% agave” which is not the same as “100% blue agave”.
  • Tequila usually comes 3-4 varieties: blanco (white, aged less than 3 months), reposado (pale yellow/beige, aged 3-12 months), anejo (darker yellow, aged at least 12 months), extra anejo (darkest yellow, aged at least 36 months). Stay away from any variety labelled “Gold”; it means that food colouring was added to a blanco to get you to think it’s a reposado/anejo.
  • Since all tequila has to be 100% blue agave, the major variance in flavour is going to come from: where the agave was grown and its terroir, how much of it was produced at a time, and what type of barrels was in aged in. While all tequila is aged in oak barrels, some of them are aged in virgin oak barrels; whereas some acquire used casks which had previously aged wine, rum, Bourbon, or Scotch whisky.
  • Tequila is a type of mezcal, but not the other way around. Tequila is a city in the state of Jalisco in Mexico and is used to denote a particular region (sort of like how Champagne is from Champagne in France). The major difference in flavour is that mezcal is smokier and more complex than tequila and is made by combining agave and maguey plants, not just blue agave. They are also known to include various spices and fruits in the distillation process. Mezcal is produced in the state of Oaxaca, and is also commonly produced in a single village, which can make for some high bottle prices.

And now, onto the tequila (and mezcal) reviews!

Hornitos Black Barrel: I was a little uncertain as to whether I would enjoy thHornitos Black Barrele top shelf of Sauza because Sauza is awful but, the Hornitos Reposado was decent. I gave the Black Barrel a try and was pleasantly surprised. It lends its complexity to aging it in a Scotch barrel.
Definitely had a little bite and smokiness in the finish. While the rep did not disclose which Scotch distillery’s barrel was used, it does mean that the tequila would actually be the third spirit in the barrel, since the Scotch distillery would have obtained it from a rum or Bourbon distillery first. Sauza is a tequila subsidiary owned by Beam Suntory Holdings, the #3 top-selling spirits producer in the world, which means that barrels can go back-and-forth between distilleries; the profit still goes to the same company in the end.

Blue Hour: I triedIMG_20150530_164115 their Reposado and their Anejo, both of which were intensely tasty. They disclosed that they are currently aging their tequila in barrels obtained from the Knob Creek Bourbon distillery. The rep was a little nervous giving me that information, simply because he believed that their barrel source may soon be changing. Blue Hour is owned by the Don Good Tequila Company, a Canadian-owned company operating out of Jalisco, Mexico. The company has only been known to produce tequila.IMG_20150530_164436

Herradura Reposado: This is the top shelf production line of the same company which produces El Jimador. The tequila was nice and smooth; cheap enough to mix and delicious enough to enjoy straight. Herradura is owned by Brown-Forman, a US-based spirits producer which owns Jack Daniels (Tennessee Whisky), Woodford Reserve (Bourbon), and several other big name spirits brands.

Asombroso: IMG_20150530_170739These were definitely unique tequilas. Their reposado is aged in Bordeaux red wine casks for 3 months, and their anejo is aged 5 years in French virgin oak barrels. The reposado definitely carried a fruitier flavour than I would typically attribute to a tequila, and the anejo was robust and caramel-like. Their bottles are quite pretty, especially the reposado with its hand-painted like detail. Asombroso is family owned and operated in the US and only produces tequila. The high label price seems to support this notion.

Dulce Vida: I managed to try the reposado, anejo, and extra anejo. These were all fantastic, especially the extra anejo. This distillery is one of few who claims to producIMG_20150530_171317Organic tequila and that their agave harvesting is sustainable to the environment. All of their tequilas were very smooth and simple. Not very intense and all lightly sweet in flavour. They age their reposado and anejo in Bourbon barrels (cannot remember if it was from Jack Daniels or Jim Beam) and they age their extra anejo in barrels from a Napa Valley winery.

Agave Underground: Definitely gets points for having the coolest bottle toppers. TIMG_20150530_171743ried their reposado and anejo and both were nice and smooth with a nice little bite at the finish.  They age their tequila in Jack Daniels barrels and make this information public on their website. The company is a small batch producer and makes only tequila.

Del Maguey: This company produces several single village mezcals. I tried all three thIMG_20150530_172416ey had at the show; the Vida San Luis del Rio, the Chichicapa, and the Minero – Santa Catarina Minas. The San Luis del Rio is considered their “entry level” mezcal, as it’s priced less than $100.  It had a light body and light smokiness to it. The Chichicapa was far more smokier but still had a light to medium body to it. The Santa Catarina Minas was definitely my favourite; was a little less smoky than the Chichicapa but had a nice full bodied sweetness in the background that made it exquisite to sip.

Clase Azul: Again, some of the most stunning boIMG_20150530_173435ttles I have ever seen. The reposado was definitely memorable, very nice and smooth and not too sweet. They age their tequila in virgin oak barrels. The anejo was also quite good, but I found the reposado more memorable. Casa Tradicion is the Mexico-based company which produces the tequila using organically grown agave, yet they do not label their tequila as being organic.

Alipus Mezcal: This mezcal is also single village origin. At this poinIMG_20150530_175129t, my ethanol to food ratio was too great for me to remember if I liked it. I know I didn’t dislike it! Perhaps I only have fonder memories of Del Maguey because their bottles stood out more. I believe I only tried one, but that detail is hazy!

T1 Tequila Uno: Tried their reposado and anejoIMG_20150530_180212. Both tasted sweet and pleasant, but nothing outstanding. The higher price tag is likely related to the company being family owned and operated, creating small batches of their spirits. Certainly a sipping tequila.

Gran Cava de Oro: Aged in French white oak barrels definitely lent some coIMG_20150530_180734mplexity to the flavour. Both the reposado and anejo were sweet and pleasant to drink. Their reposado is aged for 6 months, and their anejo is aged for 2 years. Their extra anejo is aged 5 years, but I did not get a chance to try it.



Links for further reading:
– Hornitos Tequila
Blue Hour Tequila
Herradura Tequila
Asombroso Tequila
Dulce Vida Organic Tequila
Agave Underground
Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal
Clase Azul Tequila
Lorenz Agave Spirits importer – Alipus Mezcal
T1 Tequila Uno
Gran Cava de Oro
Tequila on Wikipedia
Mezcal on Wikipedia