New Canadian Craft Distillery
The Dubh Glas Distillery (@TheDubhGlasD) will be a craft distillery located in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia in the heart of the Okanagan valley wine region. It will focus on producing uniquely Canadian single malt whisky using local British Columbia produced barley. The Dubh Glas Distillery will be a distinct single malt whisky distillery rather than an attempt to replicate a ‘Scottish’ Scotch style distillery. This is a brand new distillery run (and owned by) Grant “Stevely” Stevely. Stevely has been working closely with Mike Nicolson as consultant who has over 35 years’ experience.
Mike Nicolson has had a long whisky career and as both of Mike’s Grandfathers were distillers on Islay and his Father was a Lowland Grain Distiller you could say that whisky was in his blood. Mike started his career as a quality analyst and worked across a range of distilleries including; Glen Ord, Teanninich, Glen Albyn, Glen Mhor, Aultmore, Dallas Dhu, Dalwhinnie, Benromach, Cardhu and Rosebank. And it was during this time he gained an understanding of complex quality issues and their effect on spirit quality. His first assistant manager job was at Linkwood followed by Linlithgow and Glenesk and in 1983 he took his first full manager’s roll beginning at Glenkinchie in 1983 and thereafter to the very visible Blair Athol, followed by four years on the Island of Islay looking after Caol Ila and the mighty Lagavulin before finishing with Royal Lochnagar where he spent five years producing that distinctive spirit.
It is anticipated that Stevely will carry out most of the work himself and humbly refers to himself as Distillery as opposed Master Distiller, however it is likely that there will be two part-time staff. Stevely will not be short of willing volunteers as there are a great amount of friends willing to help out including members of the local Fire Department, which Stevely currently volunteers for.
Dubh Glas (dugh-luhs) in Scottish Gaelic means “from the dark water” or “dark water” which is intended to reflect the source water used in making the fine spirits, a well where the water has been filtered through the darkest depths of the earth for years, free of pollutants and surface contamination. The name is also reflective personally of Grant Stevely, whose middle name is Douglas (same pronunciation) and relates to his Scottish heritage.
The focus of the distillery is to produce single malt whisky, however Gin and fruit liqueurs will also be produced during the whisky aging period and will be marketed under the Noteworthy name.
Traditional maturation in ex-bourbon barrels will lead the maturation period thereafter Stevely has decided to use wine casks from local wineries to achieve different finishes on the whisky itself. These will be sourced from many local wineries in the region and these then have the potential to influence and encourage cherry/strawberry notes. Whisky matured within Pinot casks will have notably more of a malted note, or for notes of brambles and spice notes merlot casks will be used.
Dubh Glas will also replicate the highly sought after and very successful ice-wine finish, also produced by Glen Breton which is another single-malt whisky producer in Canada. The ice-wine cask potential could produce a ginger, nutmeg and cappuccino flavour. The ex-wine barrels will be used to put a Canadian twist on the finish.
Stevely explains the vision behind the different cask types and that Sherry or Port style whiskies are really ex-wine that has been fortified at a different stage of the process, we are just putting our uniquely Canadian wine barrels in to use. In fact we have access to Canadian Port style barrels. Many major whisky distillers have used ex-wine barrels in their production Glenmorangie, Springbank, Tullibardine, SMWS bottlings and some of the excellent spirits coming out of KaVaLan in Taiwan have used ex-wine barrels with tremendous results.
Stevely had hoped to use a local cooper to take ex-bourbon barrels and have them made smaller in a concept similar to the Laphroaig QC, however the planned cooperage (one of only two in Canada), have sadly shut down, and Stevely is busy trying to source another cooper, and whilst he admits it’s a setback, it certainly will not hold the distillery back, in fact there is already a new plan in place to take the ex-bourbon barrel staves and make two barrels out of them, with the exception of putting on new toasted oak heads. It is imagined that the casks will look like elongated Port pipes just much smaller.
Although not currently in production Dubh Glas will receive most of their equipment in June, they are using a Bavarian Holstien still from Germany and this will have a rectification column, however this can be opened to be used as a traditional Pot Still giving the distillery several options. Whilst the whisky they produce is maturing the distillery will release a Gin (which is made from barley malt) and fruit liqueurs/eau-de-vie’s. They will also give visitors to the distillery a chance to purchase new make in either one or two litre oak barrels for home aging.
The distillery will be open to members of the public in the summer of this year and will provide the unique opportunity for whisky lovers to see the distillery come to life and be a part of production right from the start.
The distillery will be self-financed and in line with this they are currently selling cask futures (in accordance with the Craft Distillery license requirements in British Columbia), albeit with a bit of a twist, purchases have an option to buy part of a cask, rather than a whole cask itself and Stevely invites any interested parties to get in touch.
To read more about Stevely himself please see our interview here.