Ungava Premium Canadian Gin: [holiday] spirit du Grand Nord


My love for gin has definitive, albeit less classy roots. I was a grad student struggling through five months of birthing my master’s dissertation, wishing for the library prison to end, going through an overly dramatic breakup. All of these circumstance resulted in, arguably, one of the funnest summers of my life consisting of plethora of random outings (Cyndi Lauper’s free concert at Queens Park during 2010 Pride, anyone?) and spontaneous dance offs to A-team at the Orbit Room …all to copious amount of gin. Gin was also the glue to my friendship with my best girl, Paulina, who can have all the credit for introducing me to the spirit.

“Gin!” she would definitely order at a bar.
“Gin and what?” bartender would respond annoyed.
“Gin and GIN,” she would reply in dismay, partially rolling her eyes.

Over the years we got quite a bit classier, mixing, remixing and spreading our gin love everywhere and to everyone. It was, then, only natural for me to take on the opportunity to review Domaine Pinnacle’s Ungava Premium Canadian Gin. Canadian? Yup, you read that right! Domain Pinnacle is a family-owned orchard, cidery, and micro-distillery in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada.

Instead of over analyzing the bottle on my own, I took it on a tour: to Blue Mountain for a Halloween getaway; to my friend Paul’s house (who is really Pasha, and is really Russian – so basically an expert) and home to enjoy with a close friend. The reviewing panel’s thoughts documented below were complimented by the good times had over this spirit.

Blue Mountain Village people…
We started with a baseline sipping taster, to pretend like we know what we are doing and identify individual flavours. Everyone agreed that the Ungava had a distinct flavour, is appropriate for sipping, almost like a liquor. This first impression was attributed to the gin’s smoothness, which was surprising due to alcohol content (43%).

The LCBO describes Ungava Premium Canadian Gis as “a medium lemon yellow in colour, aromas of juniper, herbal tea, spice and tart fruit; dry and medium bodied; the finish is warm and spicy.” While this information was not disclosed to the sampling panel from the start, the Blue Mountain group thought that the prominent botanicals were “something like anise or fennel”.

After a baseline taster, the panel took it up by a notch by making Ungava-based Hallow Night Spritz
Ungava Gin – 30 ml
Aperol – 30 ml
Simple syrup – 15 ml
Soda water – 90 ml
Cherry – 3

“It tastes like an Italian soda,” my friend Jen offered, “very refreshing!” The drink wasn’t too sweet and alcohol wasn’t distinctive, something to be enjoyed on a warm day. The group agreed that this spirit greatly benefits from being served chilled rather than warm. Verdict: smooth, versatile, refreshing.

Back in Toronto…
My next stop was a casual pre-drink at my place in Toronto. While gin martinis is something I’ve come to love a lot more, the real taste-tester for me is the cucumber gin concoction that I’ve come to love and sip any time of the year: Cucumber G&T

Ungava Gin – 30 ml
Tonic water – 120 ml
4–6 Cucumber slices (is there such a thing as too much cucumber?)
3 twists of fresh ground pepper
Served over ice

My girlfriend in attendance remarked she’s not into juniper and thus won’t have anything. However cucumber balanced out the juniper notes nicely, leaving herbal notes she described as “grassy”. The black pepper really played up the spiciness LCBO mentions in their tasting notes. After giving it a go, she concluded that the drink was surprisingly refreshing, you didn’t feel you were drinking a 43% spirit and “kept it rather classy”.

Pasha the Russian x du Grand Nord

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The weekend after I visited my friend Pasha’s place. Known for his hospitality, Pasha takes pride in crafting tasty concussions with virtually undetectable alcoholic content and he knows a thing or two about being resourceful with flavours. Pasha took Ungava for a spin in his specialty: Raspberry-based soda.

Ungava Gin – 30 ml
Soda water – 120 ml
3–5 raspberries
Fresh rosemary
Served over ice

“This is really fresh,” he remarked, taking a sip from his mason jar. “Not something one would expect given the warm yellow color of the spirit”. The herbal base of the spirit was further highlighted by the sprouts of rosemary in the cocktail, but nicely balanced by the raspberry sourness and soda elements.

Overall impressions
Ungava gin is versatile: if you want more herbal taste, play up its herbal base with sprouts of rosemary or thyme. If you have always wanted to try a gin but are not a fan of the inherent juniper taste, this spirit’s juniper notes are not overwhelming and can be balanced out by fruit or vegetables. If you are in a mood for something a bit spicy, try complementing Ungava’s baseline spicy notes with some black pepper.

All tasting panel members were frequently surprised by the quality of gin. “The rich yellow color and the Aboriginal-like theme of the bottle maybe a bit misleading,” offered my friend Artiom. Those who are looking for versatile gin, may miss out on this great option if they are looking for more traditional spirit colours and branding.

For more delicious recipes with Ungava Premium Canadian Gin, creep here.

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