If judging your gin by the bottle is wrong, I don't want to be right.
When selecting the alcohol for our wedding, we had two requirements: the bottles had to be clear and the bottles had to be beautiful. Much like selecting wine for its exquisite labels, we envisioned a collection of top shelf liquors that complimented our decor and our venue. Enter Dillon's.
Perusing the LCBO shelves (our monopolized liquor store for our American friends), we were instantly drawn to the minimalist look of Dillon's Unfiltered Gin 22. The medicinal shape, the cork stopper, and the simple pastel green label with antique typography rim, had us enamoured by the bottle. We always assumed Dillon's was an American brand, until American Express offered us a tour of the distillery in the heart of Niagara wine country.
On a small country road just off the Queen Elizabeth Way, Dillon's Distillery is easy to miss amongst the vineyards, but hard to look away from. A single steel shed, painted light blue with hand painted signs directing us to the sipping room was familiar to the ambiance of our wedding – rustic with a splash of French chic.
Entering the shop, you were transported into a chic country saloon – perfect typography, pastel colours, and clear corked bottles echoed the barrels, wooden counters and chalkboards. After being greeted by Dave, one of the Distillers, he brought us to the back and guided us through large stills, steam and loud noises, and through a room filled with mason jars of fruit, home grown botanicals, samples of old bottles and lab test tubes and potions. We felt like kids living in a Bill Nye The Science Guy television show.
Almost all the alcohol distilled by Dillon's starts with local Niagara grapes turned into 95% alcohol, which much to our surprise, is almost tasteless. From this base they distill their Method95, gins, and bitters and use 100% local rye when distilling their rye whiskey.
After our tour, the ever so lovely Whitney, placed the Dillon's starting lineup in front of us on the counter for a tasting. The basics included unfiltered gin, dry gin, method95 (vodka), and white rye. The specialties included strawberry gin, limoncello, cherry gin and rose gin.
Sample after sample, Phil and I cheers'd as we noted which batches we knew were coming home with us. Whitney then took us over to the bitter section. We uncapped bottle after bottle and flavour after flavour of pear and angelica, lime and lemon, orange and ginseng, wormwood and hops, and strawberry and rhubarb – our senses ignited with each whiff of bitters.
Bitters (noun): an alcoholic preparation flavoured with botanical matter such that the end result is characterized by a bitter, sour, or bittersweet flavour.
Thanks again to Dillon's Distillery for hosting us, for teaching us the makings of their liquor and inspiring our Strawberry Gin and Rhubarb Bitters Glaze Cake and inspiring us to test out Snixy Kitchen's Warm Olives with a Gin Splash.
Until we meet again (well, until the next Rye batch is available),