The manufacture of spirits of all kinds is experiencing a meteoric boom in Quebec, the number of distilleries having quadrupled in the last two years. A real industry has thus been set up and still promises many surprises.
Around 1840, during the time of American prohibition, there were more than 200 distilleries in Canada, producing mainly whiskey. This alcohol was illegally transported across the border, by all kinds of means, up to underwater pipes! When the prohibition was lifted, the industry practically disappeared, only to be reborn in the 2000s.
According to the registers of the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux du Québec, 15 distilleries were operating in the province at the end of December 2017. Today, there are around sixty holders of distillation permits.
Quick to produce, gin was one of the first spirits to be launched on the market by new distilleries, causing widespread consumer enthusiasm. The figures from the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) speak for themselves.
According to Mathieu Gaudreault, spokesperson for the SAQ, some forty new spirits have been on sale in the past year, including gins, liqueurs, amarettos and several vodkas.
“In 2018-2019 alone, 24 new gins appeared on the shelves of the SAQ. In one year, Quebec gin sales grew by 47.6%, making Quebec the largest seller of gin in Canada with more than 3.2 million liters sold in the last fiscal year. ”
For many distilleries, the ultimate goal is to produce whiskey. The production time is however much longer, since this alcohol must age at least three years and one day in barrels to legally bear this title in Canada. Much awaited by amateurs, new products will appear gradually on the shelves over the next few months.
Meanwhile, consumers continue to evolve in their appreciation of spirits.
The latest trend? The growing number of food and spirit pairing workshops, such as those given by the SAQ in collaboration with the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec (ITHQ). Gin and salmon nuggets, or oysters and smoked whiskey, have you already tried?
Spirits to discover
- Joual Vert, absinthe liqueur from the Absintherie des Cantons
- Saint-Crème, a creamy liqueur from the Mariana distillery
- Blue Gin Royal Blue Pea Flower, from BluePearl Distillery.
- Chic shock, spiced rum, Ungava Spirits
- Dandy Sloe, from Domaine Lafrance, Mont-Royal plum liqueur
- Lily, Labrador tea digestif, from the Fjord distillery
- St. Laurent Acerum, maple brandy, from the St. Laurent distillery
- La Courailleuse, absinthe liqueur, from the Fils du Roy distillery
- Orange liqueur, from the Noroi distillery
- Avril, almond liqueur, from the Mariana distillery
- Vodka Bold, vodka based on Mauricie water, from Bold Spirits
A whiskey that was expected
The Cirka montreal distillery has just launched Premier Whiskey 93/07, a 100% rye spirit mainly produced from Yamachiche crops, much awaited by amateurs.
“This is the culmination of many years of research,” says Paul Cirka, who says he founded his distillery to make whiskey.
Since 2016, Cirka stills have been distilling vodkas and gins. After three years in American white oak barrels, the whiskey that Paul Cirka has developed with Isabelle Rochette, chief distiller, is finally revealed.
“The combination we have chosen is 93% Yamachiche rye, with a small 7% chocolate rye malt from Germany, a type of malting that is not available in Quebec, hence the name 93/07 “, explains Isabelle Rochette.
A lot of work was necessary to perfect this whiskey produced from grain and their efforts were rewarded. Cirka has just won a silver medal at the Canadian whiskey awards 2020.
The company plans to market another whiskey during the year.