Distiller of Alberta's 1st single malt whisky enjoys 'wiggle room' of new market
'The craft distilling industry is just kicking off, so there's no preconceived notions,' Caitlin Quinn says
A 26-year-old master distiller is enjoying the success of her creation, Alberta's first single malt whisky.
The spirit made at Eau Claire Distillery in Turner Valley, Alta., has sold out completely, save for a few bottles reserved for tasting.
Caitlin Quinn, a Scottish-raised, Winnipeg-born whisky aficionado, is behind the sought-after whisky.
"Legally they have to have aged in the barrells for three years before we can call it whisky, so it's been a long time in coming," Quinn told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday.
This week, she's preparing another batch of single malt whisky to start the aging process. The next batch, about 50 litres per distillation, will be available for sale sometime in the next year, she said. Each bottle sells for $95.
Quinn moved as a young child to Scotland with her family. As a young adult, she studied chemistry before taking a master's of science degree in brewing and distilling from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.
She made the move to Alberta for the opportunity to be inventive with her creations, starting early in her career.
"There's a lot more wiggle room," Quinn said. "The Scotch whisky industry is so old and set in its ways, like there's so many rules.
"Here, it's all a brand new industry. The craft distilling industry is just kicking off, so there's no preconceived notions of what a single malt should taste like here."
At the distillery in southern Alberta, she has produced creative spirits such as a seasonal Christmas gin using spices of frankincense and myrrh.
Quinn's highly successful single malt whisky uses former sherry casks, similar to the Scottish industry, but as a lighter blend with notes of fruit and oak, and a hint of sherry.
"We're hoping to introduce new whisky drinks with the approachable nature of our whisky," she said.
She said she's seeing the local craft distillery industry following a similar trend to that of the craft beer industry. As more local distilleries are opening, helped by the good quality of Alberta barley, "it makes sense," she said.
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With files from Lisa Robinson and the Calgary Eyeopener