Saanich distillery coming of age

De Vine Vineyard launching new distillery, will produce gin, whisky

Ken Winchester samples a test run of a bourbon-style whisky being produced at de Vine Vineyard and Distillery.

Ken Winchester samples a test run of a bourbon-style whisky being produced at de Vine Vineyard and Distillery.

Master distiller Ken Winchester points to a stack of second-hand bourbon casks that lines the inside wall of de Vine Vineyards’ new distillery.

It’s not an overly huge room, but big enough to house Bruhnhilde, a 30-year-old German still that is the heart of the operation, a mash tank and a few dozen barrels.

“We found Bruhnhilde in a Cowichan warehouse and it took us a year to put it together,  now she works great,” he says.

Beside Bruhnhilde, named for the princess of German folklore, is the double-stacked row of casks with de Vine’s first batch of whisky, Glen Saanich, waiting to bottle next year.

Within some of the casks are also some one-off experiments because, well, that’s what craft distillers do, Winchester says.

One cask is labelled ‘Maple’. Another says ‘Burbin’ (take a guess what that is).

“We can’t call Glen Saanich whisky [because it won’t be three years old], just like we can’t make a ‘bourbon’, but Glen Saanich is going to be great, and the ‘Burbin’ looks good so far,” he says. “I don’t know if we’ll ever make [a bourbon-style spirit] but we never stop experimenting.”

With Glen Saanich, it’s likely the label will explain the spirit as “made in the tradition of a Scottish whisky.”

The whisky labelling rule – that only a three-year-aged barley spirit qualifies – is outdated, but will stick around thanks to NAFTA while being challenged in concept by craft distilleries in B.C.

There are currently 10 distilleries on the Island, the closest being Phillips Brewery’s Fermentorium and Sidney’s Victoria Distillers. Coming this summer is the Victoria Caledonian Brewery and Distillery on Enterprise Crescent.

This year is another big leap forward for de Vine Vineyard and Distillery at 6181 Old West Saanich Rd. They’ve launched a trilogy of gins, the Dickens’ era, London-style New Tom, the modern Vin Gin and a coming brand based on the 500-year-old version of the famous Dutch spirit. They also offer a strawberry vodka made with the organic fruit of Longview Farm (formerly Vantreight), a Honey Shine that’s essentially a honey rum made from B.C. ingredients, as well as apple and blackberry brandies.

De Vine has put a Saanich twist on as much as it can though it’s the first lot on the Central Saanich side of the border with Saanich. Its hilltop vineyards, a lower and an upper, are hidden from view by the steep and winding driveway from Old West Saanich and overlook the peninsula.

From the entrance of the driveway you could shake a bottle of fizzy and fire the cork across the road, and across the border, onto Lana Popham’s Barking Dog Vineyard in the District of Saanich. Winchester previously leased Barking Dog and it’s there he started Victoria Gin (now in Sidney) eight years ago.

When he connected with the owners, Catherine and John Windsor, it was a perfect fit.

“It’s been great here,” said Winchester, who rents a two-acre farm on one corner of the lot with his wife. “The lot was a fixer upper, it’s been totally redone. We have an orchard with pears, apples, plums and calvados. We use flowers for botanicals and the brandies we make here are 100 per cent fruit, no additives.”

Even the syrup for the maple whisky is tapped from red maples on the property, and they’ve collected on-site spruce tips for their Sitka gin.

De Vine’s tasting room is now open seven days a week for summer, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a food truck on weekends.

 

Just Posted

The number of skilled trades workers available is not enough to fill the current construction boom in Greater Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Influx of skilled tradespeople falling behind Greater Victoria construction boom

Thousands of positions will be needed by 2030, despite flow of Camosun trades students

The price of gas is way up in many parts of Greater Victoria after a Monday afternoon surge sent it to 162.9 cents per litre. (Black Press Media file photo)
Gas prices surge to 162.9 cents a litre at some Greater Victoria stations

Prices jumped up more than 10 cents Monday afternoon

Swanwick Ranch in Metchosin, featuring an award-winning home on 67 acres of property overlooking the ocean, recently sold for a record-setting, yet undisclosed amount. (Sotheby’s International Realty Canada photo)
Sale of oceanfront property in Metchosin yields new record for Greater Victoria

Listed at $14.1 million, Swanwick Ranch sold to an undisclosed buyer

Research into the city of Victoria’s economic recovery through the pandemic shows things to be moving in the right direction. (Photo courtesy City of Victoria)
Data shows Victoria experiencing gradual economic recovery

Statistics for early 2021 show promising returns as Victoria 3.0 begins to take hold

Rachel Rivera (left) and Claire Ouchi are a dynamic art duo known as the WKNDRS. The two painted the new road mural at Uptown. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Artistic mural at Uptown brings creativity, fun to summer shoppers in Saanich

Road installation the largest of its kind in Greater Victoria

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Paul Bernardo is shown in this courtroom sketch during Ontario court proceedings via video link in Napanee, Ont., on October 5, 2018. Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo is set for a parole hearing today. The designated dangerous offender, has been eligible for full parole for more than three years. Bernardo’s horrific crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s include for kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy near St. Catharines, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Banning
Killer rapist Paul Bernardo faces parole hearing today; victim families opposed

Designated dangerous offender has been eligible for full parole for more than three years.

People look over the damage after a tornado touched down in Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal, Monday, June 21, 2021. Dozens of homes were damaged and one death has been confirmed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
One dead and extensive damage as tornado hits Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal

Damage reported in several parts of the city, and emergency teams dispatched to sectors hardest hit

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Most Read