Whisky Advocate

The Laird of Fintry has Landed

November 5th, 2013

author-beaumontIt’s been a good year for Canada’s Okanagan Spirits. To begin with, a break on the standard retail mark-up in the provincially-owned liquor stores for distillers using locally-grown ingredients – which this fruit belt operation does exclusively – was rather unexpectedly announced in the early spring by the government of the company’s home province of British Columbia.  Then came word from the World Spirits Competition in Klagenfurt, Austria, where Okanagan Spirits was awarded not only World Class Distillery certification, but also the titles of Distillery of the Year 2013 and Spirit of the Year 2013, the latter for their Blackcurrant Liqueur.

Now a six-year project has finally come to completion with the arrival of Laird of Fintry Single Malt Whisky, distilled from 100% British Columbia-grown barley and aged in French and American oak. Although no doubt better known for their fruit-based eaux de vie lof.bottleshotand Taboo Absinthe, the Laird of Fintry is in many ways a landmark release for Okanagan Spirits, representing in production and aging almost a full two-thirds of the distillery’s existence.

“At the time, we weren’t sure we could even make a whisky, so it was more of an experiment than anything else,” explains Rodney Goodchild, marketing and operations director for Okanagan Spirits. “We had a brewery make the wash for us and were able to distill just a single barrel out of it. Then, as time went on, we kept tasting it and tasting it until at about eighteen months we realized that it was evolving into something quite nice.”

The whisky is titled with the nickname given to an early 20th century settler, James Cameron Dun Waters, who named what is now the Fintry Estate provincial park for his Scottish hometown. The distillery has been producing about a dozen barrels of whisky per year, says Goodchild. So while that initial run has resulted in rather meagre release – leading to a lottery-style sale that had 1,527 people vying for an opportunity to buy the a mere 210 bottles of the whisky – there will be more available next year and in the years to come. One key to Okanagan generating more whisky for sale will definitely be a change in what can only in the loosest of terms be called “warehousing.”

“The distillery has no real warehouse,” says Goodchild, noting that the only other significantly aged product is an 18 month old apple brandy, “So we’re currently storing the barrels in the retail area. The problem is, with the changes in temperature and the dryness of our winters, we estimate that we’re losing about 12% of the spirit per year.” Okanagan Spirits aims to reduce that overly generous angel’s share with the construction of a glass walled barrel room adjacent to their current retail space and tasting bar.

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Distiller Peter von Hahn

As for the whisky itself, its nose is possessed of a surprising maturity for a spirit so relatively young, with aromas of plum, cooked pear, and stewed and spiced raisins accompanying the expected notes of vanilla and toffee. On the palate, however, its youthfulness shines, with ample but integrated oakiness and effusive, sweet notes of both fresh and baked pear, apple and yellow plum, caramel and baking spice, all leading to a still fruity, vanilla-accented finish.

Although it is obviously a grain-based spirit, the Laird of Fintry seems to channel the character of many of its stablemates in the Okanagan Spirits portfolio, specifically the fruit eaux de vie for which the distillery is becoming quite famous. As an operation committed to the use of local ingredients, that is not at all a bad thing.

True, in this batch and at this age, the whisky is not likely to excite anyone approaching it in search of Speyside or Highland complexities, or even the simpler charms of a pot-distilled Irish whiskey. But in terms of speaking to its terroir in the one of the largest fruit-growing regions in Canada, it can only be considered a success, and a harbinger of greater things to come from western Canada’s original and arguably greatest and most successful craft distillery.

5 Responses to “The Laird of Fintry has Landed”

  1. aloy says:

    Grrr! No matter how small the odds I’m just not able to score in a lottery. Had high hopes for a bottle of this one but no dice.

    Oh well, next year. These folks make some great Eau de Vies and it’s nice to see locally made whisky making more inroads in British Columbia.

  2. Danny Maguire says:

    Welcome to the world of whisky. Given time and, by the sound of it, some decent warehousing they should be able to produce something to challenge the better known producers.

  3. morlock says:

    You need to be much more explicit about the nature of the casks being used. Are they virgin oak or eau de vie refill ? If the latter, which eau de vie(s) and are they first (re)fill or second or neutral ? What capacity are they ? Nice to know plenty about your mashbill, water source, length of fermentation, yeast type, still type & operation, and many other things, but the details of wood for 6 years maturation are very important.

  4. Casks were first re-fill of VQA Okanagan Wine provenance French Oak and also a rest in American Bourbon barrels freshly emptied. Single Malt B.C. Barley, mashing similar to beer wort production plus lautering, fermentation is 10 days, water from a special 400′ foot deep well, yeast was a sarcomyces variety plus wild eau-du-vie components in the distillery, multiple distilled in a wood fired traditional European copper pot still. First release, sold out, was aged 6 years. Next “Laird of Fintry” whisky anticipated release is Fall of 2014, by draw again.

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