It’s our national liquor, but Newfoundland is the only province that’s not producing its own whisky. Lucky for us, in this historic year, the Newfoundland Distillery Co. is righting that wrong.
Located in Clarke’s Beach, the Newfoundland Distillery Co. is a small craft distillery dedicated to using local ingredients and making the premium spirits using copper stills. The distillery is just about a year old, and since Canadian whisky must be aged in wooden barrels for at least three years, it’ll still a few seasons away.
Thirsty? Don’t fret. The Distillery has recently produced its first full batch of vodka, bottled and ready for sale, with gin and more to come this summer. They’re easy to spot at the NLC in their signature rectangle bottles.
It is a smooth vodka that won’t leave you gagging, even when consumed at room temperature and without mix, if that’s your thing.
The brains behind the booze are Peter Wilkins and William Carter. Wilkins is primarily an artist, having exhibited across Canada, in the UK, and at the Venice Biennale. He also spent a year on a global trek for British TV (“Dom Joly’s Happy Hour”), exploring drinking habits around the world. “I could have been called a professional drinker,” says Wilkins.
Co-founder Willam Carter is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef who ran kitchens in Ottawa for 20 years. When Carter came home with dreams of starting the first whisky distillery in NL, Wilkins was fantasizing about making gin. “We kept talking and talking and convinced ourselves it was possible!” says Wilkins.
Since those early days of inspiration, “local” was the goal. “We have just planted 11 acres of barley in Cormac on the west coast of the island, so by the fall all our vodka will be truly made right here,” says Wilkins.“The gin will use juniper, which grows here abundantly along with cloudberries (bakeapple) and savoury. We really want to keep our ingredients local where possible.”
Along with vodka, gin, and eventually whiskey, one uncommon spirit will be prepared alongside the rest: aquavit. “It’s a superb drink, and is a Scandinavian type of young whisky,” says Wilkins. “It doesn’t have to be aged, but has whisky-like flavours along with some local herbs or botanicals. We will add a bit of juniper and peat to ours.”
What does Wilkins recommend as a suggested serving for his product? “My favourite summer vodka drink is vodka, mint, lime and soda – it’s nearly healthy! Ice, then vodka, squeeze half a lime in, put in a hand full of fresh mint leaves, fill with sparkling water, gently stir, then enjoy,” he says.“If you are keen, you can muddle the mint. I’m normally thirsty so don’t bother!”
The duo plan to have the Tasting Room open for the Canada Day weekend, coinciding with the arrival of their gin. “Ideally, people will come and try our spirits, try different mixers with them, decide what they like and then can buy it in the shop to take home and enjoy!” says Wilkins.
For shop hours, check thenewfoundlanddistillery.com or call (709) 786-0234