The newest kid on the distillery block is thinking big.
Artist in Residence Distillery (AiR) announced itself last year with a sleek 15,000-square-foot distillery and company HQ built in an industrial park in the shadow of the Gatineau-Ottawa Executive Airport. The modern micro-distillery sits next to a spring water source and near the very cornfields that supply the grain for his distillery.
First up on the distilling agenda? Gin.
Each spirit AiR produces is associated with an artist. Waxwing Bohemian Gin features a label by Toronto’s Victor Wong, the creative mind behind Zoologist Perfumes. Why a lesser-known Canadian bird as an ambassador for gin?
“It’s bohemian! A little bit crazy. It eats berries, which are used to make gin. And if they’re fermenting it might get a bit drunk. It’s known for sometimes getting pulled off course and showing up in unexpected places,” explains founder Pierre Mantha.
Wong took all those ideas and created a distinctly suave waxwing sporting a bomber jacket and a scarf subtly printed with berries. Weirdly and wonderful, it obviously struck a chord. Mantha had hoped AiR would sell 40,000 bottles of waxwing in its first year on SAQ shelves; it sold 10,000 in the just the first two months.
Tasting Notes: Boxes of fresh berries and herbs line the distillery shelves. Rosehip berries, fresh juniper, and other plant extracts are part of the mix, as are angelica root and cassia bark. Look for fresh juniper, lemon peel and coriander on the nose; spicy and slightly acid notes on the palate; and a bitterness balanced by a slight sensation of sweetness in the finish.
Find It: As of Sept. 6, Waxwing is available online through the LCBO (the plan is to have it on shelves next summer). $39.95 / 750 mL. It is already on shelves at SAQ locations.
Hot Tip: Instagram is where @airdistillerie posts Waxwing-inspired cocktail recipes. The latest pairs the gin with vermouth, pineapple juice, lime syrup, jasmine syrup, and cardamom bitters.