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Made In Canada - Leatherback Rum Review

Greg and Jody are avid rock climbers and have a passion for spirits. The first passion made them open a climbing gym, the second made them open a distillery. Luckily for them, they are situated right next to each other.


North of 7 Distillery is located in Ottawa, Canada. It opened in the fall of 2013. When I visited, Jody told me:”I’ll come in early morning and start a run at the distillery, then I’ll walk over to the climbing gym and take care of staff scheduling and everything else that needs to be done before opening up. We go back and forth between the distillery and the gym all the time.”



Greg added:”As rock climbers, Jody and I traveled through the US a lot and have an affinity for bourbon. I have been to Kentucky a number of times and visited many distilleries and wanted to create my own whisky. Next to that I have long been a rum drinker, Pussers used to be a favourite, especially the overproof. I find our 57% tastes a lot like what the overproof Pussers used to. Good rum is just as fine to sip on as whisky!”


I couldn’t agree more with that last statement of course!


At North Of 7 they don't just make rum. They also produce whisky, vodka and gin. They use 3 different stills and have about 70 barrels in their ageing facility.


The rum still

How is Leatherback rum made?

Greg:“The molasses come from Lantic in Montreal. We use a 5 or 6 day fermentation and then do one run in a pot still with one plate. Very tight cuts (only the best of the run goes in the barrel). We use new barrels from Independent Stave Company in Kentucky/Missouri and for the rum they have a light toast and a heavy char, this imparts a strong almost whisky like flavour to the 100% molasses ferment/distillation.


Right now the 57% is aged a minimum of 4 years in virgin oak, the 40% is a blend of new and refilled barrels, aged a minimum of 3 years. For bottling I usually take 3 or 4 barrels, taste them all and the best one goes to the Special Reserve, the next to the 40% then the ‘weakest’ to the spiced as it is getting doctored.”


Fermentation

Nosing


Leatherback 3 Year, 40%

It’s quite sweet and mellow with milk chocolate, oak and vanilla. There is some fruitiness to it with orange peel and light banana. Not a bad nose.


Leatherback 4 year, 57%

Hello! That’s different from the 40%. I’m immediately hit with a nice combo of sweet oak, leather and smoky tobacco. Next up are vanilla, cinnamon, caramel, molasses and light cardboard. This is very good.


Tasting


Leatherback 3 Year, 40%

Vanilla and oak are very present, combined with some saw dusty caramel. The finish is on the short side and quite bitter.


Leatherback 4 year, 57%

The nose was massively different to the 40%, the taste is as well. It totally coats your mouth in rummy delight. I love that feeling. Oak, tobacco, caramel and vanilla transfer over from the nose. The finish is long and balanced between bitterness and sweetness.


Deceit-O-Meter


They are very open about what they do. No debatable age statements anywhere. No added sugar or colour.


Level: Zero to low








Conclusion


It is clear that it’s been quite a struggle for them to deal with Ontario liquor laws and the LCBO involvement. Their persistence is therefore commendable. It has also resulted in a good rum!


The 40% is a typical base model. It’s quite light, not offensive, it doesn’t have a whole lot going on. It’s not really my cup of tea for sipping. However, it makes a very enjoyable rum and Coke for example. I don’t see why Canadian rum bars wouldn’t have this on their menu. Supporting a local product is a good thing, especially when the product is decent.


The 57% is a totally different beast. I feel that if this was part of a blind tasting, most people would label it a Caribbean rum. I’ve tasted quite a few Canadian rums and this one is miles ahead of any of them. They’ve really done an excellent job in a challenging environment.


The 40% is available at certain LCBO stores. The 57% is for sale at the distillery or online through their Shopify store. However, they can only ship within the province of Ontario, as sending liquor across provincial borders is still prohibited. Yes, we live in the stone age. It’s worth getting a rum runner for this one!






PS: They are nice guys too. The back label on the bottle reads:”For each bottle of Leatherback Rum sold, a portion is donated to the Canadian Sea Turtle Network – a charitable organization based in Halifax that is working to conserve endangered sea turtles in Canadian waters and beyond.”


Scores


Leatherback 3 Year, 40% - 63

Leatherback 4 year, 57% - 80


Click here for info on the scoring method.




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