Tag Archives: gin

Cocktail Hour: Romeo’s Gin (Review)

Romeo's gin 1st edition
Romeo’s gin 1st edition

Wow, exciting things have been happening on the Quebec gin front since I’ve been abroad. Yet another new gin from la belle province has made its way onto store shelves…and this one is even being marketed as ‘Montreal Dry Gin’. What a great time it is to be a Montrealer…well, if you overlook the struggling economy, bad weather, and ever-present language tensions. Still, I’m glad to be back in the city after a year of pining for cheese, bread, beautiful churches, and artichokes. As an added homecoming bonus, this gin is good enough to help you forget your worries…Romeo’s martini, anyone?

Romeo’s Gin: Background Info

Romeo’s gin comes from the maker of Pur Vodka, entrepreneur Nicolas Duvernois. After realizing that the restaurant business wasn’t for him, but that vodka was very popular, he decided to look into producing his own. Pur vodka, at the time it came out (in 2009), was the only vodka made in Quebec, and is to date the most-awarded Canadian vodka. Another Quebec vodka has since come out (in 2014), Quartz vodka.

Romeo’s gin was released to the public sometime between December 2015 and January 2016. I’m not sure what inspired Nicolas to choose gin as his next project, but I’m glad he did, since it is one of my favourite types of spirit. I’m also not sure what the story behind its name is…when I asked the question on their Facebook page, I received the following reply: “We called it romeo’s gin because of several reasons… But mostly because it’s a love story between Montreal, gin and art !”

MoZ
Mo’Z

This brings up the next point which makes Romeo’s Gin cool and unique, its link with art. The original design of the bottle features a logo and a work of art, Mo’Z done by a local (Montreal) artist, Stikki Peaches. The logo is to change every year, and next year and for every year thereafter, the distillers plan on creating two different logos, one featuring  a local artist and one featuring an international artist. It’s certainly a great idea, one which will no doubt help to achieve Nicolas’ goals of democratizing art and promoting local artists. He has additionally created a foundation called Romeo’s which aims “to preserve, democratize and modern[ize?] art.” 50 cents from the sale of each bottle of gin will go to said foundation.

Romeo’s Gin Flavour

Romeo's gin gibson
Romeo’s gin gibson

The main aromatics which were chosen to flavour Romeo’s Gin are juniper, cucumber, dill, lavender, almond and lemon. When I smelled it, I was only able to detect the juniper scent, which told me it was, indeed, gin. When I tasted it on its own, it tasted strongly of cucumber. After mixing it with vermouth in order to make a martini, I was able to taste, in addition to the cucumber, a floral flavour from the lavender and a nuttiness from the almonds. The almond seems to give it a slight bitter finish, which I’m not sure I like, but it does seem to be growing on me. On the whole however, it is an excellent gin with a unique flavour, and tastes very fresh and smooth. Though the cucumber taste is predominant, as in Hendrick’s gin, its flavour is different and distinctive. It’s no wonder they have just walked away with their first award, a double gold metal, which they received from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (2016).

‘Til next time, cheers to Montreal, art, and Romeo’s Gin!

 

Cocktail Hour: Piger Henricus Gin

Piger Henricus gin martiniOkay, so, a micro-distilled gin, made in Longueuil, Quebec…how cool is that?  Exciting things are happening on the Quebec gin scene…first, Ungava…now this.

Why Piger Henricus?

First, a little background information.  According their website, the distillery Piger Henricus is named after the latin word for a type of furnace used by alchemists during the middle ages.  The English translation of Piger Henricus is ‘Slow Harry’, and it was named as such due to its use in long and slow operations.  This type of furnace is also known as an athanor.

Piger Henricus- Flavour

Next…taste!  This gin is made using traditional flavouring agents such as juniper berries, coriander, angelica root, lemon peel and cardamom…however, the surprise ingredient, parsnip, is what makes it really special.  According, once again,  to their website, parsnip gives the gin a “delicate bitterness and a subtle floral aroma”…however, I would disagree and say that it gives it a subtle sweetness and earthiness.  Certainly, this is a quality product, and its flavour is smooth, unique, and quite delicious, providing justification for its price, which is comparable to that of Hendrick’s Gin (when one takes into account the smaller size of Piger’s bottles).

The Subversive Distillers

This is the first offering from the  ‘The Subversives Distillers’, a company made up of four guys whose desire to produce more micro-distilled booze in Quebec led them first to the states (in order to learn their craft), and subsequently back here, to set up shop.  Cheers to that!  I’ll be awaiting their next offering in eager anticipation.

Cocktail Hour: Ungava Gin

Ungava Martini
Ungava Martini

The first time I saw this gin at the SAQ, I was immediately attracted to it.  ‘A gin made with indigenous Quebec herbs?  How cool is that?’, I thought.  The only thing that would make it cooler would be an organic designation (locally grown corn is used to make the spirit the gin is made with , so GMOs are a concern).  Obviously, being a martini addict, I decided to buy and try it.

Aside from the striking yellow colour of this gin, there isn’t too much to distinguish it from other gins, as it pretty much toes the line, taste-wise.  I am by no means a professional gin-taster, but I would be hard pressed to pick out the differences in flavour the indigenous herbs produce in the final product.  It is very drinkable, and is definitely smoother (and better) than say, Beefeater, while remaining more coarsé than something like Tanqueray (my usual, everyday gin).

The professionals like it, perhaps, a little more than I do, as it won a ‘Best of Show’ award at the World Spirits Competition in March of this year.

It makes a nice martini, and it’s certainly local, but I think that it may represent a bit of a lost opportunity in that the producers had the chance to create something that was even more distinctive, such as Hendrick’s Gin, but instead chose to mimic a traditional gin flavour with non-traditional ingredients.  Nevertheless, I applaud their initiative, and will continue to support it by buying their product.

Ungava Gin Herbs

The herbs used to flavour Ungava Gin are wild rose hips, arctic blend, cloudberry, labrador tea, crowberry, and nordic juniper (without which, of course, it could not be classified gin).  All of these ingredients are gathered in Ungava, Nunavik (Quebec’s arctic region, and the home of the Inuit).

So, more about the botanicals.  Rose hips don’t need much of a description, I’d imagine; they are the fruit of the rose, contain a significant amount of vitamin C, and have a rather tart flavour (as you’ll know if you’ve ever had rosehip tea).  Arctic blend, labrador tea, and crowberry are all members of the Ericaceae  or heather family.  All three are also evergreen plants.  Arctic blend and labrador tea are close cousins, while crowberry is so named for its blue berries.  Cloudberries (which are amber in colour, but otherwise look a bit like raspberries) are what give the gin its colour.  Finally, ‘nordic juniper’ is used to give the gin (from the dutch word for juniper, ‘genever’) its distinctive flavour.  I was unable to find any information on this specific variety of juniper, and it wasn’t among the varieties listed on Wikipedia, but according to the Ungava gin website, it is ‘found growing in sandy areas along the coast of Ungava and in dry rocky soil’.

Ungava Gin (English)

Ungava Gin (French)

 

 

The Producers

Ungava gin is made by the same people who produce Pinnacle ice cider.  Interestingly, they have decided to market the product differently in french, putting an emphasis on ‘indigenous Quebec herbs'(French labelling), as opposed to ‘botanicals from the Canadian North’ (English labelling).  While I understand the reason they would choose to emphasize Quebec as opposed to Canada when marketing their product here, I do not necessarily understand the need to completely eradicate any mention of Quebec from both the English label as well as all  promotional background information available on the English version of their website.  Does the rest of Canada (and the world) really hate us that much?  Yet another reason to drink, I suppose…

Anyway, ’til next time…