Legend Distilling – Full Line Review

Legend Distilling is a new distillery that opened in the Okanagan in July 2014. They are located in Naramata (near Penticton), a region more well-known in British Columbia for its vineyards than it is for its distilleries. According to an article about the distillery though, this was done somewhat intentionally. Why do what everyone else in the region is doing? Good point.

Their line is quite impressive: they are producing a vodka, gin, 3 fruit-infused vodkas, a coffee liqueur, and a special edition gin. All within their first year of distilling! Grabbing the bull by the horns, here is my review of their individual products and line as a whole.

Starting with their “Shadow in the Lake” vodka, smelled like vanilla, tasted like vanilla, smooth texture, medium bodied, not too sweet or complex, with only a slight eLegend Distilling Linethanol taste to it (not enough to be undesirable, did not affect the flavour). Definitely worth drinking straight, perhaps neat or use a big ol’ oversized ice cube, like in an Old Fashioned.

Next up, their “Doctor’s Orders” gin, smells lightly like citrus with strong juniper notes, tastes like juniper, lavender, and something green! Potent but not overpowering, and not one botanical stands out. Their website lists “lavender, elderberry, mint and apple” as their botanicals. I didn’t taste the mint, though it did leave a cool little tingle on my tongue. Would love to try this in a martini, or mixed in a cucumber-mint tonic water (Phillips Brewing has another project called The Fermentorium and makes assorted tonic water flavours).

The Slowpoke vodkas come in 3 flavours: Okanagan Apricot, Rhubarb and Honey, and Naramata Sour Cherry. The rep told me that their Apricot one sells the best, but my store staff and I agreed that the Naramata Sour Cherry was the best. Perhaps because it had the strongest flavour. The flavours were nice, not too sweet and have natural flavours from the fruit grown locally.
My criticism of the flavoured vodkas is this: if I’m going to pay $30+ dollars for a 500 ml bottle, I’m going to by mighty upset that it’s only 23-25% ABV. Not simply because it’s a low alcohol percentage (for a spirit), but because that price is paying for a product that’s 75% water. All spirits yield a distillate in the high 90% ABV range, and subsequently get watered down to a suitable percentage (Popular Mechanics magazine does a really good job of explaining how distilling works). I understand that these were not created to be spirits mixed into cocktails necessarily, but they taste watered down. In my opinion, they would work better either as 40% ABV vodkas or sell them as vodka coolers.

The Blasted Brew coffee liqueur was quite tasty! Made from cold brewed coffee grown in the region, and tasted like coffee and vanilla. Again though, similar to the Slowpoke, I found it to taste a bit watered down. I liked that it wasn’t overly sweet or cheap tasting, and would still likely buy it in place of Kahlua/Tia Maria.

Last but not least, my favourite of the whole lot, the Defender Island gin. There’s no link to this yet because the first shipment is being sent to stores tomorrow; we got to try it from their sales rep. The key botanicals they added to their Doctor’s Orders gin that made this stand out is wild sage brush and smoked rosemary. When I asked the rep how the rosemary was smoked, he said that it was “roasted with a butane torch and then put on the BBQ with the lid closed!” The smokiness reminds me of a peated Scotch; not quite the same kind of smokiness but strong and similarly polarizing, either people will love it or hate it. Definitely a sipping gin.

Overall review of their line: I like their straight up vodka and gin, and love their special release gin. Was not too impressed with their Slowpoke or Blasted Brew. I like that they have a lot to choose from but too many choices means that less time can be devoted to perfecting a few things before moving forward. My hands-down favourite part of their line though, that completely sets them apart from their competition, is that they will be selling their teeny 50 ml bottles in stores. No better way to sample a $40+ bottle than by trying a teeny bottle! Especially considering that the distillery is a 6-hour drive from Vancouver, not many people will be hitting the tasting lounge soon, unless they are on a Naramata Bench wineries tour. I hope to have some of those teeny bottles in my stocking for Christmas this year. ;)

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Unruly Gin and Vodka Reviews – Wayward Distillation House

With the influx of new craft distilleries opening up in British Columbia, it’s difficult to create a product that’s going to be yummy and distinct. Enter Wayward Distillation House from Courtenay, BC (on Vancouver Island). Another distillery which opened up last year and managed to snag the 1st and 2nd place titles in the BC Distilled competition for 2015 in the “Favourite New Vodka” and Gin categories, respectively.

What sets them apart from their competition? They obtain their neutral base spirit from honey, rather than from a grain. Perhaps you are thinking the same thing that I first thought: “doesn’t that mean they are making MEAD?” Why YES, yes it does! And then they distill the mead to make their base and turn it into vodka and gin! Doesn’t that sound delicious?! I sincerely hope that there’s an American-style whiskey up their sleeve because that would be fantastic with a honey distilled spirit base. Unruly Vodka & Gin

The vodka smells sweet and pleasant, tastes smooth with light sweetness, has a full body, and a light finish.

The gin smells like juniper and pine, tastes like a London Dry to start but leaves behind a woodsy mouth feel. The distillers note that their botanical blend has “complimented its juniper with a hint of cedar and citrus, a dash of fragrant lavender and sarsaparilla root, and the vibrant notes of coriander.” (Wayward Distillation House – Spirits page)

Both their vodka and gin are well balanced; neither one of them has a particularly dominant flavour, and are fantastic sipping spirits. I would not want to obscure their flavour in a cocktail with too much sugar, but would be curious how they would fare in a Vesper, since it calls for both vodka and gin. Combining the two together on their own in my taster glass is magnificent! The distillers suggest drinking the vodka neat, and drinking the gin in a martini.

Sons of Vancouver – Amaretto Review

Sons of Vancouver is a new distillery operating out of North Vancouver. They opened on March 14, 2015 and have been enjoying immediate success. They won the Best of BC Distilled competition for this year in the “Favourite Spirits/Liqueur” category for their Amaretto, and both of their vodkas came in second and third place in the “Favourite Vodka” category.

LOVE Amaretto. I wrote a blog post earlier this year about making a saffron Amaretto sour. With the Sons of Vancouver Amaretto though, you won’t need to add any flavoured syrups, because this flavour is so outstanding on its own. I think I just want to drink it straight until the bottle is gone, and then cry about I can’t just live at the distillery. Yes, it’s THAT good!!

The label tells us that it’s crafted from apricot kernels, Bourbon vanilla beans, and No. 82 Amaretto label from behindorange peel. Then later, gets sweetened with Demerera sugar and BC blackberry honey to round out the flavour. Oddly enough, there does not appear to be any almonds in it. Upon some further research however, it turns out that a lot Amaretto (e.g. DiSaronno) does not have almonds in it, despite it being an “almond liqueur”. Guess it’s easier to make almond liqueur sound more appetizing than apricot pit liqueur? And yet, some distillers do add bitter almonds or sweet almonds into the distillation process. The Spirit of BC‘s review indicates that the distillers wanted to emphasize using only local ingredients; so perhaps, using imported almonds would not fit the bill? Makes me wonder they got their Bourbon vanilla beans then, as those tend to be from Madagascar!

No. 82 AmarettoThe front of the bottle says “No. 82” Amaretto, and according to The Spirit of BC’s review, this is because they made 81 batches of Amaretto before they reached the flavour they were the most satisfied with. Well, I gotta say, it shows! This Amaretto is not only the best I have ever tasted, but it’s distilled locally too, and I <3 supporting local distillers, whenever possible.

So, how does it taste? It smells like vanilla, honey, and mildly like root beer. It tastes strongly vanilla, and has a wonderful nutty roundness to it. The finish is sweet and not strong in alcohol flavour. At 26% ABV, it’s not surprising, and falls in line with their competition. The honey and Demerera sugar give it a nice, syrupy thickness to it, but it doesn’t taste overpowering or cheap. I would much prefer this in a latte over almond syrup, any day!

 

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.