Summer Fun Food Drink and Gear – The Gin Virgin – Chapter 21

Victoria Spirits Old West Saanich Gin Vodka DistilleryIf you think Victoria B.C. is coffee central, better get ready to add a new category for this little piece of West Coast paradise! Victoria Gin has hit town.

We spoke with boyish master distiller and molecular biologist Peter Hunt, 31 as he tended his copper pot still – the first one I have ever seen.

Photo right: From L to R – The Hemp Vodka, the Oaken Gin and the Pure Gin.

Peter did his B.A. and Masters degree in Micro-Biology at UVic and seemed as surprised as my wife and I to be tending and managing the intricate discipline of distillation. One of his former vocations was community development work in Africa – but now, at this very early stage in his career, he is doing something completely different – if not just as equally satisfying.

This was our second attempt at finding the operation (they have added some more signs!) and adjacent to a small vineyard in Saanich, the distillery and tasting room are in a barn, giving it that cottage industry feeling that you find in many small wineries.

I learned a lot about distillation and the process of making gin and vodka while checking out their neat operation. A mash of juniper berries and 10 “botanical” additions are used in this handcrafted spirit. Watching it “boil” away at just over 80 degrees © was cool – as well as seeing the condensation towers “perking” – with a gentle little stream of refined “brew” ending up in a steel tin.

Wild organic herbs and spices plus natural spring water create the complex flavor profile of gin – and it is not entirely lost on me, an avid coffee taster. In some ways, it is even more challenging. In the sample room, there are martini glasses laid out with samples of the botanical pallet they use. So much for secret ingredients!

We sipped several varieties of the Gin, one Oak aged and one pure as well as the hemp vodka – and bought a bottle of each. Because I was driving I kept my tipple to less than 1/8th ounce sips with each sample – but the flavor was all there.

Some extra things I learned…

The German-made, 120L copper pot-still produces a “batch” in an attention grabbing 4 to 6 hour distillation process. Intense knowledge of biology and chemistry is key because you do spend a lot of time stripping off ingredients you really do not want in liquor – like acetates and methanol, the blindness inducing byproduct of careless distillation.