Surrey’s Central City may have begun as beer brewers, but they are fast becoming one of B.C.’s most important distillers of single malt.
He may have a lengthy career in brewing behind him, but Gary Lohin is clear: “I’ve been a whisky aficionado for even longer.”
He got his start in beer at Whistler Brewing back in 1989, before spending most of the 1990s at Sailor Hagar’s Brewpub in North Vancouver. He moved to Central City Brewpub in Surrey in 2003 where his Red Racer beer lineup established him as one of B.C.’s top brewmasters. It was on trips to Oregon and California that he visited microdistilleries and began noticing that breweries there were adding stills. So, when Central City began planning its new production facility in 2010, Lohin suggested to his business partner that they should add a distillery.
Here’s a local spirit to add a tonic to your liquor cabinet
British Columbia’s artisan gins are in a tricky place.
Some are interesting, but not exactly delicious. Some taste good, but aren’t exciting enough to warrant the high price tag that the difficulty of making local hooch demands. Some have such powerful cereal notes you know the distiller really wants to be making whisky instead. Some taste like perfume, others like vodka.
Christos Kalaitzis, brand ambassador and mixologist for Central City Brewers + Distillers, created this cocktail to celebrate their gin winning double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
1.5 oz (45 mL) Queensborough gin
0.5 oz (15 mL) dry vermouth
1 oz (30 mL) maple syrup
3 dashes aromatic bitters
3 mint leaves
Place all ingredients except ginger ale in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Double strain into a wine glass, add fresh ice and top up with ginger ale. Garnish with cinnamon stick and mint sprig. Serves 1.
We asked some top B.C. bartenders which bottle of local spirits they would put on their Christmas list
Lead Bartender, L’Abattoir Restaurant
I’d pick Okanagan Spirits Laird of Fintry Single Malt Whisky. It is a Scotch-style single malt made with 100 per cent B.C. malted barley using French and American oak, and finished in Okanagan wine barrels. The nose is unbelievable with plum, vanilla, raisins, berries, poached pears, nuts, and classic oak characteristics that continue on the palate. It has a dry finish with a hint of sweet vanilla and baking spices. I would make a twist on a Rob Roy — a Rodney’s Roy — with 2 oz. Laird of Fintry,
0.3 oz. Noilly Prat Rouge,
0.3 oz. Noilly Prat Ambre and two dashes Bittered Sling Cascade Celery Bitters.
Peter Van de Reep
Bar Manager, Upstairs at Campagnolo
Odd Society Bittersweet Vermouth, please. This is a wonderful example of the new style of vermouth being produced in North America: bitter, herbaceous and very complex, with a dominant tree bark and citrus peel character. It’s very versatile in cocktails and delicious on its own. I’d whip up a Mile Zero, a dark and brooding cocktail, perfect for a cold, rainy Vancouver night: 1 oz. Bulleit Rye, 1 oz. Odd Society Bittersweet Vermouth, 0.75 oz. Luxardo Amaro Abano. Stir all ingredients with ice, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
Bar Manager, Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar
Queensborough Small Batch Dry Gin from Central City Brewers & Distillers. I love its crispness, balanced juniper, light citrus notes and spruce tip flavour. It’s a great Pacific Northwest gin. If it’s in my stocking, I will definitely be making a Gibson Wet Martini —one of my all time favourite cocktails. I like a Wet Martini only if the gin is strong and flavourful enough to stand up to the vermouth and Queensborough fits the bill. Come Christmas, I will share a few of these with my wife, while wearing my favourite sweater, and with my big dogs by my side.
Bar Manager, West Restaurant
Sons of Vancouver No. 82 Amaretto. I’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth and it is by far the best amaretto I’ve ever tried. Excellently balanced with the flavors of vanilla bean, orange peel and blackberry honey. I’m almost finished my test bottle so it would be great to find another in my Christmas stocking. I’ve found it pairs incredibly well with a smoky scotch. So, I created The Godfather of Vancouver, a take on the classic Godfather cocktail, using Sons of Vancouver Amaretto, 10-year-old Ardbeg, 10-year-old Glenmorangie, and a lemon twist to finish. It’s my new favorite thing!
Bar Manager, Forage
I’ll take The Woods Spirit Co. Amaro, because they love local like we love local here at Forage, and it’s a spirit that is super user-friendly in cocktails. I’d make a Forage Negroni: 1.5 oz. Sheringham Seaside Gin, 1 oz. The Woods Spirit Co. Amaro, and 0.5 oz. Odd Society Bittersweet Vermouth. You can’t get more local than that!
Bar Manager, OLO Restaurant, Victoria
It would have been a bottle of de Vine’s Glen Saanich Single Malt, but as it’s sold out, I’ll have to wait until next Christmas. Meanwhile, I’ll happily settle for a bottle of their Moderna Vermouth. It’s a great example of the direction B.C. distilling is going, utilizing local ingredients and being creative with Old World recipes. I’d go with a Christmas Morning B.C. Martinez, with equal parts Legend Distilling Black Moon smoked rosemary gin and Moderna Vermouth, a splash of Okanagan Spirits Maraschino Liqueur, and a dash or two of Bittered Sling Moondog Bitters.
Head Bartender, Juniper Restaurant & Bar
I would like a bottle of Sheringham Seaside Gin because I love the delicious briny notes that come from the winged sea kelp, one of its key botanicals. I used to go surfing near where the distillery is located on Vancouver Island, so those coastal flavours evoke fond memories for me. My first drink would be the Islander G&T we serve at Juniper: 1.5 oz. Sheringham Seaside Gin, a dash of Bittered Sling Cascade Celery Bitters and Fever Tree Indian Tonic Water.
Central City’s newly-released gin pays homage to its B.C. roots
It’s not often the new kid on the block walks away with a major international award the very week of its launch, but that’s exactly what Surrey-based Central City Brewers and Distillers’ newest offering accomplished earlier this year; their Queensborough Gin garnered a gold medal at the Spirits International Prestige (SIP) Awards.
• Lohin McKinnon Single Malt Whisky
• Lohin McKinnon Barley & Rye Lightly Peated Whisky
• Seraph Vodka
• Queensborough Gin
• Spirit of IPA
• Spirit of Merlot
FRAGRANCE: Spruce tip. FLAVOUR: Spruce, juniper and citrus. FEEL: Soft and smooth. FINISH: Lasting botanical bouquet. BEST ENJOYED: In a Last Word cocktail.
THE BOTTOM LINE: London Dry style gin with added spruce tip gives a unique West Coast flavor. Well rounded. —Robyn Gray, July 2016
Spirit of Merlot Liqueur
FRAGRANCE: Very light. Background of wine fruit. FLAVOUR:Light and subtly sweet. Allspice and anise notes. FEEL: Thin, with some alcohol warmth. FINISH: Lengthy. Sits on palate with a background of fruity notes. BEST ENJOYED: Chilled or alongside a warm beverage. THE BOTTOM LINE: A fun, local eau de vie. –Trevor Kallies, October 2016
Lohin McKinnon Single Malt Whisky
FRAGRANCE: Stonefruit, honey, heather, slight oak. FLAVOUR: Christmas cake, toffee, candied citrus. FEEL: Lovely silky feel on the palate. FINISH: Subtle spice, stewed fruit, charred oak. BEST ENJOYED: As is, no water, no ice. THE BOTTOM LINE: If this is three years old, we are in for a treat in the next ten years on the West Coast for whisky. –Shaun Layton, February 2017
Spirit of IPA
FRAGRANCE: Floral, mild hops, citrus, jelly bean. FLAVOUR: Slightly sweet, some chocolate notes. FEEL: Light to medium body. FINISH: Super clean, spicy, delicious. BEST ENJOYED: Neat. Would also make a fantastic Gin Sour. THE BOTTOM LINE: Super-cool product. Not overpowering or as hoppy as you might expect. –Scott Barber, June 2017
Lohin McKinnon Barley & Rye Lightly Peated Whisky
FRAGRANCE: A touch of peated grain when you search for it. FLAVOUR: Peat smoke more present on palate. Rye spice is nice. FEEL: Spicy. FINISH: Nice rye spice. BEST ENJOYED: Neat at bottle strength or a touch of water. THE BOTTOM LINE:They did a good job on this one. It’s a fun whisky to sip on. –Trevor Kallies, October 2017