(WINDSOR, ON) – Next to the fermenting and distilling rooms at JP Wiser’s Windsor operations, a group of journalists touring the facility met Wiser’s sheriffs. They stood in a laboratory outfitted with the latest very expensive testing equipment. Most of the devices are cost prohibitive for smaller distillers.
Because of this, Wiser’s came up with a solution to help its industry by contracting out testing services to smaller competitors. The reason is simple; a bad product reaching the market could tarnish the image of all Canadian distillers. This is an important consideration.
Right now, Canada’s brands are gaining global recognition and no one in the industry wants to stop that trend.
The reporters learnt an interesting fact about whisky.
Neil Bishop, Wiser’s director of manufacturing and maintenance operations, revealed that whisky makers are actually brewers first and distillers second. Wiser’s doesn’t actually offer a lager or an ale, but the first step in whisky-making is actually a process shared with beer brewers.
Grains are crushed and then cooked to break down their inherent starches. Then, added yeast converts starch to alcohol. At this point, the company’s master brewer, Han Ha, has actually brewed beer without hops. So large are the fermentation tanks that the building, erected in 1955, was actually built after the tanks were put in place.
Next, the journalists moved to the distilling area where their interest was captured by a smallish copper still, imported from Louisville, KY. It has been at the site for about a year and has a rather old-time charm, somewhat resembling the moonshine stills portrayed in old black and white movies. Looks are deceiving.
The still is actually a testament to the changing tastes in the domestic whisky market coupled with JP Wiser’s continual efforts to stay on trend. The single copper pot still, as it is called, makes small batches of one of Wiser’s newest products, Lot No. 40.
Wiser’s promotional material says it is, “… a whisky that starts off earthy and woody tasting and then becomes full bodied and complex with a velvety vanilla oak finish.”
Such small batch distilling opens a door for Wiser’s to enter the growing craft whiskey market. Like craft beer and artisan wine, as canadianwhisky.org journalist Davin de Kergommeaux notes, in recent years there has been, “… a burgeoning of a craft distilling movement in Canada and there are some 30 of them at the last count. About half a dozen of these micro-distilleries are already making − or are planning to make – whisky.”
Once distilled, the fresh JP Wiser’ whisky is stored in wooden barrels and housed in a series of warehouses in Pike Creek. Wiser’s invited the media to tour its facilities in advance of opening its doors to the public, which will start on November 10.
Next: The Square will look inside the Pike Creek warehouses.