Lucky Bastard Distillers’ combine a pin-up girl aesthetic with puns about “wood” [Touch Wood, as in what’s its aged in!] for all of their barrel aged spirits. But they’re not just about the bawdy jokes. Acute attention to detail and local character set their spirits apart and give them a distinctly “Saskatchewan” character. Their spirits are small batch, the ingredients are local and organic. The spirits have appreciable depth of character. Oaked Gambit Gin uses their contemporary Gambit Gin as a base spirit [which features Saskatoon Berries, more on that in a moment], and then rest it in oak.
Saskatoon Berries? In the states, these small, blueberry shaped berries are known as “Juneberries,” and even before that they were known as Pigeon berries. Often a feature of prairie underbrush, these small (<20 ft tall) bushes grow across the prairies of the Northern United States and along the Rockies all the way through the Yukon up into Alaska. These small “wild” tasting fruits weren’t able to be grown commercially until only a few years ago. Demand is high, in part due to their prominence in local heritage cuisine such as Pemmican, jams, and even beers, but also due to their positioning by growers as the latest “superfruit.” Watch out pomegranate and acai! In short, Gambit Gin and Touch Wood Gin are the only gins, and Lucky Bastard Distillers, the only ones using this fruit as of time of publishing in their gin.
Touch Wood is light gold, with an amber/wheat hue. Seems very light in aging.
Oaked Gambit Hin has an accent of wood in the high note, freshly cut cabinets, with a sweeter, dustier mid-palate, reminiscent of stone fruit such as peach. The low notes are a bit quiet. As the spirit warms, clove becomes much more prominent on the nose. Subtle at room temperature, much louder as it warmed in my palm.
On the palate, it begins bright and lemony, with fresh chamomile flowers. Anise and fennel in the mid notes, with a more complex, fennel seed, wood, nutmeg and clove as the base notes begin to take shape. Slight tartness on the finish, crisp with fennel and clove. Again, the clove became stronger, or seemed to build up on my palate as I continued to take additional sips. Flavorful palate, very contemporary in profile.
I tried some of the recommendations from the back of the bottle. Although I do not often mix my aged gins as if they are regular gins, in this case I did a couple of drinks which I might normally not have chosen myself. In fairness, Touch Wood actually worked quite nicely in those drinks.
Firstly, the Gin and Tonic is not often my go-to drink for aged gin; however, I did in this case. My first thought was that the aging/oaken notes were lost a bit and didn’t quite shine through. They competed with the tonic water for the same frequency on the palate. Overall though, lots of nice, sweet spice notes, anise and clove most strongly here, with pleasant nice spiced finish, which works to a good effect.
I mixed up an Oaked Gambit Gin Martini at a 4:1 ratio. The Vermouth came through strongly on the front of the palate, almost burying the gin behind a wave of aromatic herbs. The finish brings things more into perspective. chamomile, then lemon, and a faintly tart, buttery, finish. Very clean and quite nice. You’ve got to have a good Vermouth that you like here because of the way it comes through on the palate, or dial it back a couple of notches and go for a much drier version.
At the recommendation of the bottle, I put it to test in an Aged Gin Fizz. The gin came through rather nicely here. Lemony notes up top, with some dusty, wooden notes as the drink moves into the lower notes. There’s a nice lift from the lime, however, the gin carries the show, with fennel and clove on the finish. Crisp, refreshing, and bright. Recommended.
Finally, my go-to Aged Gin Drink. Hello Negroni! How we’ve missed you around here. Have we not been seeing each other often enough? Please don’t tell the count. I swear. There’s no one else….
Like I was saying, the Negroni: bright and robust at first, with a flourishing combination of bitter herbs, myrtle orange, clove, nutmeg, and a general spice-forward character. This is a nice spiced profile here [it reminds me of a gin which I didn’t review, but remember it being nice in the Negroni as well- Beefeater Winter], really lifting the drink without losing itself. Again, the aged notes fade into the background, forming a robust earthy background note. I kind of wish Touch Wood was bottled at a slightly higher proof, because I feel like to really get the most of what it brings, I had to change the golden ratio and go 1.5 or 2:1:1 with the gin. Overall though, I definitely recommend this drink with this gin.
Overall, Touch Wood Oaked Gambit Gin
Touch Wood Oaked Gambit Gin has a unique flavor which works well in the right contexts. Find where it works, and you’re going to quite enjoy it. Force a square peg into a round hole, and you’ll be missing what this gin does well. We’d like to see it bottled at a slightly higher proof, because we found some of the notes getting lost in some cocktails, and the clove note was a bit too loud in some contexts. But that being said, we still think there’s a lot to like about Touch Wood gin and think the combination of pin-up girls, 21st century super-fruits, and local touches make it a worth checking out.