National win for P.E.I. distillery a confidence builder

The best absinthe distilled in Canada is made on P.E.I., and you can only buy it on the Island.

Deep Roots started producing absinthe in 2015

Deep Roots absinthe in 72.5% alcohol. (Deep Roots Distillery)

The best absinthe distilled in Canada is made on P.E.I., and you can only buy it on the Island.

That's what the judges had to say at the Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition. They gave the prize to Deep Roots Distillery of Warren Grove.

"It gives us a little bit of confidence," said owner Mike Beamish.

Absinthe is a strong liquor, typically overproof, that was very popular in 19th century France until it was banned in 1915. That ban was only lifted in 2011.

The main ingredient of absinthe is wormwood, which contains a hallucinogen called thujone. The CFIA regulates the amount of thujone allowed in absinthe. The drink has a licorice flavour that comes from anise and fennel.

The P.E.I. absinthe beat out offerings from Ontario and B.C. for best in class.

Standing out from other craft distillers

Beamish started Deep Roots Distillery as a retirement project, and without deep pockets he started small. But sales have been good, and as part of expansion plans he hired a Charlottetown company to develop a marketing strategy.

Part of that strategy was to raise the company's profile by entering competitions. Deep Roots put two entries in the competition, and also won silver for Island Tide, a cane sugar spirit, in the White Spirits category.

Beamish believes the success comes from the distillery's commitment to quality ingredients.

"We use only natural herbs," he said.

"We don't use any extracts. We don't use any flavouring, or any colourings."

Deep Roots made its first batch of absinthe in 2015 and is now selling its third, with about 350 bottles in a batch.

Beamish expects production will increase with this competition win.

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With files from Sam Juric