With its two distillers crafting fine spirits, Shelter Point Distillery is today one of the largest producers of single malt whisky in Canada, and the accolades are rolling in with two gold medal wins recently announced at the 2019 World Whisky Masters.

With its two distillers crafting fine spirits, Shelter Point Distillery is today one of the largest producers of single malt whisky in Canada, and the accolades are rolling in with two gold medal wins recently announced at the 2019 World Whisky Masters.

Raise your glass: Award-winning spirits, handcrafted on Vancouver Island

‘Field to flask’ at Shelter Point Distillery

In a converted cattle barn with 2,000 barrels of ageing whisky lining the walls as far as the eye can see, a thick, heady scent fills the air. Here, amid the delicious fumes known to whisky lovers as the “angel’s share,” are the makings of more than half a million bottles of Shelter Point Distillery spirits.

This fast-growing Vancouver Island distillery, which barrelled its first batch of whisky in 2011, now produces more than 125,000 litres of spirits – whisky, gin, vodka and liqueur – per year.

Located on the eastern side of Vancouver Island just south of Campbell River, the distillery’s beautiful 380 acres of oceanfront property is criss-crossed by streams, the Oyster River, wetlands and, of course, golden fields of barley and wheat rippling gently in the wind.

Shelter Point’s general manager, Jacob Wiebe, is married to one of Shelter Point owner Patrick Evan’s four daughters and it’s clear this is a tight-knit family business.

“You’ll be successful if you work half a day every day,“ Jacob says, quoting Patrick’s father, who also once worked this land. “Doesn’t matter if it’s the first 12 hours or the second 12 hours.”

Jacob laughs and adds, “That’s Patrick’s motto, too.”

Patrick was raised a dairy farmer. But with the industry in decline, he looked to establish value-added agriculture. Creating Shelter Point Distillery was more about capitalizing on an opportunity than being a whisky aficionado.

“I am a beer drinker myself,” Patrick laughs. “I asked myself, ‘How do you value agriculture to the highest degree?’ Well, one acre of land produces 800 litres of alcohol, or 2,700 bottles of whisky.”

Today, plans are underway to develop a true “field to flask” operation with onsite malting. While Shelter Point currently out-sources malting to a plant in Armstrong, within a year or two, Patrick hopes to be malting here, meaning every aspect of production – from seed to spirit – will occur on this land. It will also allow them to add smoked whisky to their repertoire, incorporating true West Coast flavours like maple, driftwood or seaweed.

“There are different perspectives on what defines the flavour of the whisky,” Patrick says. For him, as a farmer, it’s all about the soil, but other factors include the distilling process, the type of barrel used, and the variety and quality of the grain.

“When the alcohol goes into the barrels, it’s all exactly the same,” Patrick points out. “But it comes out different from each barrel. Even the wood and history of the tree used in making the barrel will affect the taste.”

Water is also essential to the world of whisky. Once the barrelled whisky has aged, water is added to cut back the percentage of alcohol, unless the whisky is bottled at cask-strength. Water at Shelter Point bubbles up from a mountain-fed aquifer, so it’s hard to imagine a more pure-tasting addition to the spirits!

Tours & tastings await

Today, with its two distillers crafting fine spirits, Shelter Point Distillery is one of the largest producers of single malt whisky in Canada, and the accolades are rolling in with two gold medal wins recently announced at the 2019 World Whisky Masters.

Stepping into the distillery with its soaring, timber-trussed roof, gleaming, six-metre-high copper stills and futuristic-looking columns is like walking into a piece of art or a sci-fi movie set. While the entire Shelter Point building is gorgeous – from the beautiful, flowered entranceway to the lounging area flush with cushiony, aged-leather armchairs – this room is truly spectacular.

The distilling process is fascinating, and as public tours of this part of the operation are free for the taking, they’re definitely recommended!

Once finished with the tour, it’s time to taste the fruits of all this labour or perhaps, more accurately, the spirits of all this distilling.)

Beyond the silky-smooth whiskey, gin and vodka, there’s even more to discover – Sunshine in a Barrel Liqueur, which comes with a story.

“My daughter didn’t like the taste of the whisky,” says Patrick, “so we told her to go and create something she did like.”

The resulting liqueur has been the distillery’s bestseller (although this summer sales were surpassed by the gin). And basking in its heavenly blend of sweet, citrus, honey warmth, it’s easy to understand why.

Shelter Point cask purchases: A reward that’s worth the wait

The price of acquiring a cask at Shelter Point may seem daunting as it costs several thousand dollars, but the investment actually offers a variety of benefits. While the cask ages (for an additional two to three years), those who have invested in it can organize tastings of the spirit directly from their own barrel in Shelter Point’s barrel room. Customized bottling is another unique opportunity, but best of all, is the end price per bottle (minimum of 250 bottles per cask), which is significantly below retail pricing.

So like all good investments, the reward is worth the wait.

***

The ABCs of Shelter Point spirits

ABV: Alcohol by volume is the percentage of alcohol in a bottle, sometimes referred to as proof. For example, 80 proof is 40 per cent ABV, since proof is calculated out of 200. The ABV of most Shelter Point spirits is 40 per cent, but it ranges from as low as 30 per cent for Shelter Point’s Barrel of Sunshine Liqueur to 50 per cent or higher for some lots of whisky.

Barrel ageing: To qualify as a whisky, a spirit must age at least five years in a cask, three of which must occur in charred oak casks. Shelter Point uses a variety of different barrels or casks, including Kentucky bourbon barrels and various types of wine casks, many from Quail’s Gate winery in Kelowna. Both the wood of the barrel, plus the flavour of what it previously stored, impart flavours to the whisky as it ages.

Cask strength: In many cases, distillers decide if a whisky from a certain cask can be consumed as is, or if water should be added to reduce the ABV. If a whisky is “cask strength,” it has been bottled exactly as it was in the cask. Cask strength alcohol typically ranges from 46 to 60 per cent alcohol.

Copper pot stills: For any type of distilling, a pot or still is used to extract the spirit from the grain mash or wort (see below). The shape and composition of those stills can have notable effects on the spirit. Shelter Point uses two beautiful hand-crafted stills ordered specially from one of the oldest still manufacturers in the world: Forsyth of Scotland. Why copper? Because it is an excellent conductor, spreading the heat evenly in the distilling process.

E or no E?: Whisky is sometimes spelled whiskey. There is no definitive answer to the age-old question of “e or no e?” but for the most part, Irish and American whiskey is spelled with an “e,” while whisky made in Canada, India and Japan conforms to the Scottish tradition of having no “e.”

Malting: The malting process used in distilling imparts various flavours beyond what the original barley and water provide. The best example is the peat moss used by many Scottish distilleries to add a smoky flavour to their whisky. Shelter Point is planning to add onsite malting to its operation to complete the entire field-to-flask cycle. By having its own malting process, Shelter Point will be able to try various types of smoking, from maple to other woods and even possibly seaweed collected directly from the Salish Sea.

Single malt whisky: A whisky made from malted barley in a single pot distillation process, as opposed to blended whisky made from more than one type of grain or distillation pot.

Wort: The wort, sometimes referred to as the “mash” is the porridge-like mixture of grain that is slowly and evenly heated up to produce fermentation and start the distillation process.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

What gives whisky its unique flavour? The soil, and the variety and quality of the grain it grows, but also factors like the distilling process, the type of barrel used, and even the water. At Shelter Point, water bubbles up from a mountain-fed aquifer, for a pure-tasting addition.

What gives whisky its unique flavour? The soil, and the variety and quality of the grain it grows, but also factors like the distilling process, the type of barrel used, and even the water. At Shelter Point, water bubbles up from a mountain-fed aquifer, for a pure-tasting addition.

While the entire Shelter Point building is gorgeous – from the flowered entranceway to the lounging area flush with cushiony, aged-leather armchairs – the distillery, with its soaring, timber-trussed roof and gleaming copper stills, is truly spectacular.

While the entire Shelter Point building is gorgeous – from the flowered entranceway to the lounging area flush with cushiony, aged-leather armchairs – the distillery, with its soaring, timber-trussed roof and gleaming copper stills, is truly spectacular.

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Tom Lennox finds peace when he runs in the Cumberland Forest. He hasn’t missed a day in nearly a year. Photo supplied
Cumberland runner nears 366 consecutive days on the trails

Cumberland resident Tom Lennox has been running a minimum of five kilometres… Continue reading

Courtenay’s Ace Brewing Company’s Jet Fuel IPA was chosen for second place in the annual Canadian Brewing Awards. Photo submitted
Courtenay brewery takes silver medal at Canadian Brewing Awards

“It’s huge - they are the biggest awards in Canada that you can get (in the brewing industry).”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

The Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District board is concerned about having to fund more than just hospitals like the one in the Comox Valley. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Comox Strathcona board worried over funding more than hospitals

Island Health points to seniors care to reduce demand at acute care sites

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Courtenay area this weekend

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

40 Knots Winery recently completed a major project on their vineyard terrace by installing 360-degree glass panels for year-round use.
Comox winery aims for year-round experience with glass-surrounded terrace

40 Knots Winery recently completed a major project on their vineyard terrace

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

First We Eat: Food Security North of 60 is featured at the Feb. 5-13 World Community Film Festival. Photo supplied
First We Eat celebrates resourcefulness of Yukoners

First We Eat: Food Security North of 60 celebrates the ingenuity, resourcefulness… Continue reading

Most Read