Whisky Magazine Issue 99
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We are optimistic about Canada's craft distilling industry,” says Barry Bernstein. He's the voice of Still Waters Distillery based in Toronto, Ontario. From Okanagan Spirits, 2,500 miles further west in Vernon, British Columbia, Rodney Goodchild echoes Bernstein's enthusiasm.
Karen Mortfield from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) agrees. “We have witnessed increased consumer demand for small-batch, locally produced and craft products,” she says. “Especially younger consumers. They are educating themselves about spirits and are seeking unique products that reflect their tastes.” Tyler Schramm of Pemberton Distillery in Pemberton, British Columbia, responds more cautiously: “To be a craft distiller in Canada you have to be an optimist.” Nonetheless, craft distilling now generates the same palpable excitement that craft beer sparked two decades ago.
Yes, the demand for finely crafted spirits is certainly growing in Canada, but there are also challenges. These, it turns out, are less to do with taste than government regulation.
Negotiating these regulations can make the path from a brilliant idea to a product in a store, tortured and expensive. Moreover, in nine of Canada's ten provinces there is only one wholesale customer: the government owned monopoly store. It really is an “all-your- eggs-in-one-basket” market.
Once the aggravation, tedium, and sometimes heartbreak, of getting all their permits and licences in order are behind them, craft distil...