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Leatherback Special Reserve Rum (North of 7 Distillery)

Review: Leatherback Special Reserve Rum (North of 7 Distillery)   (86.5/100)
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted On May 18, 2018

Greg Lipin and Jody Miall are both avid rock climbers who regularly travel to Kentucky on climbing trips. It was on one of these trips that the two friends developed a passion for ‘brown spirits’ which ultimately led them to opening their own Micro-distillery (North of 7) in Ottawa, Ontario. They currently produce several styles of Canadian Whisky, their Leatherback Dark Rum (sold at 40 % abv. and at 57 % abv.) Triple Beam Gin and Illuminati Vodka.

The subject of this review is Leatherback Special Reserve Rum. This is a single barrel dark rum produced without the addition of additives, vanilla flavouring, or caramel colouring. The spirit was aged in 53 gallon barrels from Independent Stave Company which have been ‘special craft toasted’ and charred.

The Special Reserve Leatherback Rum was bottled at 57 % alcohol by volume and is available for sale in the distillery store (hopefully soon at the LCBO and across Canada).

In the Bottle 4.5/5

Leatherback Rum (both the Special Reserve and the regular strength dark rum) arrive in the same bottle style shown to the left. I like this bottle a lot. It looks like a rum bottle rather than a whisky bottle as its lower center of gravity gives the bottle greater stability (which if you were a Captain of a sailing ship would be important as the waves begin to roll on the high seas). I also like the medium long neck and wider mouth which made pouring a dram much easier. The only change I would make is to do away with the clear plastic wrap over the synthetic cork topper replacing it with a more appealing foil wrap which shares the colour of the label. That would really make the presentation pop.

In the Glass 8.5/10

The rum has a rich copper hue which resembles the colour of a copper penny which has just began to turn that darker brown towards a bronze. When I tilt my glass, and give it a slow twirl, I see a thickened sheen of rum on the inside of my glencairn, the crest of which is slowly oozing fat droplets.

The aroma wells up immediately after you pour the dark rum into the glass, and I immediately begin to notice oak spices, licorice stained molasses, and a spicy mixture of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon (baking spices). Vanilla, dark dry fruit, and tobacco linger in the air as well. I am very pleased as the scents and smells are assertive and enticing.

In the Mouth 52/60

When I took my first sip, I was expecting to find a rum sitting on the sweet side of the fence. That’s not what I found. Instead the flavour is somewhat pungent with cedar and oak as well as spicy nutmeg taking the lead. In particular I enjoyed the rich presence of the wood spices which gave the rum depth and character I was not expecting. The spirit is also full of licorice stained molasses, vanilla, cloves and tobacco. Despite the overt presence of molasses, the characteristic sweetness of that molasses never builds.

There is a good swat of alcohol and spice that heats the palate which makes sipping a bit of a challenge, which causes me to add a bit of ice to my glass. The oak and cedar seem to grow as the ice has quelled what little sweetness there was. Despite this lack of sweetness the rum is a pleasant sipper.

Of course many people like to mix dark rum with cola, and as part of the review process I do the same. Even though I mixed a liberal amount of cola, the full flavour of Leatherback Reserve Rum pushed its way through. Another mixed drink I have been enjoying lately is the Brooklynite which is basically a daiquiri style serving adapted for the rich flavour of dark rum. When I mixed this cocktail, I was again very pleased. The Leatherback Rum from Ottawa seems to be passing all of the tests with flying colours.

In the Throat  13/15

The exit features a hint of molasses sweetness accented by nutmeg and licorice. The mouth and throat are heated by alcohol, oak and baking spices. As the flavour sensations ebb, I feel a lingering coolness which gives me a strong impression of menthol. When I added ice, dark fruit and chocolate added their impressions to the finish.

The Afterburn  8.5/10

What a wonderful dark rum!

With ice, the spirit is a suitable sipper; however I must admit I more thoroughly enjoyed the spirit when I mixed my Brooklynite Cocktails and the richly flavoured Dark Rum and Colas on my back deck. Who would have thought they could make such a good ‘Caribbean style’ dark rum in Ottawa, Canada.

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


Suggested Recipes:

Dark Rum and Cola

2 oz. Leatherback Special Reserve Rum
2 oz. Cola
dash of Angostura Bitters

Fill with the glass with ice
Add Rum and Bitters, then fill with a splash of Cola

Please Remember to enjoy your libations in a responsible manner!


The Brooklynite cocktail appears to have arrived on the scene in the 1940s in Brooklyn, New York. It appears in the 1946 edition of the Stork Club Bar Book, and is basically is a daiquiri made with dark rum and honey.


2 oz Leatherback Special Reserve Rum
1/2 oz Lime Juice
3/8 oz Honey Syrup (1:1 ratio honey and hot water)
dash of Angostura Bitters
Twist of Lime

Add the four ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Double Strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with a twist of lime if desired

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


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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