Fancy visiting a few Nova Scotia Distilleries to see what they have to offer?
Given the agrarian aspects that are so much part of Nova Scotia’s landscape, it stands to reason that there is a wide range of distilleries in the province. In addition to the wineries and craft breweries, distilleries produce their hard-liquor products sourced largely from local grains, herbs, berries and potatoes.
For example, Glenora Distillers in Glenville (Inverness) on Cape Breton Island sources its water from a local spring, set in a highland-scape reminiscent of Scotland; its primary product, Glen Breton Rare, is a single-malt whisky, like traditional Scotch. A “rare” legal battle raged years ago when Glenora attempted to call its whisky “Scotch”, and they lost, but the flavour and experience remain untainted by litigious woes.
Glen Breton Rare is aged 10 years in American oak casks; its sister whisky, Glen Breton Rare Ice is aged in old oak barrels used for the production of ice wine, and the combination yields a unique taste. Glenora also makes what has become a Nova Scotia staple: rum. The province is dotted with pirate coves once used by illegal rum-runners.
Nova Scotia Distilleries dot the province; here is a list of the current ones, but expect this to get longer!
- Authentic Seacoast Distillery and Brewery, Guysborough
- Barrelling Tide Distillery, Port Williams (eastern Annapolis Valley)
- Caldera Distilling, River John
- Coldstream Clear Distillery, Stewiacke
- Compass Distillers, Halifax
- Glenora Distillers, Inverness, Cape Breton Island
- Halifax Distilling Company, Halifax
- Ironworks Distiller, Lunenburg (south shore)
- Steinhart Distiller, Antigonish
- Still Fired Distillers, Annapolis Royal
Add to this list the remarkable collection of liqueurs made by The Tangled Garden on Highway One in Grand Pre. They produce (in addition to sweet and savoury jams and jellies) smooth, perfect liqueurs made from their own garden produce; the raspberry version is stunning, not overly sweet, dressed in a frosted bottle. You can also enjoy tea in the tea house, or wander the incredible gardens.
Shaken or Stirred?
Barrelling Tide Distillery produces some of Nova Scotia’s best gin (among other spirits) in small, hand-crafted batches. Every gin aficionado does two things: argues its merits over vodka in martinis; and can tell the difference between the subtle herbs and exact number of juniper berries used in each bottle. Barrelling Tide adds a third: figure out what is that unusual, delicious flavour. Try its Willing to Learn Gin and start your personal gin education.
It’s justified. Still Fired Distilleries in historic Annapolis Royal (the entire town is a National Historic Site) got their mashing hands on the first legal stills in Nova Scotia. While they also produce vodka, gin and rum, their feature is a series of moonshine, just like Granny used to make. In fact, Granny’s Apple Pie Moonshine is one of their most popular! And it’s only 20% alcohol, so Granny will let you have another one. And another.
They Drank Rum on the High Seas?
Yes, me hearties! And Halifax Distilling Company, located downtown, at the harbour front on Lower Water Street, is the province’s rum specialist. Tastings, events, live music, great rum. Makes a pirate cheer. Halifax Distilling offers the standard range of rums shades, but also flavoured and premium rums. It’s Nova Scotia’s favourite hard liquor. Find out why! Plank-walking not recommended.
History, Variety, Quality and Tradition
Arguably the most fascinating of Nova Scotia’s Distilleries is Ironworks in Lunenburg. Constantly winning awards for their rum, gin (and gin noir; amazing!), vodka and liqueurs, Ironworks is situated in a quaint building that in 1893 was a blacksmith shop. In the old days, the shop crafted ironworks for the local ship-builders; now it crafts magnificent spirits using time-honoured, traditional methods. One of its star products is Pear Eau de Vie, a singular taste. The entire line of Ironworks products is top-notch, not to be missed, placing Nova Scotia in the upper echelons of distillers.
Are Nova Scotia Distillery products priced competitively? A resounding yes to that! They are about the same as mid-range price tags on vodka, rum, gin and other spirits from the rest of Canada and the world. Some, of course, are premium and carry an equally elevated price. Worth every sip. Cent, we mean cent… Cheers!
The road trip between these distilleries is easy and resplendent with gorgeous scenery, almost a perfect circle, so get out your map, put dots on the distillery locations, and go! It’s a perfect circuit for tasting quality, small-batch liquors. You can even stay the night at the inn at Glenora, but book well ahead; it’s a popular spot for sipping and snoozing.