In 2013, the Executive Board of the Sons of Scotland Benevolent Association (SOSBA) were looking for ways to make their 2015 triennial Grand Camp Convention in Victoria B.C. very special. A Celtic Concert was planned, along with a Charity Golf Tournament, but the Board was looking for something to make this event memorable. A few months earlier, some of the Executive Board members had visited a newly-opened distillery in Campbell River on the northern part of Vancouver Island called Shelter Point Distillery. We were most impressed with the facility, especially the fact that they had purchased their stills from Scotland. They planned to make a single-malt whisky using the same techniques distilleries in Scotland use to make Scotch whisky, while using home-grown barley and the fresh, sweet water of the area.
The seed was planted; why not inquire about purchasing a cask of Shelter Point’s whisky and bottle it for Grand Camp 2015? The owners at Shelter Point were happy to accommodate us, so, after all the costs were analysed, the Board decided to go ahead with the project. Bottling a whisky from Shelter Point seemed a natural fit for the Sons of Scotland; the spirit is made from Scottish parts (much like most of our members!) and ingredients from the land, reinforcing our link to both Scotland and Canada.
Of course, we could not call our whisky “Scotch” as Scotch whisky has to be made and aged in Scotland. Here in Canada we have similar laws stating the spirit must be aged in oak casks for a minimum of three years in order to be called whisky. The cask we selected was aged for two weeks’ shy of four years (we planned to bottle it for Grand Camp in September of 2015) and was aged in an American oak cask that once held Jack Daniel’s whiskey. Scotch whisky distilleries use oak casks that once held other alcohol such as bourbon and sherry. They feel that a fresh cask tends to overpower the spirit, giving too much character from the wood in a short period of time. By using a “previously used” cask, the changes over time are subtler, adding the flavour notes and colour that we have come to recognize as Scotch whisky.
Although we can’t call our whisky “Scotch”, we can call it a Single Malt. A single malt whisky is one that has come from one single distillery and is made from malted barley. Similar to beer, malting the barley is a technique where the grain is steeped in water and allowed to germinate over a few days. This converts the enzymes in the grain to a sugary starch, which is ideal for making a distilled spirit.
Bottled at 46% alcohol by volume (abv), our cask gave us 312 bottles. As is common with American oak casks, the nose gives subtle hints of vanilla and green apples. The taste has a sweetness at the front of the tongue that changes to a hint of caramel with light fruits such as pears and apples. The finish is quite short, which is characteristics of young whiskies.
We are extremely happy with our first whisky bottling endeavour, which we believe is a great representation of our Scottish heritage and culture in Canada. The Scotian Single Malt whisky is only available for purchase by members of the Sons of Scotland and sells for $60.00 per bottle. Proceeds from the sale of the Scotian will benefit the Sons of Scotland Foundation. Remember, this is a single cask; no other cask will taste like this one… when it’s gone, it’s gone. Slàinte!
For more information on how to obtain a bottle of Scotian whisky, please contact Robert Stewart at 1-800-387-3382.