Big win for Newfoundland Distillery's seaweed gin

The Clarke's Beach distillery won a double-gold and a silver at the World Spirits Competition in San Francisco.

Clarke's Beach company wins double-gold and silver at the World Spirits Competition

Newfoundland Distillery Co. co-founder Peter Wilkins poses with a bottle of the distillery's double-gold winning Seaweed Gin. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Spirits are high at the Newfoundland Distillery Co. after two of their gins each won medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

The distillery's Seaweed Gin won a double-gold medal at the competition, while their Cloudberry Gin took home a silver medal.

The wins came as a pleasant surprise about a year after the distillery launched its first products, co-founder Peter Wilkins told the St. John's Morning Show.

"We sent them off in a sort of optimistic, hopeful way that they'd be accepted into the competition and they might possibly get a medal," Wilkins said.

"And we're absolutely stunned to find that they won a double-gold and a silver."

A subtle taste of the ocean

The double-gold winning Seaweed Gin, which launched at the end of June 2017, began as something of an experiment.

"The idea was sort of one of those ones that just popped into the mind," he said.

"We thought it was perfect for the province."

The seaweed is sourced from the Grand Banks, deep in the ocean, and processed in a food-safe facility.

But don't expect an overwhelmingly salty or briny taste — the goal was something "a little bit beguiling" but still distinctly gin.

"It's a bit like if you have an oyster, you can taste a bit of the ocean," Wilkins said.

"It's the freshness, rather than the overwhelming mouthful of seawater."

Along with seaweed, the gin also has juniper and savoury, all ingredients from here in the province. And the distillery's other gin is made with another local ingredient, cloudberries — better known here as bakeapples.

"We've tried to keep it so simple and everything from here, so that the flavours are only from the province," he said.

"In a sense, you can taste the province."

New products coming this summer

The potential impact of the win is big, Wilkins said.

"Apparently, this is a bit like winning the Oscars or the Stanley Cup of spirit competitions."

Past winners have said that they've heard from people around the world who are interested in the winning spirits, and he said it's possible that increased interest in the gins will lead to more jobs at the distillery, which is located in Clarke's Beach, Conception Bay.

But Newfoundlanders and Labradorians didn't need any convincing to start drinking gin with seaweed in it.

"We thought it would be our obscure gin, just for foodies and those interested in different tastes, and it's now our best-selling product," Wilkins said.

Peter Wilkins, cofounder of the Newfoundland Distillery Company, with the company's vodka. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

It could get some competition this summer when the Newfoundland Distillery Co. launches two new spirits: a rhubarb vodka and a gunpowder and rose rum.

"It hasn't been quite as smooth sailing as we thought because, oddly, the food inspection agency aren't convinced gunpowder should be in rum," he said.

Wilkins hopes to have word on that in a few days, with a potential product launch shortly after.

With files from the St. John's Morning Show