From potash to premium rum: New distillery 'a natural fit' for Sussex
Sussex Craft Distillery will debut its first spirits — a rum and a liqueur — Thursday evening
A Sussex-area group is expanding New Brunswick's selection of craft spirits, hoping to inject more interest in the area, which was dealt a blow with the closure of the Picadilly mine nearly two years ago.
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It was around that time that a group of investors sat down and talked about what projects held potential for the area, and how they could help the area survive the loss of hundreds of mining jobs.
"Sussex is more than a mining town, and we considered several things," said John Dunfield, the master distiller and founding member of the Sussex Craft Distillery.
"The craft brewing industry has really taken off in the Maritimes — it's a $100 million market. There's a couple places that started up, but still less than five, and 10 per cent of the market is products made right here in the province."
'A natural fit'
Dunfield said looking around the area, it was easy to find the raw materials such as grains and fruit that are needed to make spirits.
Adding to the fact that Sussex has a history of providing drinks to the market, including Sussex Golden Ginger Ale, "it all seemed like a natural fit," said Dunfield.
The distillery is starting out with two products: a white rum, made with fresh Crosby's molasses, and a Northern Comfort maple rum liqueur, which is blended with Steeves maple syrup and other spices and aged with roasted sugar maple hardwood.
Dunfield said it was a "daunting" process to get the operation off the ground.
They decided to start small with two pieces of equipment called a pot still, and 100 litre flute still.
"We thought this would be a great way to get an understanding of the market, how operations work, what the regulatory environment is like, and figure out the recipes of course," said Dunfield.
"The whole idea is to bring a quality product, start with the best ingredients you can find, and then ensure your process all the way through is taking great care and attention toward the quality product at the end."
In the future, the group hopes to add seasonal liqueurs, using blueberries, strawberries, sea buckthorn, and other fruits grown in the area.
They also want to capitalize on locally grown grains to make whiskey and gin.
"There's a product we have in the works, it's an alpha vodka, and it's made with whey protein," said Dunfield.
"It seems to be a natural tie-in with Sussex being a dairy farming area, and a central location for dairy products."
The Sussex Craft Distillery will debut its first spirits at a grand opening at its location on 119 Cougle Rd. in Sussex Corner Thursday evening.
"All are welcome to come get a sample of what we're bringing to the market," said Dunfield.
With files from Information Morning Saint John