Craft­ing whisky with love

> BY LUCY LAU

The Georgia Straight - - Food -

Al­though Lib­erty Dis­tillery was one of the first places in Van­cou­ver to pro­duce hand­crafted vodka and gin, it was an­other spirit that own­ers Robert and Lisa Simp­son had in mind when they dreamt up the fa­cil­ity and its ac­com­pa­ny­ing tast­ing lounge in 2010. “The big, big pic­ture at Lib­erty has al­ways been the whisky pro­gram,” Lisa, a for­mer pas­try chef and man­age­ment con­sul­tant, tells the Straight dur­ing an in­ter­view at the Granville Is­land spot.

That Lib­erty didn’t launch its de­but whisky un­til 2016—three years af­ter the es­tab­lish­ment opened its doors—isn’t the re­sult of any blun­der or de­lay. Crafted from fer­mented grain mash and tra­di­tion­ally aged in charred wooden casks to ac­quire its rich, golden-brown hue, whisky, by def­i­ni­tion in Canada, must be aged for at least three years be­fore it can be la­belled and sold as such. It’s dur­ing this time that the whisky ma­tures, the bar­rel draw­ing out un­de­sir­able flavours while im­part­ing ones that will come to de­fine its nose and palate: pri­mar­ily vanilla, but­tery, and woodsy notes.

Know­ing that, it be­comes clear that Lib­erty’s first whisky, the Trust Whiskey Sin­gle Grain, has been a work in progress since 2013. It was only last year that the li­ba­tion— pro­duced from 100-per­cent or­ganic B.c.–sourced bar­ley and tripledis­tilled for a smoother sip—was ex­tracted from its cask, of­fer­ing the Simp­sons, Lib­erty mas­ter dis­tiller Ray­mond Prior, and lo­cal im­bibers their ini­tial taste of and look at the small-batch spirit.

Boast­ing hints of caramel and al­mond with a long, lin­ger­ing fin­ish rem­i­nis­cent of an Ir­ish whisky, bot­tles of Trust quickly sold out. The fol­low­ing spring, Lib­erty pre­sented its Trust Whiskey Sin­gle Cask Madeira—a sim­i­larly ro­bust spirit with a slightly hon­eyed aroma not un­like that of warm Christ­mas cake—to keep up with what in­dus­try folks see as a grow­ing thirst for lo­cally pro­duced whisky. Pro­pelled by the ex­plo­sive suc­cess of craft beer in B.C., which in­spired an un­der­stand­ing of and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the word craft in the re­gional lex­i­con, a de­mand for sim­i­lar al­co­holic bev­er­ages—man­u­fac­tured in lim­ited runs and with care, imag­i­na­tion, and B.c.–grown in­gre­di­ents—has emerged.

“Craft doesn’t mean bad, craft means ex­cep­tional,” states Lisa Simp­son. “And there are so many dif­fer­ent styles. It’s a whole ad­ven­ture in it­self to go out and ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent types of whisky and all those [flavour] pro­files, rather than hav­ing ev­ery­thing fit into one big-box cat­e­gory.”

Dus­tan Sept, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor at the Sur­rey-based Cen­tral City Brew­ers + Dis­tillers, which un­veiled its first small-batch whisky last year,

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