There’s a new distiller in town and we just can’t keep our excitement bottled up!
Last month, I made a pit stop on my way home to visit Dillon’s Small Batch Disillers at their Beamsville location and get into the spirit(s). A�Owned by Geoff Dillon, his father Peter Dillon and father-in-law Gary Huggins, Dillon’s is truly a family affair. A�While Geoff oversees the daily operations at the distillery, Gary serves as the chairman and Peter plays the role of master mixologist, using his background as a scientist and professor to fine tune the mix of herbs and botanicals in their signature spirits.
Speaking of spirits, just what sort of alcohols are they batching? A�For starters, gin, gin and more gin. A�They’ve already got their Unfiltered Gin 22, with a blend of 22 botanicals on the shelves, and ready, according to their website, to “be appreciated by people who like to grab large animals by the horns”.
While I won’t be wrestling a water buffalo anytime soon, I was impressed by its smooth, herbacious quality. A�Make that “smooooth” – this is a seriously stunning gin. A�Ask for a sample next time you are in, or try it in one of what has to be the world’s smallest gin and tonics, served up in a miniature rocks glass at the sipping bar. A�Ahh…refreshing!
At Dillon’s, the wonderful world of gin will also include a London Dry version, pared down to nine botanicals, a slightly sweeter Old Tom gin and finally, a sloe gin. A�After smuggling back some sloes (aka “blackthorns” and a relative of plums) during a recent trip to England, they made the decision to bypass border control entirely and plant their own sloe trees on the Beamsville property.
Stop the gin-sanity you say? Well alright – they’re also making vodka, a white rye (!) and a Canadian rye whisky.
Unlike present-day vodkasA�that are commonly grain-based, Dillon’s vodka is made from local Niagara grapes, making it more akin to a grappa. A�In fact, when it does hit LCBO shelves, Geoff told me it would be found in the grappa aisle (ed. note – thank you Geoff, you’ve saved me an inordinate amount of future time standing perplexed in the vodka section!).
And that’s not even the neatest part – no, that would be the approach to sourcing said grapes. A�Working with wineries in the region, Geoff and the Dillon’s team have set up a win-win system that sees them taking the discarded grapes that are removed from vines during the thinning process. A�The thinning process ensures the remaining grapes will have the best access to sunlight and nutrients, allowing them to fully ripen and grow into the grapes we know and love in Niagara’s wines. A�Wineries can then sell their “thinnings” to Dillon’s at a reduced cost. A�It’s smart, sustainable and another example of how the team at Dillon’s is committed to respecting and showcasing the bounty of the region.
If all this talk about alcohol has you bitter… Dillon’s has you covered in that regard too. A�They’ve already got six bitters (including locally sourced pear and cherry flavours) in their line-up, with plans to add nine more in the coming months. A�Think chocolate, rhubarb and…wormwood?! A�Yes they’re also growing their own wormwood, just in case you thought they might be under-achieving.
Fun fact – unbeknownst to the Dillon’s crew, their bitters were entered into a blind taste test at the Williams-Sonoma headquarters…and won! A�Look for their beautiful bitters to hit Williams-Sonoma shelves this year.
With a roster ofA�whollyA�original alcohols already available for purchase and more on the way, this is definitely an Ontario outfit to watch. A�Keep up to date with all the Dillon’s developments, including upcoming cocktail parties, harvest dinners and the launch of the Dillon’s Dram Club by enlisting on their website.
At present time, Dillon’s products are not available at the LCBO…but that should be changing soon! A�In the meantime, visit their beautiful Beamsville location to stock up on their signature spirits. A�The distillery is open to the public from Friday to Sunday, 11am – 5pm.
Crazy about craft spirits? Check out Ontario’s other artisanal producers: