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Issue 112 - Historic ambience

Whisky Magazine Issue 112
June 2013


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Historic ambience

The Distillery District, Toronto Our Canadian correspondents provide an intimate view of distilling in one of Canada's biggest cities

It was Friday morning, deadline day, when I opened Blair's email. He'd attached his Distillery District notes and I was to turn them into a Canadian whisky travelogue.

Toronto. Lots to see here but what if he hadn't come through? There was no time now to hop a train and go see the place for myself. Sure, I'd visited the district a dozen times, photographed it from every angle and once crawled into a sealed off barrelhouse where years ago some heartbroken warehouse jockey had scrawled his ode to lost illusions on a wall. But I needed something fresh, something now.

Those scrawls, made long before June 1990, when workers at Toronto's Gooderham & Worts Distillery posed with the last truckload of whisky, haunted me. This had once been the largest distillery in the Commonwealth. That old photo Blair had dug up. Flat bellies tell of healthier times but grim smiles say they were not happier times. A man, standing to one side of the group sports a mullet – business in front, party at the back. His crossed arms make it clear: this party was over. For the next decade, Gooderham & Worts would stand under the shadow of the CN Tower collecting dust.

This is not a lost distillery story with a sad ending, though. At least, not for us. By 2003, developers had restored the sprawling distillery structures into the small village they had once been, surrounded by Toronto, the big city they had once supported. North America's largest collection of Victorian industrial architecture found new ...

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