At the risk of sounding cliche I’ll say that I don’t always drink spirits but when I do they’re delicious, unique and often made from a local distillery about 80km from where I live, The Newfoundland Distillery Co.
If you asked me about 8 years ago what I thought of local spirits and cocktail culture in Newfoundland, Canada (my home), I likely would have grunted about Screech, a local dark rum that would make me want to do just that. The name meant associate it to a local term used to describe cheap inexpensive spirits of any kind. There was and is nothing wrong with this rum, it’s an important part of our history on the island, but there also wasn’t a whole lot right with it either. Then I may have talked about Iceberg Vodka, produced here using water from Icebergs off our coast but with Ontario sweet corn for the mash. Again, another fine product, but these along with other products have been made for mass production by Rock Spirits, the manufacturing division of the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (provincial crown corporation). Nothing wrong with these products but given their high volumes and lack of local ingredients have in many ways have lost the spirit (pun intended of what it means to produce a great local product.
Flash-forward a few years and the island is starting to branch out, like in other cities, cocktails and craft beer are all the rage. Local brewery after local brewery across our province have opened their doors and perhaps most exciting of all a local distillery has finally opened their doors, in Clarke’s Beach of all places, a small community of just 1500 people. What’s more is that the spirits are made using a variety of locally sourced ingredients like locally foraged Juniper berries for the gin, but also seaweed from just offshore for their divine Seaweed Gin.
While the TNDC do produce a vodka that is pleasant and great for mixing along with various other new products being launched, it’s the seaweed gin that has caught the eye of many a local bartender and even several judges at global spirits competitions.
The Seaweed Gin was recently awarded a double gold in the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, one of the foremost and prestigious global competitions. This is something I know the Distillery was not at all expecting but definitely deserve.
While I’m not a big spirits drinker I was so pleased to see these one-drink options now available at our local stores and wanted to highlight this awesome local company that’s doing big things. Watch out for them in the future as they expand beyond our shores and find their way off this island into the rest of Canada and beyond.
Pictured above are three of my favourites with descriptions pulled from The Newfoundland Distillery Co’s Website:
Aquavit a Nordic spirit which is traditionally a grain based alcohol flavoured with local herbs and botanicals. We’ve made ours unique to Newfoundland and in some ways it’s a young ‘wannabe’ whisky; there’s a hint of smokiness, the campfire is there safely in the distance, a little bit of earthiness from the peat, herbal notes from the savoury and a comforting roundness from a small touch of honey.
Seaweed Gin made using seaweed (dulse) harvested from the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Slightly salty, full of juniper, it is like being in an ocean mist, next to a herb garden and is the savoury (flavour wise rather than herb wise) companion to our cloudberry gin.
Vodka this is made with 100% barley which gives it a little more body than some other vodkas. While you can taste hints of grain it is surprisingly smooth and is superb either on the rocks or in any cocktail.
Look out for their new products Rhubarb Vodka and Gunpowder and Rose Rum.
Recommendation: Mix their delicious gin with a Third Place Cocktail Co. tonic, another truly delicious local product meant for mixing with word class gin.
Happy and safe drinking!