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Gin Twenty-One (Last Straw Distillery)

Review: Gin Twenty-One  (Last Straw Distillery)   (86.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted on May 1, 2019

The Last Straw Distillery is Ontario’s smallest production micro-distillery located at 40 Pippin Rd. in Vaughan, Ontario (a wee bit north of Toronto) just off Highway 400 and around the corner from Vaughan Mills Shopping Centre. Several months ago I contacted Mike Hook (one of the Distillery owners) to inquire about their new juniper spirit Gin Twenty-One. Mike asked me if I would be interested in receiving a bottle, and when I answered in the positive it was not too long before I was sent a bottle from the most current batch (Batch No. 3). Incidentally a bottle from Batch No. 2 was sent to the 2018 Canadian Artisianal Spirits Competition where it won a gold medal.

According to the Last Straw Distillery website (and the label on the bottle) Gin Twenty-One is the world’s first crowd-sourced gin. The guys at the distillery wanted to create a gin with just the right balance of citrus, juniper and aromatics; so they went public to find the best combination. This was an exercise in patience with many variations of the chosen botanicals created for the experiment. It was the twenty-first recipe which was selected as the crowd favourite, which is of course how Gin Twenty-One received its name.

Gin Twenty-One is bottled at 46 % alcohol by volume:

In the Bottle 4/5

Gin Twenty-One is sold in the tall long-necked bottle to the left. I believe economics is the driving force behind this presentation as the small distilleries operating in Canada have to do everything possible to keep their costs (and therefore the cost of their spirits) in check. The boys at Last Straw have succeeded to some extent as they have managed to bring Gin Twenty-One to the market at under $40.00 per bottle.

The label is a relatively simple affair stressing the craft nature of the spirit. Although the bottle sent to me does not include it, the bottles sold at retail (at the LCBO) carry the Gold Medal sticker from the recent 2018 Canadian Artisianal Spirits Competition where the spirit won a gold medal.

In the Glass  8.5/10

When poured into the glass, Gin Twenty-One is clear, and I could find no hints of colour. The aroma from the glass is nice with juniper and licorice/fennel leading out in front of light citrus spice (impressions lemon, grapefruit and orange peel). This is a very traditional gin profile no doubt reflecting the preferences of the gin enthusiasts who helped select the recipe.

There is a pleasant grain-like quality to the spice which includes hints of coriander as well a light earthy quality is in the air hinting at perhaps angelica or perhaps licorice root. As the glass sits I sense a mix of spring flowers and perhaps a hint of mint. The breezes are very pleasant which is a good beginning.

In the Glass 52.5/60

It seems that with each stage of the review, my appreciation for Gin Twenty-One is increasing. As noted above the profile is quite traditional, but within the triumvirate of juniper, licorice and citrus I am finding a light almost mineral-like quality that gives the gin a pleasant mouthfeel which is sometimes absent in London Dry Gin. This is a very dry gin yet I found sipping pleasant, especially as the Citrus elements (in particular grapefruit zest and hints of lemon) seemed to shine just a bit brighter on the palate than they did in the breezes. A light spiciness of coriander seems to build up just a little with each sip, and I cannot shake the impression that a little celery-like flavour (perhaps cilantro) is present as well.

Mixing with Gin Twenty-One is extremely easy. I made myself a nice Gin and Tonic on my first day with the spirit and found the dry juniper flavour very appealing especially with a firm dash of lime added to the libation. I followed this the next day with a recipe which I call a Lime Gimlet Vesper (see recipe below) which mixes an equal amount of vodka with the gin in a gimlet style recipe. I was pleased that the Gin Twenty-One had sufficient character to push through the serving despite its flavour being diluted somewhat by the vodka. My final experiment was a serving dubbed the Spring Cocktail which mixes Gin Twenty-One with White Cranberry Juice and Lime and Black Currant Bitters. Again I was pleased at how the spirit manged to push its piny juniper flavour through the serving. (I featured this serving in my recent review of Dillon’s Black Currant Bitters.)

Gin Twenty-One is not only pleasant when served neat or over ice, it is an extremely versatile mixing spirit as well.

In the Throat 12.5/15

At 46 % alcohol by volume I was expecting the Last Straw spirit to have a bit of a sharp finish. There is a touch of that; but considering the bottling proof I would have to say that I was pleased by the relative smoothness of the exit. That exit is dry with flavours of juniper and black licorice dominating when I swallow and coriander and citrus zest citrus building in the aftermath.

The Afterburn 9/10

What a nice surprise! Gin Twenty-One is an excellent gin which is not only a very pleasant mixing gin, it is also a gin I can sip neat or over ice. The flavour profile is traditional; however there is enough depth and nuance to keep the palate engaged.

My final score is 86.5/100 which places the spirit in the top 1/3 of those gins which I have reviewed to date. I think this speaks very highly of the efforts of the folks at Last Straw Distillery who (although they are relative newcomers) are making a very positive impact in the Canadian spirits world in the short time they have been here.

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Suggested Recipe

Lime Gimlet Vesper

3/4 oz Gin Twenty-One
3/4 oz Vodka
3/4 oz Lime Juice
3/4 tsp Sugar Syrup (1:1 Ratio)
Ice
Lime slice

Add the first four ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker frosts.
Strain into a nice cocktail glass
Garnish with a Lime slice

And of course 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!

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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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