Coming down with awards and “first and only” claims, Compass Distillers, situated on Agricola Street in the north end of Halifax, is the distillers’ distillery. In a phrase: high-end. Small batches, hand-crafted, local ingredients (grains and botanicals). That’s the formula. Visitors can stand at the tower (which houses the tasting room and retail shop) and watch the process through the picture window.

Compass Distillers products (spirits and bitters) are made with such high standards and quality control that the results are a singular taste experience. The distillery offers club memberships, which help offset the lofty price per bottle, and sells exclusively through their own shop and bar (Compass Bar, of course) on premises; they do not ship. The three founders, Graham, Josh (who happens to be the chief crown prosecutor in Halifax) and David joined in their commitment to make the best of the best. No compromise. Period.

Compass Distillers is the only grain-to-bottle distillery around. The products are pure, the process painstaking. This is the stuff you will want to save for special occasions and then invent one because you can’t wait to taste it.

Accordingly, expect to pay top dollar for these unique spirits (we won’t list the awards; they have basically all won) in no particular order and not the complete collection:

  • Nauss Reserve Rum (the name refers to the bicycle shop that used to exist on the current Compass Distilleries premises), aged in American oak barrels
  • Rhumb, crafted with Crosby’s molasses and brown sugar (perhaps will cause imbibers to rhumba?)
  • Gin made from Nova Scotia wheat with juniper, cilantro and cucumber
  • Moonshine (think upscale, not paper bag)
  • Gin Wild, made from 100% Nova Scotia juniper berries
  • Noon Gun Gin, made from Nova Scotia wheat, aged five months in barrels that are stored in the Halifax Citadel historic site
  • Aquavit (translation: water of life) from a corn and wheat base, tempered with local botanicals such as caraway, dill and fennel
  • Vodka, clear and perfect

Visit Compass Bar when you are in Halifax to taste any of the spirits; the bar is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, open noon until 10:00 p.m. (midnight on weekends). Besides Compass Distilleries spirits, the bar serves cocktails, beer and wine, as well as appetizers. The other main distillery in downtown Halifax is Halifax Distilling Company, the rum specialists, but Compass is in its own league in terms of product uniqueness and luxury.

Above the Compass Bar is your excuse not to go home: the Tower Airbnb suite. Heck, you could spend an entire week here just watching (though the window!) the TLC of making Compass Distillers’ singular products.

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