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Last Straw Blackstrap Rum (Double Barreled)

Review: Last Straw Blackstrap Rum (Double Barreled)   (83/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on June 14, 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 Blackstrap Rums are some 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. The Double Barreled Blackstrap Rum is first aged in ex-bourbon barrels then finished in Last Straw’s own Darker Side barrels. The spirit is bottled at 45 % alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

The Blackstrap rum arrives in the medium tall clear bottle shown to the left. This is a fairly standard bottle for spirits made to be easy to store on the bar shelf (or retail shelf) easy to grab and easy to pour. The long bubbled neck helps us by making the bottle less prone to spillage when we pour.

The label is a bit of a lackluster affair driven by the economics of the micro-distilling industry where every savings is needed to keep the price of the spirit in check. However I do like that information regarding the spirit’s double maturation is included on the label to help the consumer make his/her purchase decision.

In the Glass 8/10

When I poured the rum into my glass I noted that the Double Barreled Blackstrap Rum carried an amber hue rather than a rich dark hue which would be more consistent with other brands of blackstrap rum. When I tilted my glass and gave it a twirl, I noted that the rum deposited a slightly thickened film. As I have noted in the past, small batch micro stills seem to have the capacity to produce an abundance of oily congeners during distillation. This and the somewhat higher alcohol content of the rum (45 % alcohol by volume) account for the thickened film which dropped mid-sized leglets.

The breezes above the glass are interesting. I notice firm impressions of molasses, licorice and treacle accented by fruity orange peel and banana. There is also a light funk reminiscent of Jamaican rum in the air with scents of menthol, baking spice (cinnamon, vanilla and cloves) and some wood spice presenting themselves. There is also a light smokiness which no double is the result of the double maturation in ex-bourbon barrels and Last Straw’s own Darker Side barrels.

I had an internal debate at to the score at this point. The complexity deserves a good score, however I sensed some discord in the air, the higher alcohol proof perhaps was warning me that perhaps a longer maturation time was needed to bring more balance to the merry little breezes above the glass.

In the Mouth 51/60

When I sipped the Double Barreled Blackstrap Rum for the first time I had one of my Rum Chums help me assess the spirit. We both appreciated the firm blackstrap flavour full of molasses and treacle. I also appreciated the additional funky somewhat herbal flavours imparted by the micro-still (menthol, hints of resin, and bits of tar) as this made the rum much more interesting than a typical blackstrap rum flavoured with spice and caramel.

However, we both found the rum a little ‘punchy’. The higher higher alcohol was causing some astringency which made the spirit difficult to sip, and it also concentrated the flavours somewhat which made everything seem just a little out of balance. Adding an ice-cube helps by muting the astringency. Incidently with ice we both could more clearly taste the distinctive esters of Last Straw’s Micro-still as the the rum’s herbal undertones were more obvious with additional hints of camphor and a touch of mustiness.

Although I can sip the Blackstrap Rum over ice, it is definitely my preference to mix cocktails instead. When I mix with cola, I found the blackstrap pushes its firm flavour right through the soda; however it is when I mixed cocktails in the daiquiri and tiki styles that I found my greatest enjoyment. In selecting a nice cocktail to serve I would recommend a tiki style Zombie for the brave, and for those who might want to mute some of the herbal tones in the rum a daiquiri style Time Traveller would certainly be appropriate. (See recipes below)

In the Throat 11.5/15

Last Straw’s Double Barrelled Blackstrap Rum exits with a little bit of a punch giving my tonsils a light whack of alcohol and spice. Some cooling menthol helps soothe the finish. The herbal flavours within the rum seem to speak loudest in the finish.

The Afterburn 8/10

Last Straw’s Double Barrelled Blackstrap Rum is a very complex spirit full of flavour. At all points in the review, I found scoring very difficult. The obvious complexity and firm flavours deserve a high score; however, alongside those firm flavours was an unwanted astringency, and a lack of balance. I found myself wishing the rum had been bottled at a lower proof, as well as aged a little longer. These factors kept the score in check. There is high potential here, I suspect some trial and error will sort all of this out.

Having said that, the Blackstrap Rum is dandy for mixing tiki style and daiquiri style cocktails. If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.

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Suggested Cocktails

Zombie

The Zombie is a tiki cocktail whose main feature is a large quantity of rum in which the alcoholic bite is disguised or smoothed out by the presence of a variety of fruit juices. This bar-drink typically has the alcoholic punch of two or three generous cocktails so please enjoy responsibly.

The Zombie

1 oz Light Rum
1 1/2 oz Last Straw Blackstrap Double Barreled Rum
1/2 oz Wray and Nephew Overproof Rum
1/2 oz Bols Apricot Brandy
1 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
1 oz Lime Juice
1 tsp Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
5 Large Ice Cubes

Shake the first seven ingredients with the ice cubes in a cocktail shaker
Pour into a tall glass filled with ice
Garnish with fruit slices.
Float the Overproof Rum on top and serve

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Time Traveller
a cocktail by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)

1 1/4 oz Last Straw Blackstrap Double Barreled Rum
3/4 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Bols Triple Sec
2/3 oz Lime Juice
1/3 oz Lemon Juice
1/3 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
Lime Slice

Add the ingredients into a metal cocktail shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with a lime slice

Please 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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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 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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