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Have you ever heard the one about the Eskimo and the gin? Now, doesn’t that sound like the intro to an insensitive, racist, slanderous, offensive, pejorative, insulting joke that really shouldn’t be told? Well, truth be told it isn’t a joke, and it’s not offensive; it’s the truth, and it really does involve Canadian Inuits (they don’t particularly like the term Eskimo) and arctic gin. Arctic gin? Whoever heard of such a thing? Well, hold onto your chin straps because you’re about to hear about it.

Ungava gin is a premium Canadian gin that hails from the northern Quebec frontier where men are men and seals are afraid. And believe me, it takes some seriously hardy souls to live around Ungava Bay where summers are too cold for tree growth and all the land surrounding the bay is treeless tundra. (There’s just got to be a decent joke lurking in there somewhere!?!) Still there are numerous Inuit villages that surround the bay. During the short summer, the native tribe handpicks the 6 botanicals that go into Ungava gin: Nordic Juniper, Wild Rose Hips, Cloudberry, Crowberry, Arctic Blend and Labrador Tea. I have to admit, I haven’t heard of some of these previously but they must be pretty potent as many other gin producers use a dozen or more ingredients to flavor their gin.

Ungava-Bottle

Well, let’s see if Ungava gin passes the old taste drive. The nose is a delicate blend of juniper first, followed by mint and rose, and then tea all enveloped in a spicy envelope with very little alcohol getting in the way. The palate is quite laid back with the spiciness moving forward quickly, accompanied by the juniper and pepper and a mélange of tart and sweet, yet subtle floral notes. The finish is spicy and floral and lasts a fairly long time leaving the mouth and throat tingling. This is a much more vibrant gin than I have tasted before, and with just that short ingredient list, they do manage to pack a punch of flavor. On the rocks, the spice notes mellow somewhat but they continue to be a presence to be reckoned with. The juniper becomes clearer and the floral notes present more perceptibly. The finish settles down with the spice notes banished way to the back, and now it becomes much more smooth and the finish is not quite as long. With tonic water mixed in, just as God had always meant for gin to be consumed, this gin becomes quite subtle with the spice notes disappearing, the juniper and the floral notes mellowing even more and the combined whole blending into one easy to drink, drink.

As a stand-alone sipper, this Ungava gin might be a tad much with the flavors sharp and edgy and the spiciness ever-present. On the rocks and especially in the company of tonic this becomes a very pleasant summer cocktail filled with just enough intriguing flavors to require at least a second helping.

Priced in the low $30’s for a 750 ml bottle that has 43.1% alcohol in it, it is certainly in that super premium range and could be a decent addition to your bar. Which reminds me, have you heard the one about the whale blubber and the wild rose hips?

by George Brozowski

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