Visiting a distillery in the province of Quebec
You see it everywhere on the news, on Facebook or you hear it through your friends that many distilleries are currently opening all around the province. Is it possible to visit them? Should we visit them?
For us, whisky enthusiasts, it is important to specify that not all distilleries are currently producing whisky. To survive, the distilleries must find sources of revenues after they open their doors. A liquor, a vodka or a gin does not require to be aged before it can be sold; it is therefore a rite of passage for the distilleries that are aspiring to eventually produce whisky, as it has to age for at least three years to be properly named “whisky”. Only the “maison Sivo” and the “Distillerie 1769” currently have whiskies on the market. To keep us entertained during the wait, a few other distilleries have released “moonshines”, which is a base of whisky that has not aged the three required years to be named as such.
What can we see when visiting a distillery? Not much, honestly, as it is mostly bags of grain, tubes and tanks, barrels and distillation stills. So what is the interest of such a visit? It is to talk with people, as they are mostly very small distilleries with the owner usually being not too far away.
If you ask the right questions and you are truly interested to learn more, you will mostly likely have a satisfying and interesting visit. Which grain is used and from where is it from? How about the fermentation process? Were there any experiences that were conducted before opting for the current recipe? Which yeast types are used and have you tried any combinations with other yeasts? What was the difference in the results? From where are the stills? Who decided of its shape and its conception? For the gins, what are the aromas used? For the whiskies, how are the aging barrels selected? How many times per month or year is the product tasted to see its evolution? What are the experiences/special recipes currently in the aging process?
Pay also attention to the scents during your visit: it is possible that you’ll notice the same ones in your product that you will taste later on. If you are like me, you will smile thinking of this enjoyable visit when you will open the bottle at home, later on.
Obviously, after the visit, you will have the possibility of tasting some, if not all, of their products currently available on the market. But what is even more interesting is the possibility of tasting unique products, sometimes directly from the aging barrels.
During a visit in New-Brunswick earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of spending more than an hour with Sébastien Roy, owner of the distillery Fils du Roy. It was a fantastic moment that has allowed me to better understand the soul of the distillery by discovering a truly passionate individual. During that hour, he responded with the same passion to the people asking him questions in the store than to the people that were visiting his distillery; he showed me that he took great care of his products and his clients. I also have to mention the great welcoming from the employees; if you visit the region, make sure to visit this wonderful distillery.
During this visit in which I finally spent more than 2h30 at the distillery, I had the chance to taste fantastic products that I hope I will be able to purchase someday. They were preparing a gin made of malted barley and aged in casks, a quite peaty single malt whisky and a whisky that was bottled in a new Canadian process that the owner asked me not to talk about just yet…
So, if you hear the call during your next holidays or during the weekends to visit our local distilleries, here are a few of the best ones in the province. Look at their websites, see if their products interest you and browse the opening hours that can vary greatly depending on the size of the business.
- La distillerie de Québec in Québec
- Distillerie Stadaconé in Québec
- Distillerie Vice et Vertu in St-Augustin
- Distillerie du Fjord in Saint-David-de-Falardeau
- Distillerie Menaud in Clermont
- Distillerie du St-Laurent in Rimouski
- Distillerie le Fils du Roy in St-Arsène (close to Rivière-du-Loup)
- La Société Secrète in Percé
- O’Dwyer in Gaspé
- Oshlag in Montréal
- Cirka in Montréal
- Distillerie 1769 in Verdun
- Le domaine Lafrance in Saint-Joseph-du-Lac
- Les spiritueux Ungava in Cowansville
- Maison Sivo in Franklin
- Distillerie Mariana in Louiseville
- Les subversifs in Sorel-Tracy
- Distillerie Artist in Residence in Gatineau
One last element: the laws allow, since July 2018, the selling of products directly at the distillery. But do not believe that you can stock up at a lower price by buying directly there, as the price is the same as in the SAQ stores; even if the SAQ do not have any fees regarding transport or storage, they ask for the same amount of money to the producers. This is unfortunate for the producers, as it would’ve been an interesting way for them to make just a tiny bit more profits.
Be safe if you chose to taste a few spirits in those distilleries: think of a designated driver.
Enjoy your visit!