Friday 8 July 2011

Visiting Victoria Spirits

On this beautiful past Canada day I decided to take a tour of Victoria Spirits.  Located 15 minutes outside of Victoria off Old West Saanich road, Victoria Spirits is an artisan family owned and operated distillery.  With their flagship spirit Victoria Gin, the company has managed to get distribution in seven canadian provinces.  Although this may seem like a small feat for many distilleries, Victoria Spirits produces only approximately 12 000L of Alcohol a year and all within a space as small as the size of most peoples garage.  The first thing that you notice when you enter the distillery is the intoxicating smell of the wood burning underneath the hand-fired copper still.  After turning the first corner past a batch of bitters, bottle labels and barrels you'll notice the beautifully hand crafted copper pot still. When the process of making gin is ready to take place the still is filled with 217L of 35% ABV alcohol. The botanicals are then steeped for 18 hours in the base alcohol before a 6 hour distillation takes place.  Of the 217L of alcohol that are initially placed in the still only 61L are condensed back into a spirit of 83% ABV.  Of which only 50L is keep for bottling. The other 11L is either redistilled or used as a fuel-alternative for delivery trucks.  The gin is then placed in one of two stainless steal blending tank holding either 2000L or 3000L of gin.  The gin will sit in hibernation for 30 days before it is finally ready for bottling.  Before being bottled the gin is water down to 45% ABV using water from a natural spring on the property.  Victoria Gin is a wonderfully citric forward gin with a tradition juniper accent as well as, angelica, rose petal, star anise, coriander, orris, cinnamon and one further "secret ingredient".
Hand Made Still From Germany
Not all gin produced at Victoria Spirits is so traditional.  Victoria spirits also produces a aged gin.  Aged in new charred american oak barrels, Oaken Gin is a whisky lovers gin.  With beautiful sweet carmel and vanilla notes usually found in a fine whisky, Oaken Gin pushes the boundaries of conventional gin adding an entirely new dimension to an already exceptional product.  Victoria Spirits production of alcohol doesn't just stop at gin.  Other products in their lineup include a variety of wine based eau de vies exclusive to the tasting room.  A hemp seed vodka (Vodka lovers bewared this one has flavor!), orange bitters and currently in the works a single malt whisky.  With Philips Brewery providing the wash, Victoria Spirits is now aging their single malt whisky dubbed "Craigdarroch Whisky" which will be available sometime in 2013.
Victoria Gin, aging away to become Oaken Gin
 My tour of the distillery ended in the tasting room where I had the opportunity to taste all products currently available from Victoria Spirits.  Starting first with their Left Coast Hemp Vodka.  A welcome change of pace to the vodka word, Left Coast is a full flavored vodka with an incredible smooth finish.   Next was Victoria Spirits' currently available eau de vies.  The merlot eau de vie is beautifully rich with a strong dark chocolate note.  While the sauvignon blanc reminded me alot of a korenwijn jenever.  Next were the gins and finally the orange bitters all of which I regularly keep in stock at home.

The ten botanicals of Victoria Gin
I left this distillery with a bottle of their Merlot eau de vie.  Only available for purchase in the tasting room, just one more reason to visit more often!  

Old Saanich Cocktail
- 1.5 oz Merlot Eau De Vie
- 0.5 oz Lillet Blanc
- 1 Bar Spoon Fernet Branca
- 1 Bar Spoon Rich Simple Syrup
- 1 Dashes of Victoria Orange Bitters
- 1 Dash Angostura Orange Bitters
- 1 Dash of House Made Chocolate Bitters

- Add all ingredients to a mixing glass
- Add ice and stir
- Strain into chilled coupe glass
- Garnish with orange zest
- Enjoy with some quality dark chocolate

Old Saanich Cocktail
Just to note on a couple things about the above cocktail.  If you don't have the exact brand of orange bitters listed above just try using any two different brands.  The idea is to give a more complex orange taste.  The house made bitters are pretty key.  Don't use Fee Brothers chocolate bitters (I do love fee brothers don't get me wrong!) for this one, they're a bit to sweet for the desired taste of this cocktail.  Try bitter truth or Bittermen's chocolate bitters if you absolutely can not get House Made.

Whether you live in the Victoria area or are visiting here, make sure you get out and visit the folks at Victoria Spirits for a tour and tasting.  As well, check out their website at for directions, tour times and product details.
The beautiful grapevine field of Victoria Spirits

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