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Last Straw Distillery Blackstrap

Review: Last Straw Distillery Blackstrap     (83/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted on February 21, 2018

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.

The Last Straw Distillery Blackstrap is one the few spirits 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 trade-off 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.

You will note that I did not call this spirit rum. This is because Last Straw’s Blackstrap is a new make spirit which has not been aged. Interestingly, if the product were to be produced for the US market, it could legitimately be called a rum; but in Canada where we have stricter rules pertaining to the aging of spirits. To be sold in Canada, rum must be aged for one year in oak barrels. (This means that most White rums are aged in oak and then filtered clear before they are sold in Canada.)

The Blackstrap spirit is bottled at 46% alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4/5

The Blackstrap spirit 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 barshelf (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 how both the batch number (2) and the bottle number (41) appears on the label.

In the Glass 8/10

The spirit is clear in my glencairn, and when I tilt my glass and give it a slow twirl I see the liquid imparts a somewhat thickened sheen on the inside of that glass the crest of which deposits medium-small droplets which turn into skinny legs.

The initial aroma is what I call punky with light smells of resin and camphor. Very soon aromas of dark licorice, treacle and banana come forward as well as a bonanza of tropical fruit. There is also a light sweetness akin to cotton candy in the breezes.

As the glass breathes the fruitiness intensifies joined by light indications of menthol and eucalyptus. The spirit appears to be very complex, although there are also some warnings of alcohol astringency in the air.

In the Mouth 50/60

This is what I wrote in my notebook during my first tasting of the spirit:

Taste: The same light flavours encountered on the nose with a strong addition of mint/menthol 

The light cooling sensation provided by the menthol/mint was a welcome addition as the unaged spirit does carry a little bite (46 % abv.). My initial thought was that the spirit would work well in daiquiris and mojitos. However when I mixed one of each cocktail, I found myself disappointed as the firm treacle and licorice flavours from the blackstrap molasses seemed to be at odds with each mixed drink.

So I switched gears and mixed a Brooklynite instead (see recipe below). I found the addition of the Angostura bitters (as well as the replacement of the sugar syrup with honey syrup) was just what was needed. Although the rum spirit is unaged, it contains flavour characteristics of a dark rum as well. It makes sense that a cocktail usually reserved for dark rum (the Brooklyinite) would work so well with the blackstrap spirit.

In the Throat 12.5/15

The blackstrap spirit is lightly buttery in the mouth coating the palate allowing the flavours to linger just a little longer than what one would expect from a typical white rum. The spirit has a relatively smooth exit as the light astringency encountered on the nose does not become a problem in the exit. (This is an unaged spirit, and I would have expected far more harshness that what I have encountered.) I taste tropical fruit and menthol during the exit and a nice ebbing sweetness that appears after the swallow.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

As a new style of white rum, the Blackstrap spirit from Last Straw Distillery has a lot going for it as the spirit has more complexity and character than a typical white rum. It would be true to say however, that this complexity and character changes the normal cocktail regime, as typical rum cocktails like the daiquiri and the mojito do not work out as well as one might expect. However, with a minor adjustment, the daiquiri can be reformed as a Brooklynite, and I would be hard pressed to turn this mixed drink down. I also found that when I added a spot of bitters to my Cuba Libre, I was similarly impressed. I already have enough ‘typical’ white rums on my barshelf, so it was nice making room for something a little different that could expand my usual cocktail repertoire.

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

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Suggested Recipe

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.

Brooklynite

2 oz Last Straw Distillery Blackstrap
1/2 oz Honey syrup (1:1 ratio honey and hot water)
1/2 oz Lime juice
dash of Angostura bitters
ice
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 you are interested in more 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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