December 14, 2014
Yup, it is confirmed, this is NOT your grandpa’s hootch!
A small group of guild members and a few guests had the pleasure of visiting with Greg Lipin, the head distiller and co-owner of Ottawa’s only craft distillery, North of 7 Distillery.
Greg shared with the group some the trials and tribulations of navigating the necessary evils of permits, licenses and paper work including some laws that date back to prohibition, including the need to provide a spittoon in the tasting room and the fact that he had to visit all of the churches and parks in the vicinity to get their approval to have a distillery in their area!
As Greg poured his portfolio of spirits for the group to taste and appreciate, he shared his personal story of his many visits to Kentucky and his love of bourbon, the naming of the distillery (he has a cottage north of Highway 7 near Plevna), the reason for the distillery’s location (he co-owns the rock climbing operation next door) to the challenges to get the spirit recipe just right.
It is interesting to note that the 53 gallon barrels used for both the rum and whisky are sourced from a Missouri based Independent Stave Company. They special toast and char barrels and are the suppliers to Jim Beam and other producers of fine American whiskey.
With North of 7 opening this past September, the number of craft distilleries in Ontario now sits at five, with the closest one being in Prince Edward County and the others in Toronto and Niagara.
During the 45 minutes of question and answer and story telling, we started with the vodka, gin and rum. The majority of the attendees preferred the gin. We then tasted the unaged whisky followed by the whisky that had been aging for only ten months. After tasting the whisky, the members could see where this whisky would go in three years and as a result it was a toss up between the gin and the whisky.
i) Illuminati Vodka: is fermented from corn and cane sugar in 1100L stainless steel fermenters. It is double distilled and then carbon filtered in the unique ‘saxophone’ filter with downward and upward carbon filtration (See below) so the vodka has maximum contact time with the carbon. The vodka is distilled in an eight plate column with a three foot copper packed section. Each bubble plate and copper packed section of the still allows for increased purity of the finished products.
ii) Triple Beam Gin: Illuminati provides the base for the gin and it is made with eleven carefully selected botanicals that are precisely measured on their triple beam scale. The 11 botanicals are coriander seeds, caraway, anise seed, nutmeg, licorice root, peppercorns, angelica root, lime peel, orris root, cardamom seeds and juniper berries. A separate gin still (see below) is used only for vapour infusion. Greg strives to use local ingredients wherever possible, including the juniper berries which are sourced from Ferme et Foret in Wakefield, Quebec.
iii) Leatherback Rum: this is a dark rum that has been fermented from 100% molasses for a true rum taste. A jacketed boiler (see below) is used to make both the whisky and rum. The jacket provides a gentle heat, thereby helping to avoid scorching the fragile whisky and rum esters (pleasant flavour and fragrance characteristics), allowing the subtle elements to survive during distillation. There are no caramel, vanilla, colouring, or other additives – once it has been proofed, it’s simply what comes out of the barrel and into the bottle. The bottling runs are a combination of 2 barrels; a young barrel and an older barrel, to achieve just the right balance of caramel, molasses, oak and a hint of vanilla. It is interesting to note that for each bottle of Leatherback Rum sold, a portion of the proceeds 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 abroad. Leatherback sea turtles still follow the historical rum routes from the Caribbean to Halifax.
iv) North of 7 Whisky: for a special treat, Greg pulled his whisky which has been aging for only 10 months, this is a four grain bourbon style whisky that will be aged for a minimum of 3 years. The mash bill consists of corn, barley, wheat and rye and is distilled ‘on-the-grain’ (with grain in the still) for added flavour. North of 7 uses 100-per-cent Canadian wheat and 90 per cent of the grains used are from Canada. Even only after 10 months there is a huge difference when compared to the unaged white Dog and you can envision where this will be in another two plus years. Greg mills all of the grain himself from kernels which allow him to adjust the coarseness of the grist. Aged in 53 gallon oak barrels from Independent Stave Company. They anticipate having their first North of 7 Whisky available in early 2017.
v) White Dog unaged whisky: for the unaged whisky, Greg simply pulls some of the fresh whisky off the still before it goes into the barrel. It is sold at barrel strength, 62.5% in small 200ml quantities. Not for the faint of heart!
The event was well received by the guild members and a testament to the quality of North of 7’s products was the fact that many of the guild members voted with their wallets and didn’t leave empty handed!
We had a few folks who were slow off the mark and with space limited missed this unique tasting/tour experience. Please send a note if you are interested in joining the next tour so we can start to plan accordingly.