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Black Fox Gin #3

Review: Black Fox Gin #3   (83/100)
Reviewed by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted January 10, 2020

Founders John Cote and Barb Stefanyshyn-Cote

Black Fox Distillery (located at 245 Valley Road Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) was founded by John Cote and Barb Stefanyshyn-Cote, two third generation farmers who have farmed, studied, consulted and participated in agriculture on five different continents.

John told me that their distillery is a bit different from most of the others in the area as John and Barb ferment, distill and age all of their spirits right there at the distillery. According to John, in Saskatchewan approximately 90% of craft distilled products are coming from NGS (nuetral grain spirit) purchased from large manufactures. Black Fox Distillery is trying to show the world that there should be a bit more craft in craft spirits.

Each of their products attempts to demonstrate the intensity of the flavours of ingredients they grow, not just at the distillery farm, but also on the Canadian prairies. They grow as many of their own ingredients as possible, from grain to honey fruit and flowers showcasing their terroir as both a physical location as well as the agronomics of the grains and fruits produced.

This of course brings us to Black Fox Gin #3.

Black Fox Gins are numbered because they are hand crafted in single batches. Each time, depending on the ingredients John and Barb have in their fields, the batch will be little bit different than the last one. In the case of Black Fox Gin #3, it is constructed from a recipe of 15 different spices and flowers which includes Calendula flowers and rhubarb grown on the distillery farm. Triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye) distillate is used as the base spirit. Based upon their 3rd recipe or batch for this particular gin, Black Fox Gin #3 is meant to be a traditional gin with the juniper reined in a little so as to be a little softer than a London Dry style. The spirit is bottled at 42 % abv.

I served Black Fox Gin #3 at a tasting event I held for my friends, and some of the commentary included in the review includes their thoughts as well as my own.

In the Bottle  5/5

I pretty much fell in love with the Black Fox Gin #3 bottle as soon as I saw it. The bottle follows the bartender’s creed of being easy to store (the stubbly bottle is stable with a round shape that rests easily on any bartender’s shelf); easy to hold (the round cylindrical bottle is not too wide for the average person’s hand); and easy to pour (the glass stopper comes out easily and the long neck helps us avoid spilling).

Although you cannot see the glass stopper in this photograph (you can see it in the cocktail photo below), it is a wonderful touch. Too many spirit manufacturers use poor quality corks which can break down when they get soaked with spirit, or even worse dry out in our prairie climate to the point that they crumble when one tries to unseal the bottle. The glass stopper is a much better closure.

As you can see the graphics are stunning, and the gin is even labeled as a dry gin so as to give the potential consumer some indication of the style.

In the Glass 8/10

Black Fox Gin #3 is clear in the glass with subdued notes of juniper and coriander/cardamom rising into the breezes. The gin has a light floral quality which may be indicative of the Calendula flowers although with fifteen botanicals in all we well may have other botanicals contributing. I also notice both dark and red red licorice in the breezes. Again I am not sure but perhaps the rhubarb is responsible in some way for what I perceive to be red licorice.

As I was nosing the glass, I found myself wishing for just a little more bright citrus. I also noticed a light lemony vegetal tone in the breezes indicative of a more flavourful base spirit. I guess I’ll have to see how this plays out when I sip and make cocktails.

In the Mouth 50/60

As indicated by the information given to me by the distillery, the juniper is indeed reined in a little, allowing a floral presence to have more expression. There is some spiciness is present, as well as some licorice in the flavour profile. There is a lot more going on, but teasing out individual flavours from a mix of 15 botanicals is not necessarily an easy task.

I served Black Fox Gin at a tasting event I held for my friends, and I had each of my friends write up brief tasting notes. After the event I went over the notes to see how everything compared. A few comments jumped out as they were included on everyone’s tasting sheet. The gin was considered floral by everyone, and this floral character was soft rather than penetrating which was generally pleasing to all. Everyone also commented on a vegetal quality they could taste within the spirit. Descriptors like ‘bruised cucumber’, ‘zucchini’, and ‘squash’, were used to try to convey the flavour they were encountering. I believe it was the underlying triticale spirit they were encountering, distilled but not refined to the level where all of the heavy esters had been removed (that is a guess).

Regardless of where this vegetal flavour was coming from, everyone thought that this vegetal characteristic was taking more away from the gin than what it was adding (at least at this point in the tasting).

As a spirit to sip, I would say we were not convinced the Black Fox #3 was a great place to start. However, my friends and I were pulled in another direction when we decided to mix a cocktail. The Black Fox Distillery had sent a variety of Tonic Waters from a company called Lixir to mix with their gin, and I randomly chose the Lixir Rhubarb and Ginger Tonic. I added a cucumber and some lime to the tall drink and served it to my friends.

Basically, this was a ‘Wow!’ moment. This spirit which to this point been not been enthusiastically received was suddenly the star of the tasting. One of my friends said,

“You could serve this at any high end bar or restaurant, and people would flock there!”

I pretty much much agreed, the flavour profile of the Black Fox #3 which seemed, if I am honest, somewhat confusing with 15 botanicals and only a soft floral direction, was ideally suited for this particular Tonic Water. As the Black Fox Distillery has chosen to distribute the Lixir Tonic Water brand in its home Province of Saskatchewan, I suspect the Gin they produce was designed to match up well.

In the Throat 12/15

Black Fox Gin is a softer gin than would be a typical London Dry. I would almost say that it more closely resembles the style of an Old Tom Gin especially with the light vegetal undercurrent which could be a result of the distillation technique.

This gives the gin more length in the finish. The exit features a light spiciness with ebbing flavours of ginger and lemon balm, and vegetal aftertastes.

The Afterburn 8/10

As indicated, I would not be inclined to serve the Black Fox Gin straight. It is more of a mixing gin suited to similar cocktails one would serve with an Old Tom Gin. A Martinez would be a good choice. Another great choice would be in a Gin and Tonic Cocktail serve with Lixir’s Rhubarb and Ginger Tonic Water as shown below.

You may read some of my other Gin Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipes

Black Fox #3 Gin and Tonic

1 3/4 oz Black Fox #3 Gin
1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1/4 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
4 oz Lixir’s Rhubarb and Ginger Tonic Water

Add the first three ingredients into a rocks glass
Stir and add ice
Fill with Lixir’s Rhubarb and Ginger Tonic Water
Garnish with cucumber

Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret that score as follows:

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing spirit. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:

70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)





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