By Kristi Alexandra
When you’re known for producing some of the nation’s best beer, having twice won the title of Canadian Brewery of the Year, you might think you’d stick to the winning formula.
But ambition does not elude the key players at Surrey’s Central City Brewers + Distillers, who released a small batch premium whisky at the end of January. Brewmaster Gary Lohin, along with head distiller Stuart McKinnon, created one of only a handful single-malt whiskies in British Columbia.
Aptly named Lohin McKinnon, the 43 per cent alc. per vol. craft spirit is aged in select oak barrels in small batches. While whisky-making might seem like a misnomer for a company known best for its beers, the duo maintains the process is not so different.
“Brewing and distilling really isn’t that far apart so it’s a natural progression for us to start distilling,” says McKinnon. “The distilling process begins with the same barley mash that you would with beer – just without the hops. We distill our whisky using traditional copper artisan stills from Germany, and age them in bourbon oak barrels.”
Made in the brewery + distillery’s 68,000 square-foot facility, the whisky isn’t the first spirit to show up on Central City’s roster. When the brewery outgrew its Central City brewpub spot and moved to the Bridgeview Drive location in 2013, they launched two other high-end libation lines: the Seraph vodka and gin, and the award-winning Queensborough gin. And, according, to Lohin, its fine spirits are all about fine ingredients.
“We use the same passion and commitment to excellence when brewing our beer as we do when we make our spirits; especially our first whisky,” says Lohin. “We use only the best ingredients and follow traditional world class methods to make our high-end whisky. Lohin McKinnon is truly a labour of love for us, and we’ve been eagerly waiting for three years to launch it.”
With rich, dark-fruit notes such as cherry and grape, the taste is a subtle honey with an oaky depth. Its finish is medium length, fruity and ends off dry. According to its website, LohinMcKinnon.com, the whisky is “best enjoyed with a splash of cold filtered water to release the full flavour of this hand-crafted gem.”
“Lohin McKinnon has excellent aroma with rich, darker fruity notes, subtle vanilla and is pleasantly woody. The liquid is great, with a touch of green apple skins, buttery notes, woody and softly textured mouth feel,” raves Mike Nicolson, Canadian master distiller.
Packaged in 750 ml bottles, Lohin McKinnon is now available in BC and Ontario liquor stores.
More with Gary Lohin and Central City Brewers + Distillers: