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Review: Last Straw Distillery DARKer Side

Review: Last Straw Distillery DARKer Side   (85/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on June 25, 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 Darker Side is a traditional southern moonshine recipe, distilled from corn & sugar, which is aged for 4 months in a heavily charred cask. The spirit is bottled at 45.5 % alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

DARKer Side is bottled in a traditional long necked whisky bottle with a simple easy to read black and beige label. The label tells me the spirit is hand-made and then aged in American oak. There are also some helpful tasting notes. I am told to expect flavours of butter cookie dough, roasted nuts, spice and orchard fruit. The label also informs me that my sample bottle is from cask 6 and was bottle number 53.

In addition, the back label provides an ingredient list: water, sugar, corn and yeast, and advises that the spirit is unfiltered and may therefore contain sediment. All this extra information is great and helps to elevate an otherwise lackluster presentation.

In the Glass 8.5/10

DARKer Side carries a nice amber/copper colour in the glass, and when I tilt and twirl the glass I see mid-sized droplets forming at the crest which fall at a leisurely pace back down to the liquid down below.

When I take a sniff of the breezes above the glass, I am somewhat torn as to my first impression. Does this smell kind of like a bourbon? Or does it smell kind of like a rum? The truth is that is seems to be a little of both. I guess that’s not surprising as the distillation ingredients are corn and sugar. Bourbon is made from corn. Rum is sometimes made with sugar, rather than molasses or sugar can juice. So with the DARKer Side, we have a little of both worlds.

As the glass sits, the impression of bourbon begins to dominate with scents of honeycomb, corn syrup, baking spices (vanilla, cinnamon and a touch of cloves and nutmeg), combining nicely with fresh oak and cedar. Rum-like brown sugar and caramel provide a light sweetness with hints of almond and roasted pecans nestled between.

In the Glass 51/60

The first sip brings a light bitterness forward reminiscent of charred caramel (treacle) with hints of oak sap. A light brown sugary sweetness develops as does a further impression of oak. I also notice some baking spice (vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg), and a few hints of coffee and chocolate. I taste walnuts and hints of clove as I sip a second time, as well as an impression of corn whisky (kinda like a brief dollop of Jack Daniels Whiskey). It isn’t until the third sip that I notice the alcohol and wood spice are beginning to show some heat.

The front label tells me to enjoy the DARKer Side spirit as I would my favourite whisky. I am going to suggest a minor tweak to the instructions. My proposition is that you enjoy the spirit as you would your favourite young bourbon whiskey or your favourite lightly aged Rum. The spirit really does carry characteristics of both spirits. (I have provided two recipe suggestions below.)

In The Throat 12.5/15

DARKer Side is light bodied and remarkable smooth considering its youth. Flavours of of oak spice, chocolate and coarse brown sugar are featured in the exit with ebbing baking spices left glowing in the throat.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

DARKer Side is surprisingly good. It is aged only four months and bottled at 45.5 % alcohol by volume; yet it is has the smoothness of an older spirit. I noticed flavours similar to both bourbon and rum, albeit the bourbon-like nature does dominate somewhat. Over ice, the moonshine-like spirit is a decent sipper, and the spirit shines is in mixed servings. Cola works well in tall back deck drinks; but as you shall see from the two recipes I have shared below, I found no issues when mixing more elegant recipes.

The folks at Last Straw Distillery continue to impress me!

You may check out this link for more reviews of similar spirits if you would like a few comparative reviews (Moonshine and Other Spirits).

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Suggested Servings:

This cocktail is a rework of my popular anejo rum serving, the Railcar tweaked for the addition of Last Straw Distillery’s DARKer Side in place of the cane spirit. I hope you enjoy it.

The Ontario Railcar

2 oz DARKer Side
3/4 oz Bols Triple Sec
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/4 oz Sugar Syrup
1/8 oz Campari
Ice
Citrus Peel (optional)

Add the first five ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice
Shake until the outsides of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with a round of Citrus Peel (optional)

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

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This recipe is basically an Old Fashioned Cocktail again tweaked for the DARKer Side spirit.

DARKer Fashions

2 oz Last Straw Distillery DARKer Side
3/8 oz Orange Curacao
2 dashes Fees Whiskey Barrel Aged Cocktail Bitters
ice
Orange Peel

Place the four ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into a small Rocks Glass with ice
Add ice and a slice of Orange peel

Enjoy Responsibly!

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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As usual, you may interpret the scores I provide 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 more 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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