*Note: This is not an exhaustive list, and the map only shows the distilleries listed below which have whiskies on the market from their own distillate. This will be updated as products from different distilleries are tasted. Please see here for a more exhaustive list of the craft scene in Canada.
66 Gilead Distillery
Bloomfield, ON. Founded 2011. Web: 66gileaddistillery.com
66 Gilead, named after its street address, is located in Prince Edward County. Prince Edward County is known for its wine - leading, of course, to the distillery's crimson rye being aged in Pinot Noir casks. It was founded by two radiologists who still work day jobs, and run the distillery on the side. They produce a variety of spirits - whisky, vodka (pine, wheat, rye), gin, rum, and shochu - a distilled spirit from barley and rice originating from Japan.
Black Fox Farm & Distillery
Saskatoon, SK. Founded 2014. Web: blackfoxfarmdistillery.com
This distillery in Saskatchewan is unique in the sense of its founders: grain farmers. While many distillers come from brewing or distilling backgrounds, few come from a step earlier – farming backgrounds, in line with many of the original distillers. They had reached the point where they either needed to get a lot bigger (double in size) to remain viable, or get “creative”. They went with the latter and started a distillery, beginning with varietal vodkas but now moving on to Gin, Whisky, and a few other products including a collaboration with a local producer to make a rhubarb wine and gin spritz (quite tasty if you like country wines). The whisky is of age, as of 2018, but is yet to be released.
Central City Distillery
Surrey, BC. Founded 2013. Web: centralcitybrewing.com
Central City entered the scene with their Red Racer beer, and forayed into distillation in 2013. The distillery combines the brewing talents of Gary Lohin and distilling talents of Stuart McKinnon to create their Lohin McKinnon single malt.
Almonte, ON. Founded: 2017. Web: dairydistillery.com
Now here is a unique concept – in partnership with the University of Ottawa, the Canadian Dairy Commission, and the Dairy Farmers of Ontario – the Dairy Distillery ferments and distills a milk by-product (milk permeate) into “Vodkow”. This transforms a waste byproduct, which can’t be flushed down the drain due to the sugar content, into a “vodka” and a byproduct, left after distillation, which can be flushed down the drain! One of the most unique spirits you can taste. There is a gin coming, too.
De Vine Vineyards
Saanichton, BC. Founded: 2013. Web: devinevinyards.ca
De Vine was founded as a vineyard in 2007 and has added a new distillery. It is very much a craft operation – they even have local maltsters floor malt local barley on site. They recently bought a farm to grow barley to distill, and have pushed the boundaries of local, even distilling an Ancient Grains whisky from organic British Columbia kamut, spelt, emmer, and einkorn – filled into new barrels. The head distiller, Ken Winchester, previously apprenticed at Bruichladdich and started Victoria Gin in 2007.
Their single malt, Glen Saanich, is aged in quarter cask ex-Bourbon barrels from Washington state. There are plans for barrel finishes with Sherry and Sauternes casks. The three year old Glen Saanich whisky will be available starting in 2018.
Read about my visit to Glen Saanich here.
Beamsville, ON. Founded: 2012. Web: dillons.ca
Dillon’s is a highly regarded craft distiller, becoming known in the market for their impressive line of mixing spirits: an unfiltered gin, a dry gin, strawberry gin, rose gin, cherry gin, vodka, absinthe, limoncello, and a seemingly endless line of impressive bitters. In Ontario, Dillon’s products can be seen in both bars and liquor stores throughout Ontario.
Their rye whisky came of age in 2016, and has been a huge hit.
Eau Claire Distillery
Turner Valley, Alberta. Founded 2014. Web: eauclairedistillery.ca
Eau Claire is located in Alberta in Turner Valley, an agriculturally rich area fed by water runoff from the rocky mountains. The name itself, “Eau Claire” is indicative of the clear water flowing off the mountains. The distillery itself has a stable of plough horses which are used to produce some of the house-grown grain for their spirits. But, where they aren’t grown themselves, they are sourced very locally - within 100 miles of the distillery, if possible. Even after a short age of operation, the distillery’s products have taken home a large number of awards. The distillery is housed in a 1929 movie theatre and dance hall.
For up to date info on their products, join their cask club.
Fils Du Roy Distillery
Paquetville, New Brunswick. Founded 2012. Web: distilleriefilsduroy.com
Fils du Roy is a small family run distillery located on the Acadian coast, in a French speaking area of New Brunswick. Sebastien Roy, the master distiller, brewer, and master of the Chai of the distillery started brewing alcohol in his closet when he was 15 years old and in 2012 he founded Fils du Roy. They make whisky and an unusual style of beer - sweet beers, which have a lot of bitterness to balance out the sweetness (but not a ton of hop flavour). The distillery is full of experimentation, using different yeasts of blends of yeasts and rarely doing the same thing twice.
King's Lock Distillery
Johnstown, ON. Founded: 2016. Web: https://www.klcraftdistillery.ca/
King's Lock has been started with an eye looking towards sustainability and green principles: using local organic grain, water recycling, and grain mash recycling. They are producing a spicy rye whisky, rum, vodka, and gin. They have a number of aged and unaged products already out in the market.
Last Mountain Distillery
Lumsden, SA. Founded 2010. Web: lastmountaindistillery.com
This distillery was founded by Colin and Meredith Schmidt, with a background in banking and finance (and hockey - Colin spent some time in the NHL). Last Mountain was the first micro-distillery in Saskatchewan, and, as craft distillers go, produce a number of products including their dill pickle vodka. They make two whiskies from wheat and rye, their last mountain whisky and their private reserve. Products are only available in Saskatchewan, though they ship to British Columbia and Alberta.
Last Straw Distillery
Vaughan, ON. Founded: 2016. Web: laststrawdistillery.com
Last Straw distillery started up production in 2016, producing rums, gins, and soon-to-be whiskies in all sorts of different casks. Much of their distillate is very clean, which I like, meaning that their younger stuff tastes terrific. As with many craft distilleries, much experimentation is taking place. They have even experimented with some malted corn, which, in my opinion, was their most complex spirit that I tasted out of the cask - I'm excited for that future release. Oh, and their blackstrap white rum is terrific.
Monteregie, Quebec. Founded 2015. Web: maisonsivo.ca
In Hungary, where Janos Sivo’s family comes from, the national drink is palinka, typically unaged brandy made from various fruits - plum, quince, cherries, berries, etc. - at homes it’s often taken as a shot (as I was treated to, when I lived in Hungary!). Sivo’s grandparents both distilled palinka, but when he moved to Canada there was no market for it. So, among some fruit brandies, Janos Sivo got into making whisky which he finds “very complex, very exciting!”. The distillery is located on a farm and makes single malt and rye whiskies, employing many different types of casks and also making herbal and fruit liquers.
Clarke’s Beach, NL. Founded 2016. Web: thenewfoundlanddistillery.com
Headed up by a retired executive chef and the artist Peter Wilkins (and previous star of the Dom Joly Happy Hour, some time ago), the Newfoundland Distillery features some innovative takes on spirits - charred birch, sea salt, and kelp to recreate the flavours of gunpowder in rum, or their seaweed gin, or their aquavit which is smoked with peat and juniper. The spirits they create are generally focused around just a handful of featured, local flavours rather than utilizing a large diversity of botanicals.
Notably, the distillery partnered with the Department of Agriculture to develop a pilot project to grow barley in Newfoundland. This three-row barley is the first to be grown in Newfoundland. The first year, they only had a few tons to work with, but in the fall of 2019 the distillery is expecting to have about 40 tons of grain to use! Out of this, whisky will begin to add to the already impressive lineup of gins, rums, and spirits.
Niagara Falls Craft Distillers
Niagara Falls, ON. Founded 2016. Web: niagarafallscraftdistillers.com
This Niagara Falls distillery was founded in part by Andy Muirison, who worked for about 20 years for Diageo before joining in the venture to found Niagara Falls Craft distillers. They entered the market with a sourced light mixing whisky which is now also being produced at the distillery, with intentions of producing some single malt which mimics some lighter Highland Scotch Whisky. For now, they're leaning on the lighter mixing whisky, vodka, and gin to carry them through until the single malt is ready. They're also taking time to investigate rum, which, also, is well underway.
North of 7 Distillery
Ottawa, ON. Founded 2014. Web: northof7distillery.ca
Two founders, with a love of bourbon, founded a distillery in the nation's capital - now producing grain forward Canadian whisky (of various mashbills, matured in New Oak from Independent Stave Co.), gin, and a noteworthy cask strength rum. The founders started together with a rock climbing gym, evidenced in how they stack barrels (if you are visiting the distillery, ask to see their barrels and ask how they assemble them so high!). I'll say it again...if you are in the area, taste their products, and buy Leatherback Special Reserve (Cask Strength).
Gaspe, Quebec. Founded 2016. Web: odwyerdistillery.com
A distillery committed to organic ingredients which has entered the scene with a very interesting gin, distilled with local mushrooms to give a rich earthy umami character to the gin. There's more coming down the line....
Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery
Vernon, BC. Kelowna, BC. Founded 2004. Web: okanaganspirits.com
Okanagan Spirits is one of the micro distilleries in Canada - and it's quite large. It is bigger than Glenora, and has expanded now to include two different sites. Grains and fruits for the various spirits are sourced from British Columbia, and a variety of different products are produced including single malts dating back to 2007, though the distillery is focusing on whisky particularly at the moment. They make 4 different types of whisky - a rye, a bourbon style whisky, a single malt, and a distiller series of whiskies where the wort is created like a beer (hopped, etc.) before being distilled.
The Kelowna site has a 250 litre Mueller Copper Pot still, and the original Vernon site has a 650, 1000 and 2000 litre copper pot stills, including the tallest copper pot still in North America.
Founded: 2008. Pemberton, British Columbia. Web: pembertondistillery.ca
Pemberton makes a variety of spirits, all organic and certified to be so in Canada, the US, and Europe. They specialize in distilling from the pemberton potato, distilling vodka, gin, absinthe, schnaps, and liquers from it. Beyond being simply organic, the distillery is energy efficient even using geothermal energy for a proportion of heat for their still!
Rig Hand Distillery
Founded: 2014. Nisku, Alberta. Web: righanddistillery.com
Though Alberta is a whisky lovers haven with great prices and relatively low alcohol taxation, not many micro-distilleries are present there - mainly just the giants Alberta, Black Velvet, and Highwood. However, Rig Hand came into production in 2014 with an assortment of products including a sugar beet rum made from local sugar beet molasses. They also released Alberta's first whisky from a modern micro distiller by collaborating with Saskatchewan's Last Mountain distillery to combine some of their spirits. They have three types of whiskies on the go: 100% rye whisky, a bourbon-style corn whisky, and a single malt.
Shelter Point Distillery
Founded 2010. Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Web: shelterpoint.ca
Shelter Point was founded by a third generation farmer, Patrick Evans, buying a 330 acre farm on which much of the barley used in their whisky production is grown on site. The distillery, rather than releasing right away, waited 5 years before releasing their first whisky: a single malt. The distillery itself is very beautiful, and consequently has been sought after as a wedding venue since the distillery opened.
Arisaig, NS. Founded 2014. Web: steinhartdistillery.com
Steinhart distillery was founded out of a passion which actually was passed down through generations. Head distiller Thomas Steinhart grew up learning distillation of gin and eau-de-vie from his father and grandfather who made spirits in the Black Forest region of Germany. Steinhart founded his distillery with an eye towards gin, and crafted an excellent one - it captured my attention as a judge at the World Gin Awards - though a blind tasting, I found out later what it was. He uses fresh high-quality ingredients, including fresh organic citrus peel! I know of no other gin distillery doing this in Canada. Though gin is a core passion, there are other experiments going on, such as beer brandy.
Sooke, British Columbia. Founded 2015. Web: sheringhamdistillery.com
Sheringham, a distillery on Vancouver Island, is another distillery with a chef at the helm of the distillation – Jason MacIsaac who runs the distillery with his wife Alayne. The distillery sources all its agricultural products from British Columbia and produces an impressive array of spirits, including some very well known gins and their impressive caraway-flavoured akvavit. Whisky is on the way, too.
Sperling Silver Distillery
Regina, SK. Founded 2012. Web: sperlingsilver.com
A distillery opened in regina by Adam Sperling, related to Paul Sterling who owned a hotel and slaughterhouse which used to be part of an operation to smuggle whisky to Chicago by train in the 1920s. Now, they are producing spirits with a focus on organic and environmentally friendly production.
Still Waters Distillery
Concord, ON. Founded 2009. Web: stilllwatersdistillery.com
Still Waters was founded by Barry Stein and Barry Bernstein, and produced the first Ontario single malt seen in years. They are producing single malt, a 100% rye whisky, and a corn whisky all from their pot still under their Stalk & Barrel brand. They bottle all their products single cask, with detailed cask information on their website, and they release their whiskies at both 46% and at cask strength, in addition to their blended whisky which is created from a mix of their own whisky and sourced whisky.
Their rye whisky is particularly noteworthy and has won a number of awards, and it is the best new make (the whisky distillate before it is aged) I have ever tasted. If you visit the distillery you can buy the new make as well as small casks to age your own spirits! Their informative website is here.
Two Brewers Distillery
Whitehorse, YT. Founded 2009.
This Yukon distillery - it must be one of the most northerly distilleries in the world, came out of a brewery founded by Bob Baxter and Alan Hansen in 1997. In 2009, the brewery invested in a pot still, resulting in a new craft distillery. Unlike most micro distilleries which, eager for cash flow, start to release their whisky until it is 3 years old - Two Brewers waited 7 years until 2016 to release 4 different single malt releases. Because of the many years of brewing before distilling, Two Brewers comes to distilling with more expertise in fermenation, the key flavor generation process in whisky production, than many micro distillers. They release 4 different product lines of single malt - classic, peated, special finishes, and innovative.
They use a large proportion of new oak, alongside bourbon barrels, and a number of different malts and fermentation techniques. They are worth a try!
Sidney, BC. Founded: 2008. Web: victoriadistillers.com
The distillery was actually founded before 2016, but in 2016 the distillery moved from Victoria to Sidney, and changed its name. The brand is focused on cocktails, producing three types of gin (including one which changes colour depending on the acidity of the cocktail it is used in!), a hemp vodka, sugarcane and molasses based spiced liquers, a chocolate liquer, and a whisky produced in small batches.
Saanich, BC. Founded 2016.
This distillery was the brainchild of Graeme Macaloney, who did bio-process engineering working with fermentation for 12 years before getting his PhD in brewing and distilling. With the help of Diageo master distiller Mike Nicholson, consultation from Jim Swan, a government grant and private investors he set up a distillery with a focus on a fast-maturing malt and opportunity for others to do contract distillation through them. While their own whisky matures, a few "guest whiskies" have been sourced from Scotland at a number of distilleries Mike worked at.
Founded 2016. Ayr, ON. Web: drinkwillibald.com
Willibald distillery was founded by three brothers in Ayr, Ontario - near Kitchener- where the focus is on three recipes of whisky which are currently in production. A full 75% of production being dedicated to whisky. However, they’ve released a few gins and a few innovative products like their Winter Liquor which has a whisky base and is aged for nearly two years with apples and winter spices, and is unsweetened. The distillery is in the process of converting their 60 acre farm to organic with the ultimate hope of creating their own estate-grown barley.
There are a few producers now in Canada who are not yet whisky distilleries, but still blend whiskies.
Wayne Gretzky Estates
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON. Founded 2008 (Distillery to come 2017). Web: gretzkyestateswines.com
Though Gretzky started with a wine brand, they have now started to blend their own whisky with an eye on their new micro distilllery which is opening in 2017. Their Red Cask whisky is finished in Gretzky wine casks, having been sourced elsewhere.