Nova Scotia has a centuries’ long tradition of spirit appreciation, having played a vital role in the rum-running (and producing) days of the prohibition era. More recently, we are increasingly gaining a reputation for distilling a range of world-class, hand-crafted spirits.
1. Glenora Distillery
In 1989, Glenora Distillery became Nova Scotia’s first artisanal spirit producer, simultaneously earning the exclusive title of North America’s first single malt whisky distillery. Located in Cape Breton, the distillery produces multi-award-winning whiskies including its flagship Glen Breton Rare Single Malt whisky. The distillery is also becoming equally celebrated for its Smuggler’s Cove Rum.
2. Lunenburg’s Ironworks
It took two decades before Lunenburg’s Ironworks joined them as Nova Scotia’s second small-batch distillery, in 2009. Less than a decade old, the distillery, located in a heritage building (which used to be a blacksmith’s shop, hence the name Ironworks) has enjoyed an immense amount of success and international praise. Their spirits are truly artisanal, having been made with a “field to glass” approach or, perhaps better said, an “orchard to glass” method. Ironworks is made from Annapolis Valley grown apples, representing a growing trend in the global vodka category to use non-traditional base ingredients such as grapes and orchard fruit. They also produce gin, liqueurs and dark rum.
3. Steinhart Distillery
On the other side of the province, two distilleries are bringing life to rural Nova Scotia. Located in the tiny community of Arisaig, just outside of Antigonish, Steinhart Distillery is fashioning remarkably pure vodka from Maritime grown winter wheat that is sure to become the star ingredient of many cocktail recipes. The genius behind the still is Germanborn Thomas Steinhart, who brings with him his family’s 300 years of distilling history. They offer an array of vodkas and gins, many of which feature local Nova Scotia ingredients such as their Maple Vodka and Haskap Berry Gin.
4. Nova Scotia Spirit Company
Nearby in Trenton, Pictou County, Evan MacEachern, one of the entrepreneurs behind the Nova Scotia Spirit Company, has launched Blue Lobster Vodka, a unique spirit that is already gaining a loyal following in Pictou County and across the province. A 100% grain based vodka, Blue Lobster Vodka's smooth characteristic makes this premium quality spirit a cut above the rest. Neutral in flavour and slightly sweet, it is clean enough to be enjoyed on its own, yet distinguishable enough to enhance any cocktail.
5. Coldstream Clear Distillery
Less than an hour north of Halifax, Coldstream Clear Distillery of Stewiacke is owned and operated by the Giffen family. Interestingly, the family tradition of distilling dates back to an early ancestor, Mr. Simon Giffen. In 1749, he became the first Giffen to ever settle in Nova Scotia and who was, it turns out, a distiller by trade. Today the distillery’s products include a unique line of rum, vodka and liqueurs which focus on exceptional taste while making use of an abundance of local ingredients.
6. Halifax Distilling Co.
And right downtown Halifax, steps from a waterfront with a long history rum importing (and running!) you’ll find Halifax Distilling Co. Specializing in rum, this independent distillery is building on a four-generations-long tradition of using a small-batch copper still to make their selection J.D. Shore rums, which includes a spiced rum as well as a white rum, and more.
These are just a few of the Nova Scotian producers bringing artisanal flavour to the local spirits scene with their artfully crafted spirits. So, next time you are planning a cocktail party or looking for something special for a gift or just stocking up on bar essentials, add some exceptional local flavour to the mix. We recommend trying a selection of these local spirits, or click here to find more.