Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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The “straight” goods: Toronto Distillery Co.’s First Barrels Whisky

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The first new distillery in Toronto since 1933 has just launched the city’s first 100% organic whisky, and in addition to bringing about “the rebirth of whisky distilling in one of the historically great whisky cities of the world,” its makers are hoping the bottle and its contents might start a conversation about whisky standards in Canada.

Launched in 2013 by Charles Benoit and Jess Razaqpur, the Toronto Distillery Co. was borne of two high school buddies’ shared passion for whisky. Given the requirement for whisky to age, the start-up company located in the Junction (directly next door to Junction Craft Brewing) has, like most new distillers, largely been selling organic gin and “new make” grain spirits, an unaged whisky that you might know by the less refined moniker “moonshine.”

Until now. Continue reading


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In Spirit: J.R.’s Dry Organic Canadian Gin by the Toronto Distillery Company

In Spirit is the new bi-weekly contribution I’ll be making to Post City’s website. The name of the column was chosen from a short list of other horrendous “spirit” based puns and the idea is that, every other week, I’ll open a bottle of something and write about it. For this, my first entry, I wanted to write about a local Toronto distillery. If you’ve got ideas for overlooked, undervalued, rare, or just plain tasty booze worthy of look for my future posts, please send me an email with your suggestions! And watch out for my future editions. Cheers.  

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The term “gin” is really something of a catch-all.

A scan of the entry for gin in any thorough bartender’s guide will show you that there’s a lot more to the clear spirit than you might have first assumed.

There are four different legal definitions of gin in the European Union alone and a handful of ways you might make a product that can be called gin, including pot-distilled gin, or column-distilled gin, or the lesser “compound gin.” Really, the only thing all gins have in common is that they use juniper berries and some other combination of botanicals to flavour what begins as a neutral spirit. The botanicals a distiller uses are essentially what makes any gin taste different than any other and ingredients as diverse as grapefruit rind, cinnamon, dragon eye (yes, that’s a thing), orris root, and saffron might be used to flavour the stuff. Even the way these botanicals are added varies greatly from one gin to the next. Bombay Sapphire, for example, is distilled using a “gin basket” whereby a selection of botanicals are placed in a basket in the path of distilled alcohol vapour, and in so doing, the vapour takes on the flavours of the botanicals. Beefeater gin uses botanicals that are steeped in the base spirit for a day, like tea, and then filtered and redistilled.

Most people, sucking down G&Ts at the cottage or unwinding with an ice cold post-work martini, probably don’t appreciate the complexity and variety of what’s in their glass.

But then Jess Razaqpur isn’t like most people.

Having co-founded the Toronto Distillery Co. in the Junction with his high school friend Charles Benoit, Razaqpur is a self-confessed “gin guy.” And so while the company business has thus far been largely devoted to the production and marketing of their unaged organic whisky, it’s clear Razaqpur is excited for the launch of “J.R.’s Dry Organic Canadian Gin.”

And yes, that really is him on the label.

Read the rest of this post over on Post City…


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Indie Alehouse is Brewing Some Fantastic Beers

Jason Fisher had been dreaming of opening a brewpub for years. But his long, difficult struggle to get the Indie Alehouse open was finally coming to fruition and he was about to share his beer–recipes for some of which he had held onto for years–with the world.

Five minutes after finally getting a liquor licence and becoming legally entitled to pour the fruits of his labour for thirsty residents of the Junction, he opened the doors and welcomed a customer–a Junction resident–who told him how excited she was that the doors were finally open on the neighbourhood’s first brewpub. So she placed her order–for a glass of wine. Continue reading