Canadian Gin

The rise of Canadian gin: 5 of the best from the Great White North

Canadian gin is on the rise.  This week, we thought we’d take a look at some of the best brands from the Great White North (with a little inspiration from our Barcelona Gin friend, Sylvia Short). 
Here in Barcelona, we’re blessed with a beautiful year-round climate.  But, like everyone, we complain about the weather even when the sun is shining, the skies are bright blue and the temperature dips into single digits.  That’s when we need to remind ourselves to spare a thought for our neighbours in the North. They still have months of freezing weather ahead of them – and temperatures regularly sink to as low as -20c. Throw in a little wind-chill factor and you’ll feel like it’s -40c. Brrrr!

It’s as cold as ice…

I had a mis-spent my youth at university in Michigan, so I know first-hand how cold it can be in that part of the world. And when you’re locked inside for months on end, it’s always a good idea to have a stock of good gins in the house to get you through those long days and dark nights.

The gin revolution

And it got us thinking. This huge nation, so blessed by nature, seems to have had a long-running love affair with whiskey. But Canada is not necessarily the first country you’ll think of when you mention gin.  And yet, there is a gin revolution going on in Canada, just as there is in Europe and around the world. 

Canadian gin: inspired by vast landscapes, local ingredients and ancient cultures

From the great Inuit culture of the North to the sophisticated French sensibilities of Quebec and Montreal, this is a country with so many cultures that ginspiration should be found around every corner. From Calgary’s cowboy culture to Vancouver’s lakes, from the Pacific to the Atlantic and from the prairies to the rocky mountains there is so much geographical diversity here. It is no surprise that it’s now inspiring gin makers with unusual ingredients and combinations that will delight the senses.

Canada’s best gins

So, we thought we’d share a few ideas on some of the best gins that are currently being produced by our Canadian friends. The craft gin explosion is still a relatively new phenomenon in Canada. It all began to take off back in 2013 with some changes to the liquor laws in British Columbia. Up until then, a massive markup had been applied by the state on the sale of alcohol.  But that year, the State decided to abolish the markup on distilleries that were producing less than 50,000 litres of spirit p.a. 

The craft revolution

This in turn gave rise to a new breed of craft distillers with new brands popping up all over the place. Many of them turned their attention to gin. This new breed of distillers have been inspired by the infinite variety of the Canadian landscape and have been introducing new techniques, new botanicals and new blends to deliver an exciting selection of beautifully made, hand crafted gins – often in stunning bottles and always bursting with Canadian cultures and sensibilities.

So, we thought we’d take a look at some of these unusual new brands and see what the fuss is all about.

Stump Coastal Forest gin, Victoria: ABV 45%

This unusual gin is brought to us by the folks at Phillips Fermentarium, in Victoria, British Columbia. It’s a “new style” gin that is becoming more of a “thing” in North America.  These gins typically downplay the juniper elements (although they obviously still need to be present). Stumps Coastal Forest Gin, as its name implies, takes its inspiration from the natural, rugged beauty of the BC coastline. 

The team hand forage local herbs and botanicals to discover bold flavours that are a perfect fit for this part of the world. These flavours impart a smooth, well balanced taste that balances the forest scents seamlessly.  The process starts in an old British still called “Old George”.  It’s then redistilled in a modern German refractory still before getting its final re-distillation.  The result is a rich, velvety, smooth gin full of the refreshing flavours of the coastal rainforest.  This is one to put on your wishlist.

The perfect serve: We recommend a traditional G&T to make the most of these glorious flavours. In fact, the folks at Phillips Fermentorium have their own tonic just for this gin. Their artisanal dry tonic is a classic tonic with a citrus twist. Think orange peel, grape juice, lime peel and quinine. This was designed to be the perfect partner to Stump Forest Coastal gin, but you can use it with other gins that need a tonic that balances sweetness with sharpness. Pour it over some large ice cubes and add a twist of lime or a wedge of orange to set it all off nicely.

Hansen Distilleries Trouble Gin, Alberta: ABV 40%

At Hansen distilleries, they say that sometimes trouble finds you and sometimes you seek it out.  This is a gin worth seeking out.  Distilled in Alberta by the Hansen team, it’s first run through a 20 plate column still before being redistilled to infuse the amazing flavours that make this such a delight to drink. With organic juniper at its heart and infusions of coriander, angelica root, Grains of Paradise and orange and lemon peels the result is a delightfully complex gin with a citrus edge. Well worth a try if you’re looking for something fresh and different.

The perfect serve: This is one for a good G&T.  Put a large ice cube into the bottom of a copa glass and pour in a large slug of gin. Squeeze a wedge of lime into the glass and pour a freshly opened bottle of premium tonic water to mix it up. Garnish with a lime wedge, sit back and enjoy.

Forts’ Canadian Boreal gin: ABV 35%

Here’s another beauty from Alberta. Fort’s Canadian Boreal gin has been inspired by Canada’s Boreal Forest and the spectacular sight of the Aurora Borealis.  It’s their own unique take on a pink gin, but this one’s made to taste like the fruits of the forest. Distilled with Haskap berries and local honey, this is a bright, berry forward gin that will delight and surprise you the more you drink it. The vibrant berry taste works well with the other ingredients and dominates the nose alongside the warm, honey cinnamon notes and a floral finish. Inspired by nature, this is a gin for when you’re looking for something comforting.  And it comes in a very cool bottle.

The perfect serve: Pour 1,5 oz of gin into a coupe glass. Add 0.5 oz of St. Germain liqueur and 0.75 oz of lime and the same amount of simple syrup.  Shake it all up with ice for around 30 seconds and strain into a coupe glass with a lime wedge garnish.

Collective Arts Plum and Blackthorn: ABV 43.5%

This intricate and light Collective Arts gin is fruity and rich.  With a complex combination of unusual aromatics, there are traces of cardamom and mace lurking within alongside mace, orange. And obviously plums and blackthorn shine through to impart the dominant natural fruitiness and a warming kick of spice that comes from the gentle heat of the black peppercorns, cinnamon and ginger. 

This gin is packed full of interesting botanicals including the obligatoryJuniper, coriander, green cardamom pods, black pepper, whole clove, cinnamon, mace, ginger, fresh lemon peel, fresh orange peel, orris root, almond, blackthorn berries & plum. That’s quite a list and they’re all carefully chosen to complement each other so that you get an intriguing taste experience that is not like any other gin.  And as is the tradition at Collective Arts, the bottle label has been uniquely designed by a local artist, Nate Otto and is available as limited edition art. 

The perfect serve: Why not throw caution to the wind with a special cocktail.  We suggest something that has come to be known as a Collective plummet and it’s really easy to make. Just pour 1.5oz Collective Arts Plum gin with an equal amount of plum cordial and 1.3 oz of lime cordial.  Pour it all into a cocktail shaker, fill it with ice and shake it before straining into a coupe glass. And if you have a sweet tooth, add a dash of honey. We think you’ll love it. 

Strathcona Spirits Badland Seaberry Gin: ABV 44%

This Edmonton gin is brought to us by the folks at Strathcona Spirits.  They make a range of high quality spirits including pure vodkas and craft whiskeys.  But they also do a nice range of hand made gins which are making a name for themselves.  This gin is distilled in the traditional London dry style and features 10 unique botanicals to ensure a complex and exciting blend of flavours. Much of the juniper used is foraged locally from the fossil filled Badlands along the Red Deer River.  But what gives this gin its unique taste is the sour, bitter, tangy, native Seaberry which is picked locally from secret spots around the City of Edmonton.  This unusual berry produces a unique taste that is the perfect complement to the other botanicals.

The perfect serve: This one’s known as “Stars over Scona”. Take 1.5 oz Badland Seaberry Gin, 0.5 oz of Contreau, 0.5 oz lemon juice. 0.75 oz cranberry juice. 0.75 oz simple syrup.  Add it all to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Give it a good shake and strain it into a cocktail glass.  Set it all off with a twist of lemon.  You’re going to like this one