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Stillhead Wild Blackberry Gin

Review: Stillhead Wild Blackberry Gin   85/100
Review by Chip Dykstra
Posted May 17, 2023

Stillhead Distillery began operations in October of 2017 in Duncan British Columbia with a vision to distill the essence of Vancouver Island into their brands. They do this by adding distinct Vancouver Island ingredients to their products showcasing their home in every bottle.

Their flagship spirit, Wild Blackberry Gin, uses handpicked, local berries (100% wild blackberries) from the Cowichan Valley as well as Canadian honey. This is constructed as a flavoured gin, not a liqueur; therefore the sweetness of the honey is kept in check. The spirit is constructed to be a versatile cocktail mixer, a bramble in a bottle, or perhaps to be simply enjoyed over ice.

Bottled at 37.5 % alcohol by volume, Stillhead’s Wild Blackberry Gin was named the Best Canadian Flavoured Gin for two years in a row (2020 1nd 2021) at the World Gin Awards, in London, Uk.

In The Bottle 4/5

Stillhead Wild Blackberry Gin arrives in the squat clear bottle shown to the left. Things I like, are the heavy glass base which adds stability to the bottle by lowering its center of gravity; the medium long neck and wide mouth which makes pouring easy, and the convenient circumference which makes gripping the bottle for that pour easy as well.  I like that the folks at Stillhead are proud of the awards they have won, and you can see that they have included a stamp from the World Gin Awards on the label.

I think the bottle could be jazzed up a bit with a stronger label, perhaps incorporating motifs of the Island ingredients or perhaps a geographic reference in the form of an illustration or picture. But this is a new distillery, perhaps features such as this will be added as time and budget permit.

In The Glass 8.5/10

Wild Blackberry Gin has a nice reddish purple hue in the glass reminding me of a port wine (although more violet than port would be). The nose is a little retrained, I notice mild indications of fruity blackberry alongside the light spiciness of what I believe is coriander. Hints of juniper peak out through the blackberry, and after that I am only guessing as the other scents and smells seem jumbled together or hidden completely by the blackberry which has gained momentum as the glass sits.

Whether I am able to discern more botanicals is rather unimportant, what matters is that this has a pleasant feel to it. The combination of fruit and gin botanicals works well, and the spicy push of coriander seems a good match with the fruity blackberry.

In The Mouth 51/60

The delivery across the palate brings those same elements into focus. A spicy push of coriander carries a tasty flavour of blackberry which is accented by hints of juniper. I am glad the juniper was not lost as this is a flavoured gin, not a flavoured vodka. I want to taste juniper in any product labeled gin! I also like that the sweetness, although apparent is mild rather than firm. Honey carries a penetrating sweetness forward, and it can easily dominate a spirit to the detriment of the main flavours. When used judiciously however, honey can provide a more rounded sweetness than sugar.  In this case the honey (like the coriander) elevates the the blackberry and juniper combination.

In the Throat  13/15

The spirit is light to medium bodied, with what body it has probably stemming from the added sweetness of honey. The finish, as a result, is mid-length rather than shortened. It is full of fruit and spice with perhaps a few echoes of juniper and other botanicals finding voice at the very end of the swallow.

I am finding that the more I sip the spirit, the more sippable it becomes!

The Afterburn  8.5/10

I am pleased! I will admit that I was somewhat wary of the Wild Blackerry Gin when it arrived. I was sort of expecting that the firm flavour of wild blackberries to overwhelm the gin character of the spirit. Instead I found that the combination of wild blackberries with the gin botanicals (and a touch of honey) was a rather pleasant combination. Although the blackberry is dominant, the character of gin still shines through.

You may read some of my other Gin Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews. And yes, as advertised it can indeed be used in a cocktail, as a Bramble in a glass or as I have done sipped neat or over ice.


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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