Still Waters now selling small-batch vodka out of its Concord distillery (with whisky on the way in a few years)
Every now and then, a lovely little crack opens up in Ontario’s booze monopoly: a brewpub here, a wine kiosk inside a grocery store there, the occasional off-site winery boutique. Last month, the GTA gained yet another new venue for hooch hounds hoping to circumvent official channels: Still Waters, a local spirits distillery in Concord that makes and sells its product on-site.
Barry Stein and Barry Bernstein founded their scotch importing business in 2005, but they had always planned to graduate to distilling their own product. The kettles started bubbling in March 2009, but it took two years before the duo was ready to expand to an on-site retail boutique—and it wasn’t easy. A diplomatic Bernstein tells us: “This is a very heavily regulated industry with many requirements at both the federal and provincial levels of government. Understanding and meeting all the requirements is not trivial and takes a lot of patience.”
The two Barrys make their pot-distilled single malt vodka and whiskies by hand and in small batches, using only Ontario-grown grains. They’ve already garnered a gold SIP award for their triple-distilled vodka with a super-short list of ingredients: Canadian malted barley, yeast and purified water. Stein and Bernstein have also been trying their hand at gin, brandy, rye and single malt whiskies. The whisky isn’t ready to drink just yet—it’s slowly maturing in oak casks—but these artisan spirits will eventually come to market as single-cask, limited edition numbered bottles.
And just how is a “pot-distilled” spirit different from something the big boys might make? Bernstein explains, “Nearly all vodka is made in large industrial continuous-distillation column stills. Using a pot still is not nearly as efficient, as distillation must occur in small batches by hand. However, we are able to control the end result much better by constant personal monitoring of the distillate off the still. We personally nose, taste and feel each and every batch to ensure it meets the characteristics we desire.”
Still Waters Distillery, 150 Bradwick Dr., Unit 26, Concord, 905-482-2080, stillwatersdistillery.com.