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Black Fox Oaked Gin

Review: Black Fox Oaked Gin   (83.5/100)
Reviewed by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted January 15, 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.

The distillery comes by its name from a fortunate visitor to the Cote’s farmyard at Leask, a municipality about 80 kilometers southwest of the City of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

The Black Fox apparently had made a home nearby and could be seen scampering away when John and Barb headed out in the morning.  They even saw him playing with another red fox in the field. Two foxes playing together is not an unfamiliar scene on the prairies, but this scene was transformed into something special by a black fox.

This of course brings us to Black Fox Oaked Gin.

According to John Cote:

In this particular bottle we sent you, we are trying to create a unique gin experience.  Most cask gins will be quite lightly oaked, and in contrast  this is oaked in new barrels to accentuate and compete (but not overcome) the flavours of the gin.  This is the product that was named the best cask gin in 2017 and just last year was awarded a gold medal in the Hong Kong gin Masters Competition.

Black Fox Oaked Gin was aged for six to eight months in a virgin American White Oak barrel after the spirit vapours had gently extracted the botanical flavours and aromas during distillation. The interaction between the oak and the botanicals brings forward a more complex gin with new flavours to discover.

I served Black Fox Oaked Gin 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 bottles as soon as I saw them. The bottles follow 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, it is a wonderful touch. Too many spirit manufacturers us 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 autumn oak leaves add a wonderful colour accent as well.

In the Glass 8.5/10

The Oaked Gin has a golden amber colour in the glass which is a reflection of the time the spirit has spent in virgin American oak (six to eight months). The nose is quite complex with juniper hiding within impressions of vanilla, caramel and light oak spices. Burnt orange peel, hints of clove and nutmeg give us a fleeting impression of Christmas spices, and then we notice a little licorice. Just as with my previously reviewed Black Fox #3, they is a floral flair in the air, although it like the juniper is somewhat obscured by the impact of the oak.

Everyone in my tasting group liked the nose, although a few were confused by the way the juniper was somewhat concealed.

In the Mouth 49.5/60

The gin enters the mouth with a light touch of juniper taking the lead, followed by hints of vanilla, some dark licorice and a little bit of spicy heat that reminds me of cilantro and coriander. Some of my guests commented on a light bourbon-like flavour. For myself it was more like a very light kiss of rum. No doubt this is a reflection of the touch of caramel flavour imparted by the oak barrels. There is a light sweetness running through the gin. A touch of floral alpine meadow resides in the glass as well. The gin is definitely more complex than most.

Every one liked sipping the gin, but they all wondered the same thing. What cocktail could we possible mix with this complicated gin, that didn’t really taste like a traditional juniper forward dry gin. My thoughts went towards a Negroni or a Martinez; but Vermouth is something I don’t stock in my home bar. We tried a Gin and Tonic and then a Gimlet, both without much success, and so I just recommended to my guests that we enjoy sipping the oaked gin over ice.

In the Throat 12.5/15

The Black Fox Oaked Gin is has a spicy finish where coriander seems to dominate. there is a final little bite of oak tannin and juniper which puckers the throat followed by a light vanilla and caramel sweetness. Keeping the score in check is a hint of rough vegetals which have crept into the exit. (To be fair my guests and I noticed the vegetal flavour in the Gimlet Cocktail as well)

The Afterburn 8/10

Black Fox Oaked Gin ended up being a polarizing spirit for my tasting group. Some loved that the gin tasted so nice when we sipped it, but most of the folks at my gin tasting couldn’t get past the idea that we did not have success with Gin and Tonic Cocktails and Gimlets. It was a week later that we tried that Negroni and found happiness.

My recommendation is to sip Black Fox Distillery’s Oaked Gin over ice (that is how I enjoyed it the most), and if you happen to have a bottle of Campari and another of Sweet Vermouth (or a suitable substiture), then make yourself a Negroni (see Below).

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


Suggested Recipes

Although I do not stock Vermouth (Sweet or Dry) in my home bar, I do stock a nice selection of LBV Port Wine. And in a pinch, Ruby Port Wine (and LBV) makes a nice substitute for sweet Vermouth. The Negroni recipe is my own, and it works out splendidly with the Black Fox Oaked Gin.

Black Fox Negroni

1 oz Black Fox Oaked Gin
2/3 oz Ruby Port Wine
1 oz Campari 
Lemon Peel garnish

Add ice to a small rocks glass
Add Black Fox Oaked Gin, Sweet Vermouth and Campari
Garnish with Lemon Peel

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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