A look inside Spirit of York, Toronto’s massive new distillery

A look inside Spirit of York, Toronto’s massive new distillery

Photo by Gabby Frank

The neighbourhood that was at one time the largest distillery in the world is making spirits once again. While sake has been made in the Distillery District since 2011, Spirit of York, the city’s newest brand of booze, has reclaimed what was once the Goodheram and Worts malting room (more recently a chi-chi clothing store) to produce vodka and gin.

Both spirits are made with 100 per cent rye and spring water from none other than the Ontario township of Springwater—home to some of what’s been called the purest water in the world:


All of the stills were made by fifth-generation copper workers in Germany, and assembled on-site piece by piece. The largest of the stills just barely made it through the distillery’s doors:


There wasn’t enough room for the two massive 44-filter rectifying towers, though, so they had to build them outside. Every window in each tower represents a copper plate, each one of which aids in distilling the spirits and removing impurities:


From behind glass, guests can watch the distilling process:


They can also have a more hands-on experience by tasting the spring water, smelling the 15 different botanicals that go into Spirit of York’s gin, or play around with the gin wheel, a depiction of the different ingredients that act together to give gin different flavours:


There’s also a bitters bar, where Simon Ho (The Drake, Fat City Blues) is currently infusing everything from the typical roots, barks and herbs used in making gin, to things like lavender, coffee, papaya, cherries and Szechuan peppers (each bottle was labelled by his aunt and dad). Here, Ho will work with guests to create their own bitters:

Photo by Gabby Frank


And of course, guests can try the finished product. A vodka and gin sampling (a half-ounce of each) is $10, or they can buy a whole bottle for $50.20:


Each of the bottles is washed, filled and labelled by hand in the bottling room:


The team went through about 1,000 different bottle designs before settling on these:

Photo by Gabby Frank


Here’s the (almost) whole team. There are only nine staff members right now (and 35 shareholders):


12 Trinity St., 416-777-0001, spiritofyork.com, @spiritofyork