B.C.’s Shelter Point Distillery becomes the first Canadian bottling by the prestigious Scotch Malt Whisky Society.
During the Victoria Whisky Festival on January 20, the Canadian chapter of Scotland’s Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) unveiled a new bottling, 152.1, also known by the name Vibrant and Vigorous. The “.1” identifies the first-ever bottling from a new-to-SMWS distillery, and the Society identifies whiskies only by number and their often-fanciful house names, because each whisky is a single cask bottled at house strength, and may be a unicorn that doesn’t align with the distillery’s house style.
At this event, host and SMWS global brand ambassador John McCheyne announced the distillery’s name—and that several of its key personnel were actually in the room. It was a big night for Campbell River’s Shelter Point Distillery, which became the first Canadian distillery to ever have a prestigious SMWS bottling.
“It’s a feather in our cap and we’re very proud of it,” says Stephen Goodridge, Shelter Point’s recently appointed General Manager, told me earlier this year, after the news had broken in the UK. (Bottling 152.1 was released there last fall, and Shelter Point bottlings 152.2, Tropical Cornucopia, and 152.3, A Fistful of Bananas, have since also been released in other global SMWS markets.) SMWS bottles can only be purchased by members, and are available only at SMWS partner stores, which include five fine private liquor stores in B.C.
Crisp on the nose and malt-creamy on the palate, this nine-year-old whisky has a spicy whiff of sandalwood or driftwood, flavours of warm ginger spice and vanilla, with lingering orchard-fruit notes on a dry finish. In the tasting of other global whiskies from Sweden, Taiwan, England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Japan and the U.S., the dram held up beautifully at the Victoria Whisky Festival tasting, with a significant share of hands declaring it their favourite at the night’s end.
It makes perfect sense that the 12-year-old Campbell River distillery would be SMWS-worthy, for so many reasons. Its cliffside, oceanfront location gives coastal influence to the whisky as it matures, as with some Scottish coastal whiskies. Scottish-made copper Forsyths stills are at the heart of the distillery. As many Scotch brands boast, Shelter Point uses aquifer water sourced on its property, which likely lends unique qualities to liquid at every stage of production. Hearkening back to olden times in Scotland, Shelter Point is a farm-to-flask distillery (in an era when very few Scotch distilleries still are), with grain grown on its own adjacent property or sourced from other local farms, which is mashed, fermented, distilled and matured entirely on site, as per B.C. craft spirit regulations.
“We’ve always thought it was part of the branches’ remit to help try to identify new distilleries and promote Canadian whisky,” says Rob Carpenter, who along with partner Kelly Carpenter brought the SMWS to Canada more than a decade ago. They now oversee active SMWS branches in B.C. and Alberta, with monthly events called Outturns, at which members can taste and buy unique, single-cask spirits—at one time only Scotch, but now including world whiskies and the occasional gin, brandy or rum.
There will be a very limited number of bottles of 152.1 Vibrant and Vigorous available in B.C. A single cask typically results in fewer than 300 bottles, and the relative scarcity in the distillery’s home market is deliberate, says Kelly Carpenter. “The intention is to spread the Shelter Point love around other international branches,” she says.
Both non-members and SMWS members can purchase tickets to taste the bottling at SMWS February Outturn events in Vancouver at February 1 and 2 at Legacy Liquor Store, and February 5 and 6 in Victoria at The Strath Liquor Store. (There are also Edmonton and Calgary events.) However, only SMWS members will be able to buy the limited number of bottles available. Already, bottles of 152.1 are rumoured to have been trading for up to $500 on the European secondary market online.
—by Charlene Rooke