Image courtesy of @frombarreltobottle
There was a lot of fanfare over Eau Claire’s first release of single malt last fall. The whisky was only available from the distillery and didn’t last long. When I approached them last winter about bottling some whisky for the Kensington Wine Market Whisky Advent Calendar they were very keen to participate. I assumed they would offer me some of Batch 002, but no, they did better than that. They held back stock of their inaugural single malt release to pour at events and over time. They rebottled some of Batch 001 into 50mls, just for our Calendar, and we are very grateful for that. Not everyone was able to try their first release of whisky, but everyone joining us on the 2018 Whisky Advent Journey can!
Eau Claire Distillery was founded in Turner Valley, Alberta in 2014 by David Farran. The historic town is located on Highway 22 (The Cowboy Trail), about 60 minutes’ drive from downtown Calgary. Named after the area’s first settlers, Robert and John Turner who arrived in 1886, the town was made famous by the discovery of the Turner Valley oil fields. For a period of nearly 30 years, the oil and gas fields were the largest producer in the British Empire. The town has a bit of an illicit past, with moonshining believed to have taken place on the nearby Whisky Ridge, and a street in the north end of town known as Whisky Row. The distillery was opened in 2014 in the old Turner Valley Movie Theater and Dance Hall building, circa 1929. A piece of this heritage, the projector, is preserved in the still room.
Eau Claire is not Alberta’s first distillery. There are, in fact, three large distilleries: Alberta Distillers in Calgary, Palliser Distillery in Lethbridge and Highwood in High River, but it was the Province’s first craft distillery. Eau Claire’s single malt is also the first Alberta Single Malt Whisky! In addition to single malt (made in the Scottish style) and (future) rye whiskies, it is also producing vodka, gin and some other spirits. Opening a whisky distillery is no small feat, keeping it operating and well-financed in the early years is an even more daunting challenge. Salaries, utilities, taxes and raw materials need to be purchased and paid for, for years before the first revenues are realized. Eau Claire’s gin, vodka and other spirits have helped pay the bills and finance the cost of laying down whisky.
The distillery makes all of its spirits from Alberta barley, mostly from local farmers, and some of it from the owner David Farran’s own land. The distillery tries, where possible, to purchase the grain direct from the farmer, and works with them to select specific grain varietals. Eau Claire is a Certified Farm Distillery, and its products are Certified Craft, by the American Craft Distilling Institute. Much of the rye and malt grown for whisky production is harvest by traditional horse farming, which the distillery believes is unique in the world.
Eau Claire’s Gin and Vodka have won awards all over North America and can be found widely in Alberta, as well as Nova Scotia, and in many of the biggest American States. Distribution in Canada has been much trickier due to Provincial Liquor monopolies in other Provinces. The Batch 002 Single Malt was released this fall, and we were thrilled to have had the opportunity to sell some in-store. It has sold out, but if you want a bottle you might consider placing a pre-order… we may see another small amount of Batch 002 at the end of January!
Eau Claire Single Malt Whisky Batch 001 – 43% – Matured in New European, Ex-OIoroso Sherry and Refill Ex-Bourbon American Oak –
Andrew’s Tasting Note
Nose: waxy with freshly peeled pears, white chocolate and Strawberry Twizzlers; floral and malty with a touch of wet slate and earth; lemon drops and a building fresh-floral-citrus character.
Palate: malty and fruity with vanilla, honey and caramel and more wet slate; a touch of peanut brittle and more freshly peeled pears; still a touch waxy with some green grasses and more lemon heavy citrus; the spirit is soft, sweet and fruity.
Finish: light with a medium length; the soft silky oils cling on to the palate long after the whisky is gone.
Comment: this is lovely for a 3-year-old, and shows great promise; can’t wait to see what a decade or more will do for it! - $12 (50mL/Mini bottle. Full-sized bottles of Batch 1 were only available at Eau Claire Distillery itself and have long since sold out!)
Playing catch-up on our 2018 Kensington Wine Market Whisky Advent Calendar?