Last winter I did a tour at Mill Street Brewery down in Toronto’s Distillery District. After learning about hops, yeast, and that brewing ideally requires a chemistry degree. Yes, really. My roommate and I sat in their recently opened Beer Hall sipping on beer flights. At that time the Brewmaster, Andrew Yonick, mentioned that Mill Street was working on a whisky. I thought, ‘Damn a new Canadian rye, or blended whisky? Sign me up.’ Of course Torontonians haven’t seen this just yet. A couple of reasons being: a) according to government law Canadian whisky has to be aged for a minimum of three years on Canadian soil (not in the soil), and b) getting quality barrels is often expensive and time consuming. To me whisky and beer just work together, so it seemed only natural that a brewery would move fluently into distilling whisky.
But on August 2, 2017 BlogTO dropped the news that Mill Street Brewery released a gin. Gin, my first love, right on my doorstep in the Distillery District. I took a trip down to Mill Street’s new bottle shop next to the Beer Hall, and gladly forked over the $49.95. This distilling choice makes complete sense considering how gin doesn’t require any barrel aging, and bottled right after distilling. On top of this the label lists all of the gin’s botanicals, a concept after the heart of Bombay Sapphire. Bombay is/was the only gin that listed all of their botanicals on the bottle. Of course no other distillery could capture how Bombay has carved these botanicals right into the glass. Before getting into the tasting notes below I’ll mention right now this gin did not disappoint.
The sales rep that helped me out mentioned Mill Street poached their Head Distiller, Martha Lowry, from Dillon’s Distillery . Once he said this – I could not unsee this bottle of gin. Place this gin on the shelf next to any of Dillon’s products, and you’ll see several similarities. Mill Street’s bottle boasts a similar shape, uses the same style of cork lid and label seal, both have the batch number hand written onto the label in some fashion, and both say ‘small batch’ right on the bottle. One thing that does differentiate from Dillon’s is how Lowry has her signature on each bottle. As brewing and distilling is traditionally a man’s world, Lowry’s signature reminds us the pride she takes in her work. This gin is a credit to her as a distiller.
Small Batch, also known as microdistilling, is the method of producing single batches instead of a continuous distilling process. This is the same method used to make single malt whisky. Several Ontario distilleries identify as Craft Distillers, and use this method of small batch distilling. Many of them are members of the Ontario Craft Distillers Association (OCDA).
Mill Street Gin
Style: New Style Gin
Available in: 750 ml at the Mill Street Bottle Shop
Tasting Notes: You can really taste the Citra Hops in this. Unlike most London Dry styles of gin that dominate the shelves, the juniper in this gin takes a backseat. This results is an incredibly bright and floral spirit. Notes of citrus zest, rose, and liquorice dominate the palate, with fresh herbs on the nose. Great neat, or with tonic/soda.
Citra Hops – An aroma hop developed by Hop Breeding Company, and released in 2007. The vastly popular hop variety imparts citrus and tropical fruit flavours.
Grains of Paradise – A West African plant from the ginger family. Also a notable botanical in Bombay Sapphire Gin. Features a peppery flavour, and has a spicy note similar to cardamom.
For me the hallmark of a good spirit means it can hold its own. My current litmus test being drink it: a) neat, b) with soda water, and c) make an Old Fashioned with it. The third option was more of a self-indulgence, and challenge for the mixologist in me.
Citra Old Fashioned
1.5 – 2 oz of Mill Street Gin
2 Dashes of Bar Keep Fennel Bitters
1 Sugar Cube
Method: Muddle bitters and sugar in the bottom of a mixing glass. Pour in gin, and stir. Strain into a rocks glass with ice. Express the lemon peel over the glass, run it around the rim, and drop it in.
I ran out of orange bitters, which are great for a number of Old Fashioned and martini-like recipes. I instead subbed in fennel bitters. These bitters happen to pair well with the botanicals in Mill Street’s Gin.
Feel free to experiment with other bitter flavours such as lemon, orange, and cardamom. Grapefruit and orange peel can be subbed in the for lemon.