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Summer Love Spiced Pear Vodka

Review: Summer Love Spiced Pear Vodka    (80/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted on March 18, 2018

This past fall at the Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Show I met, Mike Stanfield, Founder of Starr Distilling Co. based in Calgary Alberta. He was presenting his new Summer Love Vodka flavours, Raspberry and Peach. We struck up a conversation about the burgeoning Micro distilling industry in Alberta, and I wanted to know his story.

Mike told me that his venture started as a hobby making Limoncello and Coffee Liqueurs in his basement to share with friends. His repertoire expanded to making fruit infusions and letting them sit for months to absorb flavor and color. Mike said that he never intended to make spirits commercially, he just enjoyed serving his creations at dinner parties sending his friends home a little happier than when they arrived.

It turned out that his friends (and their friends) really liked his creations, especially the taste of flavoured spirits made with real natural ingredients.  So … encouraged by the positive feedback, Mike and his wife decided to give it a shot. They each came from families with strong manufacturing backgrounds and they liked the idea of doing their own thing. So Mike went distilling school, came home, bought a Christian Carl still, and began looking at leasing property in downtown Calgary for his small distillery. That’s when Mike realized that the economics of his business plan wouldn’t fly.

However, the urge to produce his own products commercially was strong, so Mike took another route and set out to find a third-party distillery who would produce his recipes to his specifications. He eventually found SRL Global Distillers and a business relationship was forged. They currently produce his Summer Love Raspberry and Spiced Pear Vodkas which he is marketing in Alberta. The base vodka for these spirits is distilled 5 times and filtered to be a neutral spirit. Real fruit from British Colombia is used to create his flavours.

Each bottle of Summer Love Spiced Pear Vodka is produced using more than a pound of BC pears combined with the warm flavour of real cinnamon bark. The spirit is bottled at 34.6% alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

The labels for Summer Love Vodka are made by Dean Stanton, a well-known Calgary artist who just happens to my next door neighbor. The label he created is celebration of the Summer Love Brand meant to be an extension of Mike’s passion for the outdoors, camping, gatherings with friends at the lake, and of course a celebration of the bounty that the fields and orchards produce. It is designed to be colorful, light-hearted, playful and fun.

I like both the bottle and the label which have brought a little warmth and sunshine helping to ease the pain of a long winter which has just turned into a cool Alberta Spring.

In the Glass 8/10

When poured into my glencairn, the Spiced Pear Vodka has a nice amber tone in the glass. When I tilt and swirl my glass, I see the spirit is somewhat thickened and when legs form at the crest they are mid-sized and fall at a leisurely pace back down to the spirit below. The breezes above the glass bring me a rather firm impression of cinnamon as well as a light sweetness of cane sugar. Teasing out the impression of pears takes a little while as the fruit seems to be masked to some extent by the cinnamon and the light sweetness in the air. Once I noticed the pear-like scent, it became more obvious; perhaps it just had to break free from the other aromas in the air.

I seem to be picking up vague impressions of other scents and smells as well. Perhaps some vanilla and orange peel. I am not convinced that they are a part of the spice mixture, they could well be just underlying scents which are part of the base vodka.

In the Mouth 47/60

When I took my first sip, I decided that the scents and smells I encountered in the breezes above the glass gave a true representation of the overall flavour. I tasted heated cinnamon immediately, and that same light sweetness of cane sugar. The flavour of pears came through as well; but the fruit is definitely taking a backseat to the cinnamon. The flavoured spirit is quite interesting, and I am curious how things will play out when I build a few cocktails.

My first attempt used lemon and lime with Triple Sec in a recipe resembling the classic Side-car. Unfortunately the firm cinnamon flavour wasn’t playing nice. It was overwhelming the cocktail and the pear flavour just wasn’t making any headway in the cocktail either. I noticed that on the recipe section of the Starr Distilling Website that they were recommending a Mule construction (ginger beer and lime) as well. So I built a Summer Love Mule using the recipe they provided. It was better, but the cinnamon was still more dominant that I preferred. So I tinkered with the recipe and finally came up with a nice deck drink which I can enjoy this summer (see below).

In the Throat  12.5/15

The spirit will heat you up a little leaving a light coating of cinnamon on your palate after each sip. It should be noted though that I do not taste any undo astringency from rough alcohol. The Vodka base used for the spirit seems to be a good quality vodka.

The Afterburn 8/10

When I review flavoured spirits there are different factors which I consider. One of those factors is whether the underlying spirit which supports the flavour shows signs of quality. In this case, the Summer Love spirit demonstrates no undo astringency, and I do not taste anything that I should not coming from the underlying vodka. I also consider whether the flavour(s) taste as they should. Again my impressions are positive as both the cinnamon and the pear flavour tastes natural. The cinnamon tastes like cinnamon, and the pear flavour tastes like a real pear.

The final consideration I have is whether the overall flavour works. In this case, do the cinnamon and pear flavours co-exist and compliment each other. This is very subjective, as what works for me, might not work for you. It’s kind of like determining if the proper amount of sugar was added to your coffee. Almost everyone has a different balancing point. In the case of the Summer Love Spiced Pear Vodka. I found the cinnamon flavour was too dominant which made cocktail construction difficult. I did mange a nice mixed drink; however I feel the overall flavour combination of the spirit (overt cinnamon and lighter pear) somewhat limiting.

My final score is 80/100 which I hope recognizes that I appreciate the quality of the underlying spirit and the natural flavours used. It also recognizes that for me, the combination of overt cinnamon underlain with natural pear was just off the mark. Your mark will be different from mine so if you are curious, I think the Spiced Pear Vodka is worth checking out.

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Suggested Recipe:

The Mule Skinner

3/4 oz Summer Love Spiced Pear Vodka
3/4 oz Premium Vodka
1/2 oz fresh Lime Juice
1/4 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1 Ratio)
ice
2-4 oz Ginger Beer (sub Ginger-ale)
Lime Slice

Pour Spiced Pear Vodka, Premium Vodka, Lime and Simple Syrup into a Metal Shaker with Ice
Shake until the sides of the metal shaker frosts
Strain into a chilled ice-filled glass
Complete to taste with Ginger Beer
Garnish with Lime

Enjoy Responsibly!

If  you are interested in more of my cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

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You may (loosely) interpret the scores as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might 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

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