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Island booze officially declared whisky

Macaloney’s Caledonian Distillery spirits officially considered ‘whisky’

Saanich whisky lovers rejoice Macaloney’s Caledonian Distillery’s whiskies passed the three-year aging milestone and are officially considered ‘whisky.’

On Dec. 3, the distillery on Enterprise Crescent released its inaugural single malt whiskies – a Glenloy, a classic style single malt whisky matured in ex-bourbon, sherry and red wine casks and two variations of their Invermallie single cask single malt whisky, one ex-bourbon cask expression and a Portuguese re-charred red wine barrique expression.

Whisky-maker and distillery owner Graeme Macaloney, who has a Ph.D. in fermentation engineering and grew up in Scotland, explained that his is one of the largest craft distilleries in all of North America and is comparable to those in Scotland.

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The spirits – made from B.C. barley – are distilled in large copper pot stills designed in Scotland with Macaloney’s input. The distillation process and the elongated shape of the pot stills results in a smooth, high-quality spirit that can then be aged in wooden barrels for at least three years, he explained.

The methods are all traditional and the whisky is distilled by Scots, but the locally-grown barley gives the whisky a unique flavour, Macaloney said.

Distillery tour guide and bartender Jessie Root noted she was surprised to find out that the spirits come out of the stills clear and get their colour from the wood of the barrels.The small, close-knit staff has been preparing to release whiskies since Macaloney’s Caledonian Distillery began production in 2016 because the spirits needed to age a minimum of three years to be deemed whisky. Though she said they’ve sold “under-aged” whiskies in the past.

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Macaloney wasn’t working alone to create the whiskies. Master distiller, Mike Nicolson, a third-generation scotch-distiller living in North Saanich, is heavily involved as was legendary Scottish distiller Jim Swan, who used his Ph.D. in Chemistry and Biological Sciences to perfect whiskies around the world. Swan acted as a consultant until his death in 2017 because Macaloney knew the Einstein of Whisky could tweak every aspect to ensure perfection. Before Swan died, he told Macaloney this was the best whisky he’d ever helped make.

And Swan wasn’t wrong – before they’d even reached the end of the minimum three-year aging process, Macaloney’s Caledonian Distillery whiskies had won international awards including ‘World’s Best New Make’ and ‘Best Canadian Single Cask Single Malt.’ at the 2020 World Whiskies Awards.

Anyone on the hunt for a new whisky to sample or a pint from Twa Dogs Brewery can stop by the pandemic-friendly beer garden – Sunday-Thursday from noon to 6:30 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. – or visit the store to check out the bottles with personalizable labels or the mini sampler set.

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