Review: Ungava Gin (43.1 % ABV) 87/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted on April 16, 2013
Ungava Gin is a product of Domaine Pinnacle a family owned orchard and cidery located on a beautiful heritage property near the historic village of Frelighsburg in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Although primarily known for their Ice Cider and Maple Creams, Domaine Pinnacle also produces a very unusual Gin called Ungava.
In case you do not know, the Ungava Peninsula sits at the northern extreme of Quebec, between Labrador and the Hudson Bay. This is at first glance, a barren uncompromising land situated atop the tundra of the North Canadian shield. There are no trees to be found, and Tundra stretches (seemingly) endlessly from Ungava Bay in the east all the way to Hudson Bay in the West. To the North are the cold waters of the Hudson Strait which separates the Ungava Peninsula from Baffin Island to the North. This is (again at first glance) not the ideal place from which to begin the idea of creating a new gin.
However, if one looks a little closer (although, of course, you must look in the summertime), and if one talks to the Inuktitut people who have lived in the region for centuries, one will discover that there are a variety of botanical plants growing in the tundra right before your eyes. Six of these unique arctic botanicals (which grow wild in the region) are used in the construct of the Gin that bears this regions name. These botanicals, Nordic Juniper, Crowberry, Labrador Tea, Cloudberry, Arctic Blend, and Wild Rose Hips are hand-picked in the summertime and serve to bring a unique Northern Canadian charm to the Ungava Gin. (Note: I could find no information regarding other more typical botanicals in the Ungava Gin’s construct; however, a careful reading of the website information does not rule this out. I believe it is likely that there is more to the Ungava gin than just northern botanicals. Unfortunately my website inquiry to Domaine Pinnacle could not confirm or deny my supposition.)
I was provided a sample bottle of Ungava Gin by Crush Imports, who are responsible for its importation here in Alberta.
In the Bottle 4.5/5
The Ungava Gin arrives in the squat rectangular pot shaped bottle shown to the left. I like what I see especially the unique label which displays the syllabic characters of the Inuktitut people who live in the Ungava region. I believe what is written on the label is the Inuktituk version of the name “Ungava” which translates to English as “towards open water”. This is a reference to the region at the mouth of the Arnaud River which flows into Ungava Bay in Northern Quebec. More of the Inuktituk syllabics surround the label adding to the Northern character of the bottle presentation.
The bottle itself is clear showcasing the brilliant yellow colour of the spirit. According to the website information this colour is at least in part natural, resulting from the process of steeping the botanicals to draw out their flavour. The presentation is topped by a plastic screw cap closure. The closure was the only deterrent I could find in the presentation as only two threads sealed the bottle and the topper was rather flimsy. (Plastic closures however, are much better than pressed on metal caps for sealing spirits.)
In the Glass 8.5/10
The Ungava Gin, as you can see, is a brilliant yellow colour. As I indicated earlier, I do not now whether this colour is 100 % natural (emailing the producer netted no response on this subject either). However, I find the distinctive colour adds to the overall intrigue of spirit.
When I tilt my glass and give it a twirl, I see the liquid leaves a bit of a sheen on the inside of my glass and then drops a multitude of small leglets back down into the gin. The initial breezes above the glass display a nice triumvirate of juniper, lemon citrus and floral scents which seem to be integrated well with each other. As I let the scents and smells drift in the air, it seems to me that the juniper is taking the lead role in that triumvirate. The citrus smells seem to contain elements both of lemon and grapefruit zest with a touch of orange Curacao riding along in between. A bit of heat has built up in the breezes, reminding me of ginger and coriander, and the floral smells have settled into the shape of blue iris and violets. Overall the Ungava appears to be a moderately complex gin with the nose reflecting a nice balance of ingredients along with perhaps a touch of pleasant sweetness.
In the Mouth 52/60
When I take a cautious sip, the flavour of lightly bitter juniper takes the lead followed very quickly with a firm heat which seems to be contain both a pungent spicy (coriander and ginger) component, and a zesty citrus component (lemon and grapefruit peel). A touch of red berries (crowberry or cloudberry perhaps) lie within the flavour complex as does a very noticeable earthiness (reminiscent of angelica root).
The flavour of the Ungava Gin represents a nice melding of piny bitterness and herbaceous spiciness with lemon citrus. The floral elements within serve more as an accent than as a main attraction. I found myself drawn to the complex flavour profile which was moderately aggressive and perhaps much more traditional than I expected. The northern botanicals either mirror traditional botanicals very well, or they are used in a judicious manner in combination with more traditional botanicals.
I mixed a few gin cocktails and was very pleased with the result. The aggressive juniper and the forward spiciness of the gin pushes through the mixed drinks adding welcome character to the cocktail experience (see one of my recipes below).
In the Throat 13/15
The finish features the bitterness of juniper accompanied by a firm punch of ginger and cardamom spice. There appears to be just enough floral and citrus sweetness along for the ride to bridge the gap making the ending enjoyable. The strong push juniper and spice bodes well for cocktails.
The Afterburn 9/10
It is very nice to find such a wonderful gin made right here in Canada. The bitter push of juniper and the firm pungent spiciness the Ungava Gin brings across the palate help to bring welcome character to the cocktail experience. Although I could not get to the bottom of the brilliant yellow colour, nor the complete make up of the botanicals, I am not hesitant about recommending the Ungava Gin as an excellent spirit for spring cocktails.
You may read some of my other Gin Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
North of the Ungava Peninsula within the body of water known as the Hudson Strait is an arctic island which was named Nottingham Island by English explorer Henry Hudson in the 1600s. The island has been used historically for hunting and fishing by the surrounding Inuit communities, and it is known to harbour a large number of walrus during the summer months. The island and its summer inhabitants serve as the inspiration for the name of my cocktail.
2 oz Ungava Canadian Premium Gin
1 oz Orange Juice
1/2 oz Lemon juice
3/8 oz sugar syrup
Peel and Slice a 4 to 5 inch length of cucumber lengthwise
Add one length of cucumber and a few ice-cubes to a suitable rocks glass
Shake the gin, juice and the sugar syrup over ice in a metal shaker
Strain into the rocks glass over the ice and cucumber
Stir once or twice with the cucumber and serve
Please Indulge in my cocktail suggestions responsibly!
Note: 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!
My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret that score 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 spirit. 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)