Georgian Bay, part of the great Lake Huron, the shores of which sustain Parry Sound, birthplace of Bobby Orr, is now home to a new, intrepid and, yes, accomplished distillery. It is called Georgian Bay Spirit Company, thus named by its co-founders, Denzil Wadds and Tim Keenleyside. These gentlemen are long-time friends, and ad agency partners as well, but the urge to make high-quality distilled spirits right in Ontario, in the midst of a craft-craze, was not to be denied.
It was a labour of love from the get-go, including many an evening tasting other gins and vodkas, but also doing plenty of component tastings as they honed in on just the right recipe. To date, there is not a wholly dedicated distillery for their product. Mr. Wadds explains, “For now, we’re renting still space in Ontario to produce our vodka and gin. As we don’t have our own distillery, it’s a way we can still make our products without the investment in a production facility.” Those investments may come, but for now they have partnered with Still Waters distillery, itself a seriously dedicated craft distillery specializing in whiskies made from locally sourced grains and water.
Georgian Bay evokes all kinds of idyllic scenes, and the juniper found here is part of the botanical composition of the gin, along with, among other exotics, coriander from Egypt and orange peel from Tuscany. Water for both spirits is from the nearby Township of Springwater, where purity is job one, and handled exclusively by Mother Nature.
Awards abound already. The gin won a silver medal at the World Wine & Spirits Competition held in New York, while the vodka won a Double Gold medal at the World Spirits Competition, and a Best in Class at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It takes a lot to stand out in an ultra-competitive premium spirit category, so these wins are worth celebrating.
The gin has an outstanding, vibrant botanical nose, with a lovely spice note that gives it some heft. The vodka pretty much defines smoothness, with an ample, almost viscous mouth feel and some subtle citrus notes. In these days of cocktail madness, it is tempting to yield to the adage that a good cocktail is made great with a premium spirit involved. In fact, the Gin Smash has taken Toronto’s bar scene by storm. But, you owe it to yourself to put these bottles in the freezer, chill a glass or two or three, depending how willing you are to share, and take these drinks straight up, no chaser. And if you can’t find birch trees, like those that line Georgian Bay and Lake Huron, by all means settle for spruce or sycamore, in a comfy chair, with a nice water view. That’s good drinking. Throw in some Flannery O’Connor or John Cheever, and bliss is assured.