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Last Straw Distillery Blackstrap Rum (Cask One)

Review: Last Straw Distillery Blackstrap Rum (Cask One)     (82.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted on August 15, 2017

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 was contacted by Mike Hook (one of the Distillery owners) and was told about the impending release of their new Blackstrap Rum. 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 Bottle Number 90 from Cask One.

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. They have just landed their Dark Side of the Moonshine in a few LCBO stores in Ontario, and expect to have a new-make Blackstrap spirit (the unaged version of the rum) on store shelves this month as well.


Distilling Equipment at the Last Straw Distillery

The Last Straw Distillery Blackstrap Rum (and the new make blackstrap spirit) is one the few rums in the world actually made from blackstrap molasses rather than sweet molasses. One of the reasons there are so few is because blackstrap is much harder to work with than sweet molasses as the sugar content is lower, and the sugars are harder for the yeast to access. The tradeoff is that blackstrap molasses gives a richer, more robust flavour when it is distilled. It took the Distillery about 6 months (of experimentation) to discover a method to obtain reasonable yields out of blackstrap molasses without sacrificing flavour.

Cask #1 Blackstrap Rum is double distilled and aged for a year in a toasted new European oak cask. The rum contains no additives, flavours or colouring and is, of course, made directly from molasses in-house.

In the Bottle 3.5/5

To the left is a bottle shot of the Last Straw Distillery Black Strap Rum. The spirit is bottled in a flask style glass bottle with a simple blue and white label. The Label identifies my bottle as Bottle Number 90 from Cask Number 1 and further identifies the rum inside as Blackstrap Rum. We are told the rum is distilled from blackstrap molasses and aged in an oak cask. It was bottled at 45.3% alcohol by volume.

Generally I like the presentation especially the synthetic cork topper; however I am flummoxed by the fill line. When I first received my sample I thought that I had mistakenly been sent a bottle which had already been opened; but as you can see from the Distillery Bottle shot, the low fill line is part of the presentation. Apparently the bottle holds a bit more than 750 ml and so it is not filled to the top. I suspect that the distillery will lose a few sales because of this bottle as if I saw it in a retail setting I would assume it had not been filled correctly and would leave it on the shelf. I would recommend a new bottle for Cask Two (budget allowing course).

In The Glass 8.5/10

When I poured the rum in my glass I noted first the light colour. (Actually this was obvious before I poured it, but it is in this section of the review that I comment on the rum’s appearance.) Rather than being a rich dark spirit which would be consistent with other blackstrap rums I have tasted, this rum displays a light straw colour. As noted earlier, colour and flavour additives are not part of the rum’s construction. When I tilted my glass and gave it a twirl, I noted that the rum deposited a film which was just a little thicker than I would have suspected from such a light coloured rum. Small batch micro stills seem to have the capacity to produce an abundance of oily congeners during distillation. This and the high alcohol content of the rum account for the thickened legs.

The rum has an enticing nose. I notice scents and smells which I have found to be typical in micro-distilled rums: scents of mushy banana and ripe plantain and some resin-like esters which remind me of camphor. Alongside those aromas are the telltale smells of blackstrap molasses with hints of dark licorice and treacle. Rounded out the nose are hints of orange zest, bits of cinnamon, and nutmeg. This is a very good beginning!

In the Mouth 50.5/60

The rum is very consistent from the nose to the mouth. Blackstrap molasses flavour dominated more in the glass than in air with caramel, treacle and bits of licorice leading out. Underlying impressions of banana, plantain, cinnamon and camphor were also easy to distinguish. A touch of astringency (from the high alcohol proof and the young age of the rum) is present which makes sipping neat a bit of a challenge. So I added a couple of ice cubes to my glass and noticed that a light creaminess developed. The rum is easier to sip now, but the cold ice-cubes brings out the more bitter treacle which causes me to add a spot of cola. At this point the mixed drink is delicious. It packs a bit of a punch as the blackstrap molasses flavour and the alcohol pushes through the cola.

I liked the rum and cola so much that when I wrote a recent cocktail posting featuring the Cuba Libre’ I chose the Last Straw Distillery Black Strap Rum as the featured rum for the cocktail.

In the Throat 11.5/15

When sipped neat the high alcohol content causes the rum to whack the tonsils, and gives the throat a light burn. With ice added the finish becomes more bitter than sweet, and the light burn although alleviated is still present. The saving grace is the strong blackstrap molasses flavour which refuses to submit to ice (or to cola).

The Afterburn 8.5/10

My final score for Last Straw Distillery’s Blackstrap Rum is 82.5/100 which makes this the second highest score on my website for an Amber Rum which has been aged for less than 2 years. I love how the blackstrap flavour pushes through the rum, and I am extremely enthusiastic about Cask Two and beyond. I hope that the guys at the Last Straw Distillery continue to blaze their own path in the rum and spirits world.

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.


Suggested Recipes:


Last Straw Distillery Black Strap Rum is not dark, nonetheless it contains a wonderful backdrop of black strap molasses flavour which pairs with Cola and Lime wonderfully.

Here is, my recommended cocktail, the Cuba Libre’.

Cuba Libre’
(the classic Rum and Coke recipe)

1 1/2 oz. Last Straw Distillery Black Strap Rum
4 oz Coca Cola
Lime wedge
Ice Cubes

Rub the rim of a standard rocks glass or highball glass with lime
Squeeze the lime over the glass to release some juice into the drink and fill with the glass with ice
Add Rum and fill with Coca Cola
Drop in the lime wedge and stir

As with all of my cocktail suggestions, please 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!


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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