Ice, Ice Baby
Treeless and surrounded by icy cold rivers and glacial lakes dotted with massive icebergs and ice floes, the Ungava Peninsula on the northern tip of Quebec is just as it sounds—frozen tundra. Covered in thick permafrost, the area is home to an extremely cold climate, which makes the 97,000-square-mile region difficult to reach. It is inhabited by only 10,000 residents, mostly Inuit, but it’s also home to Ungava Gin.
Many spirits claim to be made with locally sourced ingredients, but Ungava—whose moniker means “toward the open water” in Inuktitut, the language of the region—truly captures the essence of and pays homage to its unique surroundings. Ungava is made using a handful of arctic botanicals, including Nordic juniper, crowberry, wild rose hips, cloudberry, and Labrador tea, that are delicately picked by hand during the peninsula’s four-week summer harvest season.
“These ingredients are indigenous to the arctic and give Ungava its distinctive aroma and color,” explains Charles Crawford, president of Domaine Pinnacle, Ungava’s parent company. “No other gin in the world is made with these rare ingredients.”
The spirit is easily identifiable thanks to its rich yellow hue; and with a distinctive flavor profile that is equal parts bold and smooth, floral and spicy, this all-natural gin stands out among the competition. In 2012, it earned two “excellent” scores during New York City’s Ultimate Cocktail Challenge, and it later picked up a silver medal at the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition and a Best in Show award at the 2013 World Spirits Competition in Austria.
Despite these impressive accolades, for Ungava it’s all about staying true to its roots. “The unique climate of the Ungava region gives our gin its truly individual personality and memorable flavor,” says Crawford, adding that Ungava will reach U.S. shelves (starting in the New York area) by the end of the summer. Many of the fledging brand’s devoted quaffers enjoy it neat; adding mixers, they say, only dilutes the spirit’s rare aromas and flavors. They also say that it’s best enjoyed cold, but then, that’s only fitting.