Manitoba-made whiskies flowing to distillery shelves
Bad news for Beaujolais Nouveau lovers: soaring air freight costs limits supply
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After around 140 years, the first Manitoba-made whiskies not named Crown Royal will be hitting the shelves in the coming months. Yes, that’s whiskies – plural.
The first to hit the market is Patent 5’s Single Barrel Release 1, released on Nov. 10 from their website and tasting room (108 Alexander Ave.). And while they’ve so far released mainly gin, vodka and small-batch liqueurs and spirits — products that don’t require extensive aging before release — making their own whisky has always been the end goal.
“This wasn’t our first batch of whisky,” says Patent 5 owner president Brock Coutts. “We went through a number of batches, and barreled some. And three plus years later, they were not the whisky we wanted. We’ve redistilled some, and some of the others went down the drain.”
The Single Barrel Release 1 is made from, as you’d guess from the name, one lone barrel’s worth of spirits, which was made using Manitoba-grown and milled corn, rye and wheat as well as malted barley. It was double pot-distilled and then aged for 37 months (in order to be called Canadian whisky, a product must be aged for three years before release). The first bit of aging took place in a new American oak barrel before the whisky was transferred to a French oak barrel previously used to make Pedro Ximinez sherry in Spain.
And while the finished product clocks in at a relatively robust 44 per cent alcohol, finishing the whisky in the sherry cask keeps things smooth and approachable; a sample tasted prior to release offered impressively well-balanced spice, tropical fruit, herbal and caramel notes.
For their first whisky release Coutts and his team took inspiration from Radinger & Erb, the last Winnipeg distillery to produce whisky some 140 years ago on Higgins Avenue. “We said ‘let’s produce a whisky that would have been similar to what they did,’ which is a pot-distilled wheat whisky,” he explains. “But then we added a more modern twist, finishing in a different cask.”
With around 100 barrels of whisky (or soon-to-be-whisky) currently aging — of various blends of base materials as well as single-grain spirits — Patent 5’s goal is to eventually be able to offer tasting flights and blending sessions in their barrel room. With their distillery currently running seven days a week to keep up with the demand for their range of craft spirits, a larger still and/or production facility is a definite possibility.
Around 340 bottles of the Single Barrel Release 1 is on sale now at Patent 5 for $79.99 plus taxes and fees, or via their website at patent5.ca while supplies last. (Update: supplies did not last long, and the Single Barrel Release 1 is now sold out.) They’ve also recently produced a coffee liqueur, limoncello and chokecherry liqueur, and are aiming to release their own rum made from molasses in the summer.
The folks over at Capital K Distillery, meanwhile, are launching (and sampling) their very limited Tall Grass Premium Rye Whisky today from 4-6 p.m., although the finished product isn’t expected to hit store shelves until December. Those in attendance at the launch will have first dibs at reserving a bottle, with the rest being made available via the distillery (1680 Dublin Ave.) or their website at capitalkdistillery.com in the future.
If you’re reading this on Saturday and can get there in time, check wfp.to/capitalk for tickets to the launch, which are $20 plus fees and include samples.
Around this time every year, folks who love light, fun and fruity red wines anticipate the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau, released each year on the third Thursday of November. But those looking for the Gamay-based red may have a tough time this Nov. 17.
A combination of supply-chain issues and the current prohibitive cost of air freight means Manitoba Liquor Marts are only stocking the Georges Duboeuf 2022 Beaujolais Nouveau rosé — and none of the reds. A jump in costs means the rosé will retail for $26.99 per bottle plus taxes.
For red Beaujolais Nouveau, then, folks will have to scour private wine stores to see what’s available. The Winehouse (1600 Kenaston Blvd.), for example, will have the Duboeuf red Beaujolais Nouveau red; they’ll not likely get the quantity Liquor Marts would have received, and what they do get will carry a similar price tag to the listed rosé.
Over at De Nardi Wines (formerly La Boutique Del Vino, at 1360 Taylor Ave.), meanwhile, they’re not deviating much from the norm, other than also acknowledging Beaujolais Nouveau from their producer of choice, Domaine Bel Avenir, will also likely be a couple bucks pricier than previous years.
“It’s going to be similar in price to everyone else,” says Ian Walsh of De Nardi Wines. “We’ll have a limited amount, about six to eight cases, as we always do.”
In terms of the price bump, Walsh says transportation costs are the primary culprit. While most wines arrive on our shores by boat, the time-sensitive nature of Beaujolais Nouveau means it’s shipped from wineries in the French region by air. “It’s jet fuel, everything that’s associated with air travel,” says Walsh.
Popularity-wise, Walsh sees Beaujolais Nouveau’s appeal as being fairly steady, with newer wine drinkers taking a greater interest in the product. “It’s starting to really pick up a lot of steam with younger people who want something that’s got more of that fresher style, where it doesn’t sort of have as much ‘post-production’ attached to it,” he explains. “A lot of people who are younger want something that’s more lively and a bit more on the ‘crushable’ side.”
Having said that, there are more wines being made in that fresher, “crushable” style that Beaujolais Nouveau brings, but without this year’s sticker shock, says Walsh. “There are so many other things in the market now that are a lot flashier… a lot more ‘hip,’ I guess… they’re being shipped super young, and they’re meant to be drunk young.”
So while fans of Beaujolais Nouveau in Manitoba may feel frustrated at the limited availability and rising price of the product, it could be worse: reports indicate both the LCBO and SAQ won’t likely receive any of the wines at all, meaning those in Ontario and Quebec will be totally out of luck.
Wines of the week
Juwel 2021 Weissburgunder (Rheinhessen, Germany – around $28, private wine stores)
Pale straw in colour, this German Pinot Blanc brings a hint of spritz which elevates the apple seed, pear, floral and peach aromas that come with a light chaly note. It’s dry and light-bodied, with that spritz keeping the tree fruit flavours fresh, that chalky note working with modest acidity for texture and a medium-length finish (it’s 12.5 per cent alcohol). A lively white wine that’s delicious on its own, or try with oysters, sushi or Thai food. Available at De Nardi Wines, Kenaston Wine Market and potentially elsewhere. 4/5
Santa Carolina 2019 Carolina Pinot Noir (Leyda Valley, Chile – $14.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Pale ruby in colour, the up-front cherry, strawberry, cola and leather notes on the nose of this Chilean Pinot Noir are appealing. On the dry, light-bodied palate the somewhat muted red berry flavours come with modest acidity and a touch of oak, while tannins are relatively soft and manageable. There’s a slightly bitter edge here that’s a bit tough to pin down; a fresher vintage, particularly at this price point, might sort things out. 2.5/5
Bodegas Vivanco 2014 Reserva (Rioja, Spain – $29.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
A 90-10 blend of Tempranillo and Graciano, this reserve Rioja brings a great mixture of plum, raspberry, tobacco leaf, spice and cherry notes on the nose. It’s a full-bodied red with just enough age to have integrated the fruit, spice, woody and leafy notes on the palate brilliantly, with softened tannins and a long, warm finish (it’s 14 per cent alcohol) that’s delightful. Drink this rustic yet elegant red now, or hold for three years or more. 4.5/5
Literary editor, drinks writer
Ben Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.
Updated on Saturday, November 12, 2022 11:15 AM CST: Updated with news that Single Barrel Release 1 is sold out.