Distilling Nova Scotia

By / Wine + Drinks / February 25th, 2011 / 3

It appears that distilling is finding its place in Nova Scotia. Cape Breton’s Glenora has overcome many difficulties and is now well established and internationally recognized for its fine malt whiskies. This year, two additional distilleries have opened their doors in Malagash and Lunenburg, respectively. Here are some of the bottles you should be looking for.

Glenora, finally triumphant in the long legal battle with the Scotch Whisky Association for the right to use the term “Glen,” has created a new whisky to mark the occasion. With this release, Glenora has clearly established a signature House style.

Glen Breton Battle of the Glen 15-Year-Old Canadian Malt Whisky ($149.95)
Floral, apple, citrus, pencil box and dried fruit spiciness on the nose. Mellow, lightly sweet citrus fruit, gentle maltiness, a touch of ashy dryness with long, complex, cedary, citrus and dry oaky finish.

Hans Christian Jost of Jost Vineyards in Malagash has been quietly working towards the fulfilment of a long cherished goal. In his ancestral homeland of Germany, wine growing and distilling tend to go hand in hand. For Hans Christian, it was a perfectly natural extension, which he wanted to pursue in Nova Scotia.

Jost brought in a distiller, Andrew Shelswell, and acquired a traditional still built in a small village in the Black Forest. Work started a couple of years ago with the first releases this year. Three of these recently won medals, two Silvers and a Gold, at the Taster’s Guild International Spirits Competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan. All were made using Nova Scotia grown grapes or fruit.

Jost Eau de Vie Red Plum 2008 ($17.99/200 ml)
Subtle aromatic true red plum character with slightly bitter but pleasing plum flavours. Very smooth on the palate finishing with an agreeable warming touch of alcohol.

Jost Eau de Vie Yellow Plum 2008 ($19.99/200 ml)
Made from selected Shiro plums, this one shows lightly aromatic fruit with a suggestion of glace cherry or almond. Shows some grip, but very smooth on the palate. Plum fruit lingers on the finish with a hint of marzipan.

Jost Muscat Grappa 2008 ($24.95/200 ml)
Made in classic grappa fashion from fresh Muscat grape pomace; lovely floral fragrance and fruity intensity opens the way for very purely rendered fruit and pleasant fiery character on the palate.

Nova Scotia’s newest venture, Ironworks Distillery in historic Lunenburg, is a small, artisanal operation picturesquely located in the old blacksmith’s shop. Ironworks is the brainchild of Lynne Mackay, a native Nova Scotian, and partner Pierre Guevremont, who hails from Ontario. The couple were inspired by the idea of using locally grown produce and traditional distilling methods to create premium spirits strongly connected to the terroir.

They have started producing small batches of different distillates based, whenever possible, on Nova Scotia produce such as Annapolis Valley apples, pears, local cranberries and raspberries. Current offerings include an apple-based vodka, apple brandy, a pear eau-de-vie and both cranberry and blueberry liqueurs. Their first rum, aged in Bourbon casks, will be released later this year.

Ironworks Apple Vodka ($19.99/375 ml)
Using a combination of McIntosh and traditional-variety Rubinette apples, this twice-distilled vodka is quite neutral on the nose, with a clean, smooth taste, pleasant oily viscosity and no unpleasant rawness on the palate.

Ironworks Apple Brandy ($26/375 ml)
Aged for eight months in small Hungarian oak barrels, this one presents a subtle light apple scent and a hint of pencil shavings on the nose. Very soft on the palate, with gentle apple flavours and a smooth clean finish. Could benefit from longer cask aging.

Ironworks Cranberry Liqueur ($22/375 ml)
Muted but appealing cranberry scents and a lovely fresh cranberry flavour. The tartness of the fruit balances very well with sweetness, leaving the mouth clean and refreshed.

Tomorrow, Canadian Jennifer Huether makes history.

Sean Wood is a weekly wine columnist for the Halifax Chronicle Herald. He has written for both national and international wine magazines and travels frequently to report on wine regions throughout the world. He has provided consulting services to government on wine-related issues as well to the hospitality industry. Sean also serves frequently as a wine judge. His book Wineries and Wine Country of Nova Scotia was published in September 2006.

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