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Last Straw Distillery Stout Spirit

Review: Last Straw Distillery Stout Spirit   (80/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on June 07, 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. According to Mike Hook, the team at Last Straw Distillery come to the craft of distilling from a variety of different backgrounds, and surprisingly none have had prior experience in the beverage or alcohol business. They are self-taught, and developed their recipes in house, through research, and trial and error, without the use of outside consultants.

Last Straw Distillery’s Stout Spirit is the result of their second collaboration with Vaughan’s Lake Wilcox Brewing Co. made from the distilled essence of their powerhouse Irish Stout. This brew was mashed at Lake Wilcox and then fermented a full two weeks at Last Straw, then double-distilled, and finally aged for four months in a charred American oak cask which was re-coopered for them by their friends at DRM.reCoop in St. Catherines, Ontario.

Stout Spirit is bottled at 45% alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

The Stout Spirit is bottled in an eight sided flask style bottle with a simple easy to read black and beige label. Incidentally, the back label provides an ingredient list: water, malted barley and yeast. It also advises that the spirit is unfiltered and may therefore contain sediment.

I like the heavy glass bottle which gives the brand an impression of substance. The thick glass bottom give the bottle a low center of gravity which adds stability on the bar shelf. The wide mouth makes pouring easy and the neck is just long enough to allow that easy pour to happen with no spillage.

In the Glass 8/10

When poured into my glencairn the Stout Spirit has a light golden colour. I should note that my particular bottle contains no sediment. The spirit when tilted and twirled in my glass leaves a lightly thickened sheen on the inside of the glass the crest of which drops small leglets which amble slowly down to the spirit below.

There is a malty sweetness rising from the glass with indications of butterscotch and hints of corn syrup dipped graham wafers. Vanilla, barley, and almond seem to meander into the breezes along with some grassy menthol. Surprisingly, the alcohol seems a little retrained. I was expecting quite a push in the breezes considering that the spirit is so young and bottled at 90 proof. Hints of licorice and chocolate round out the aroma. This is a good start.

In the Mouth 47/60

The Stout Spirit seems to taste just a little better each time I sampled it. My first sampling session was with my tasting club where we sampled both the Last Straw Stout Spirit as well as their Darker Side Spirit. Maybe it was because the Darker Side was so surprisingly good, but at that tasting all but one of us (9 persons in all) wanted seconds of the Darker Side and not the Stout Spirit. However, when I sampled the spirit in isolation in my tasting room a few days later, I found I liked it quite a bit more than I remembered. Then I tasted it once more a week later and again found my appreciation had increased again.

This happens sometimes with very young spirits. The first time the bottle is opened, an accumulation of heavy esters seems to dominate the first pour. The spirit seems a little raw and underdeveloped. I am not sure why these same heavy esters seem to dissipate, but the second and third pours reveal a much smoother spirit which lacks the somewhat fusel flavours of the first pour. Perhaps this is why some vodka and producers insist that their spirits need to rest for several months before they are bottled.

The spirit carries a nice malty sweetness with undertones of butterscotch and corn. I checked my notes from my previous tasting sessions and saw I had wrote down vanilla, caramel, almond, graham wafers, ginger bread, and nutty barley grain. I should add grass and menthol to round out the descriptors. The Stout Spirit is somewhat light bodied (speaking to youth) and my thoughts as I am sipping this final time is that I would love to taste the spirit with a few years of maturity. The complex flavours are all there, but it is just a little thin and just a little heated. Some ice really helps, but in truth the spirit is probably more suited to mixing than to sipping.

I mixed a simple drink of Spirit and Ginger-ale (about a 1:3 ratio) and of course some ice. The mixed drink tasted fine and I could easily enjoy this on my back deck on a lazy day with my friends. Of course I wanted to see if I could mix a more refined serving and so I mixed an Old Fashioned next. The spirit wasn’t quite ready yet, and I ended up adding a splash of ginger ale to lengthen the cocktail. I liked this so much I decided to photograph the serving make it my suggested libation for the Stout Spirit (see below).

In The Throat 12.5/15

The spirit sits just between what I would call light bodied and medium bodied. There is an impression of oil which gives the finish some legs, and during that exit I noticed some nice vanilla and milk chocolate flavours. There is just a little heat which builds from sip to sip, but considering the youth of the spirit and the bottling proof, I am impressed at the relative smoothness.

The Afterburn 8/10

It could be argued that Last Straw’s Stout Spirit should have been matured a few years or so to smooth out some of the rough spots. However, it could also be argued that there is a growing group of Canadian Whisky geeks who, like me, enjoy the ability to taste what is being produced by our burgeoning Micro Distillery industry. We understand that these spirits are not fully mature, but we want to see where they are at such that we can dream about where they are going to be. Although this Stout Spirit is by no means revolutionary at this point, after a few years of aging … the dream just might have some legs..

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

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Suggesting Serving:

Stout Spirit Splasher

1 1/2 oz Last Straw Stout Spirit
1 Tsp Bols Triple Sec
3 to 4 drops Fee Brothers Whisky Barrel Aged Bitters
2 or 3 large Ice-cubes
Splash of Ginger-ale
Citrus Peel for garnish

Add the Ice-cubes to a rocks glass
Pour the Stout Spirit and Triple Sec over the ice
Add a few drops of Bitters and a splash of Ginger ale
Garnish with Orange 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!

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My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the 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 rum or whisky. 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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