Treasury Board President Scott Brison announces government funding to assist Ironworks Distillery Inc. as they expand their micro-distillery in Lunenburg, N.S. on Wednesday, Jan.17, 2018. The boutique industry is flourishing in Nova Scotia and throughout Atlantic Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Rum, vodka, gin: Nova Scotia kindles sudden explosion of craft distilleries

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia has kindled an explosion of spirit makers — there are now 16 in Canada’s second-smallest province — through attractive craft distillery policies and collaborations with local farmers.

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) said 12 of those distilleries have popped up in the last five years, producing rum, gin, vodka and other spirits in all corners of the province.

Pierre Guevremont, co-owner of Ironworks Distillery in Lunenburg, N.S., said Nova Scotia is a leader among provinces in terms of its policies for craft distilleries, along with B.C. and Saskatchewan.

Guevremont said distilleries get favourable margins when selling through the NSLC, and an additional markup reduction when their tipples are made with entirely Nova Scotian agricultural products.

“It encourages development in the local industry,” said Guevremont on Wednesday. “We most certainly are in the midst of a boom.”

NSLC spokeswoman Beverley Ware said the annual craft distillery permit is only $500, on-site store permits are $100 and if the distillery has a tasting room, a hospitality permit costs $100.

Ware said the province wanted to create policies that would encourage job creation in the sector, particularly in rural areas, and spur economic growth.

“It’s certainly paying off,” said Ware. “They’re contributing to the local economies and they’re contributing to the economy overall of Nova Scotia. And they’re creating a wonderful reputation for Nova Scotia spirits.”

She noted Glynnevan’s Double Barrelled Canadian Rye Whisky, made in Guysborough, N.S., is a two-time silver medallist at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Guevremont’s boutique and micro distillery received a $159,748 repayable loan Wednesday from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to expand and modernize its production facility in the picturesque port town, home of the famed schooner Bluenose II.

His range of products make use of the province’s agricultural bounty, buying 20,000 pounds of berries, 5,000 pounds of pears and 17,000 pounds of apples from local farmers each year for its liqueurs, brandy and vodka.

Evan MacEachern, a partner at Nova Scotia Spirit Co., said the province’s distillery boom has allowed his two-year-old company to expand its operations in Trenton, N.S., to a larger facility in nearby Stellarton, with plans for a distillery, brewery, and restaurant.

Nova Scotia Spirit Co. is one of a number of distilleries that have set up shop in the province’s rural areas, with aspirations for creating tourist destinations.

“We want to create an experience. The craft breweries, wineries and distilleries — we’ve all helped create a culture where people want to come and tour our facilities and really experience the whole brand,” said MacEachern, whose company makes Blue Lobster Vodka, Fisherman’s Helper White Rum and Willing To Learn Gin.

Guevremont said before the explosion of distilleries came the rise of craft breweries — of which there are now roughly 55 in the province — and before that a growth in wineries.

“We’re really following along in the footsteps of those other two parts of the beverage alcohol business that have come before us,” said Guevremont, who said there were only roughly three distilleries in the province when he started Ironworks nine years ago.

The Crown liquor corporation said Nova Scotians are enjoying craft spirits — sales were up 85.2 per cent during the second quarter of its fiscal year from July and October 2017, reeling in $1.6 million.

Ware says local brands represent three per cent of overall spirit sales, “so there’s still plenty of room to accommodate growth and our policies are in place to support that.”

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