It’s official. Revelstoke makes some of the best booze in Canada.
“Every single one we submitted won,” says Josh McLafferty, co-owner of Monashee Spirits. McLafferty submitted six types of alcohol: a brandy, vodka, whiskey, gin, an aged gin, and liqueur to the Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition, which is the only national competition exclusively for artisan distillers.
“We swept it,” says McLafferty. Each spirit won, with the gin, named Ethos, winning the Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year award out of hundreds of submissions.
“This is totally unexpected. I’m buzzing.”
View this post on Instagram
Wow. We are honored and humbled to find out this morning that our Ethos Gin is not only the best Gin in Canada, but the top Spirit made in Canada overall as well!! Thank you to the judges, @hamerca , the Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition group and congratulations to all the other amazing distilleries out there for all your hard work and amazing products you make. But especially a huge thank you to this amazing town of Revelstoke for taking us under your wing and showing us love and support in all we do – it’s you folks that push us to strive for greatness every day in our spirits.
The judges noted that Ethos is, “delicately floral (white blossoms, rose petal, orange blossom, note of elder flower) nose, tinged with light pink grapefruit. Juicy citrus, white pepper and a silky elegant mouthfeel; more floral on palate. Distillation and flavours are clean and precise: finish is beautifully astringent and mouthwatering. A gin with tons of finesse.”
The Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition is unlike any other. Judges taste the submissions blindly, make notes, and compare results.
”The awards program provides an important and impartial evaluation of the spirits which are entered, and gives our artisan distilleries an opportunity to gain some attention, as well as legitimacy that they are producing quality products,” says Alex Hamer, spokesperson for the competition.
Roughly 40 per cent of artisan distillers in Canada entered the competition.
McLafferty, along with his wife, Jenn, opened Monashee Spirits in 2016 on Mackenzie Ave.
“Every dollar I’ve ever made, I’ve put into this business,” says McLafferty. Before becoming a distiller, McLafferty was an underwater welder for 15 years and travelled the world. Even on the couples first date, McLafferty got a work call. Within minutes he had to grab a plane for Africa.
“As I rushed out the door I said I’ll call you,” says McLafferty with a chuckle. The couple later got married.
Several years ago, McLafferty was in a motor cross accident and shattered both his legs. It was the end of his diving career. Instead of diving, he was put behind a desk.
“I became nuts. I have to work with my hands,” says McLafferty.
He was always into making alcohol, for example at their wedding they made 200 bottles of wine. One day, he was having pizza and fries at the Village Idiot with his toddler and noticed a “For Lease” sign across the street.
“I got it right there and then.”
The couple decided to give distilling a try. It wasn’t long until business took off.
|Located in downtown Revelstoke. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)|
“Oh my god. There is so much demand locally,” says McLafferty. Monashee Spirits produced more than 15,000 bottles of booze last year and say it still wasn’t enough.
The company uses a heirloom grain named triticale, which is a hybrid of wheat and rye. It was first bred in laboratories during the 19th century in Scotland and Germany. It’s mostly used for animal feed.
“The rye has a little bit of spice to it,” says McLafferty.
McLafferty buys the grain from his friend, Tony at Fieldstone Organics Ltd, just 93 km away.
“We’re one of five certified organics in Canada,” says McLafferty. Monashee Spirits thinks outside the grain when it comes to flavourings, for example, the brandy that they submitted to the competition was flavoured with fruit from Revelstokian’s backyards, through the gleaning project, where fruit is picked so it’s no longer a bear attractant. The Bear Aware Brandy won bronze.
Monashee Spirits didn’t make gin from the start. McLafferty says the spirit is difficult and didn’t want to release it until it was perfect.
Gin is a layered spirit, made from infused vodka. It’s the layering that makes it tricky.
View this post on Instagram
Ethos Gin – The Spirit of Revelstoke Gold Medal, Best in Class in Canada CASC Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year CASC Triticale grain base – 43.0% alc./vol. . Juniper, huckleberries, spruce tips, ponderosa pine, and wild flowers form the base of our local ingredient bill combined with 10 more botanicals to create a gin whose spirit represents the wild alpine that surrounds our beautiful mountain town. 📸 @adventuresofeliisa . . . . . #therealstoke #revelstoke #craftdistillery #monashees #kootenays #bcdistilled #monasheespirits #graintoglass #bc #beautifulbc #explorebc #canada #distilling #organic #organicspirits #triticale #certifiedorganic #noaa #coabc #cocktails #vodka #gin #whisky #whiskey #liqueur #madeinthemountains #familybusiness
McLafferty says the gin “Ethos” is Revelstoke in a bottle.
Drinking it “is like skiing in trees and hiking in the mountains.” The spirit is suppose to link memory and scent.
Soon after Ethos won, McLafferty’s phone went crazy. Everyone wants it.
“I’m getting emails and phone calls from Whistler, Vancouver Island, Comox. They’re all saying they want two cases. Stat.”
|The system for making vodka. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)|
McLafferty says to meet demand, he’s going to have to hire more staff and expand. The tasting room will stay, but the booze may have to be manufactured in another building.
Eat Vancouver is coming this week for a photo shoot. McLafferty says he’s getting calls from across the country.
In the tasting room at Monashee Spirits barrels line the wall. They’re the next project: whiskey made from triticli, which McLafferty says has never been done in Canada. The booze will be released in June, 2020.
The company wants to get more into producing whiskey as there’s massive demand for the product.
“It has more return in value than gold.”