by Shaun Layton | Single malt whisky you say? From BC? But I thought the golden nectar only came from Scotland! Not necessarily. To be called “Scotch” the stuff must be distilled, aged and bottled in Scotland, but many other countries make malt whisky, and some do it exceptionally well. Take Japan, for example. Drams like Yamasaki, Nikka and Suntory are all world class whiskies. Amrut, hailing from India, is a favourite as well.
Nowadays the west coast of North America is an up and coming whisky region, and some think it’s just about ready to explode. Given our recent boom in craft breweries and distilleries, it was only a matter of time before aged spirits started to mature and hit the bottle. The pattern is getting predictable. When a new distillery opens, vodka and gin will be the main revenue stream while the whisky rests in wooden barrels. A lot of these whiskies are now coming of age, and from what we’ve tasted so far, believe the hype.
Washington State is a few years ahead of us and have made some amazing malts to date. The climate we share on the west coast is quite comparable to parts of Scotland, and the future potential is very high on account of our superb water supply.
Central City is a giant in the BC craft beer scene, so naturally making whisky (which essentially comes from beer) would be a smart endeavour. Their Lohin McKinnon Single Malt is now on the scene. The whisky is named after its makers, Brewmaster Gary Lohin and Head Distiller Stuart McKinnon. They have also have brought on Mike Nicolson to consult on the project, a man with decades of experience distilling Scotch, even for some well known Islay distilleries (which we visited a couple years back).
The flagship Lohin McKinnon uses Canadian barley and is aged three years in used bourbon barrels, hitting the bottle at 43% abv. On the nose, I was right away taken back to the Highlands. Notes of stone fruit, vanilla and the charred American oak of the barrel hit the senses. On the palate, there were silky layers of honey, candied citrus and a subtle, peppery finish. If this is what BC has in store for us when it comes to malt whisky, look out! Price-wise it’s comparable to a Glenlivet or Suntory Toki at $59.99, not bad for such a great whisky. You can currently find it at the distillery or at your local BC liquor store.
NOTE: Anticipate some special releases in the future, as many different finishes are being tested. The barrel room is piled high with bourbon, Pedro Ximenez, Tokai, Sauternes and a few other exotic barrels. Keep an eye on their website as new bottlings will go fast!