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Copperpenny Distilling Co.

I have heard of and tried their gin, but have really dragged my feet getting to their distillery, but today was the day.

Located in North Vancouver, Copper Penny is helmed by a duo with no previous distilling or bar experience. An optimistic team who took a shot and have learned and are still learning as they go. A hard road that is on an upward trajectory as their spirits are winning awards, they are expanding their portfolio outside of just gin, and have gained major recognition from BC’s food and beverage industry.

They will actually be hosting a “Meet the Maker”, in depth distillery tour during this week’s Vancouver Cocktail Week festivities, but we would get a sneak peek taste of that today.

Walking in, the distillery is stunning, but you cannot expect anything less from a former film set designer. The bar has 20’s speak easy feel intermingled with safari vibes. Patterned hard wood and tile floors, golden shelves and match light fixtures, and a feature wall papered with a peacocks and the map of Vancouver Island in print. As a whole it reminded me of Hendrick’s motif, but a lot more modern and funky.

One of my favourite details was the chemical breakdown of juniper spelled out in tile by the washrooms.

The horseshoe bar is really the centre piece of the room. It rises to the ceiling showcasing their entire collection of spirits and awards. Behind the bar stands one of my favourite Vancouver bartenders. I met him many years ago at my favourite bar at the time, that has since shuttered down. So am happy to find him here, and towards the end of our time at Copper Penny would declare this my new favourite bar.

We would get the complete tour of the Copper Penny space. Getting a glimpse of what could and will be, as they plan to continue expanding. With the likes of a members only program allowing those who sign up access to an exclusive bar in the tap room, and an additional private space in the back. The latter also doubles as a private room for rent with concrete buttresses, a collection of bourbon barrels, and a private bar with its own bartender for the night.

Our tour began in their distillery, which you get a good look at through the tap room. Here, we learned more about their all Dutch equipment, and heard how they are still small enough where they can be creative.

Next, we got a crash course on how to make gin. It starts with the grains. Copper Penny sources their wheat from Upper BC, and have taken the time to control their source, seeking crops from farms that see little draught, and therefore gain consistent crops.

The grains are mashed and mixed with an agitator, then yeast is added. In their heated vats the yeast turns these grain into sugars. When done it resembles beer. The mashing of the grain through to fermenting takes a week.

This pre-gin is then added to the pot still. By looks alone it is basically a square box with a lengthy chimney-like pipe coming out of it. Here our spirit to be is heated by a core that doesn’t burn it. This heat grants access to more flavour, causing the alcohol to evaporate as it rises. The vapours go through a giant filter with coils. The liquid then condenses and drips back down to the stills. This process happens as many times as the master distiller chooses resulting in pure alcohol. When spirits boast “x” times the distillation, this is what they are referring to.

At Copper Penny they distill their gin six times. During which, there are many factors that can affect the outcome. They must consider air pressure and if distillation is done on a cloudy day versus a sunny one. The outside affects what you collect. So what end result can varies. To lessen this Copper Penny has sourced their stills specifically from Dutch manufactures, which allows them to manage and inconsistencies. And you want to keep an eye on your spirit, as poorly produced spirits often result in headaches and hangovers.

Gin is their focal spirit, but they also produce Akvavit, which is gin without juniper; made with caraway seeds instead. And they are also working on a yet to be released vodka.

Our tour ended back at their bar, where we would try some of their seasonal cocktails and ones not on the menu, on top some of their speciality spirits.

We started with a non-menu item, “what’s the yams?” Described as a ube sour mimicking the Filipino dessert halo halo. I didn’t expect the acidity, straying away from a classic sour. It has a dessert-like, decadent mouth-feel, matching its sweet finish.

Recommended as one of their most photogenic cocktail was the Two Acts of God. Inspired by the 1930’s LA classic Hurricane cocktail. Copper Penny Gin No. 005, Lemon, and Fassionola Syrup. Then finished with a good smoking of Oak Bitters. This was a bold cocktail with bright and refreshing lemon taste.

The Last Resort was like another dessert in a glass. A dairy-free milkshake that they offered during Valentines Day, which absolutely fit the part. No. 005 Social Gin, lemon, whipped coconut cream, fresh strawberry purée, and Mrs. Betters chocolate bitters. It tasted exactly like a strawberry milkshake, creamy and thick with none of the alcohol. This one you would classify as dangerous.

And because I was with Joyce of @vanfoodies we had to try “The Joyce”, which was actually named after our bartender’s grandmother, a tribute to her and the memory of her strawberry and rhubarb pies. No. 005 Gin, Lemon, Rhubarb, and Green Strawberry Mrs. Betters Bitters. This was a crisp gimlet style cocktail prepared using the tried and tested strawberry and rhubarb pairing of tart and tangy.

And my favourite of all the cocktails we tried was one they mixed specifically for Chinese new year. A smokey mix with the rich flavour of black tea.

It was such a shame that I was not able to fully enjoy my cocktails, and didn’t have a chance to try their food menu. Both of which are good reasons to return in the future, to what looks like my new favourite watering hole.

Copperpenny Distilling Co.
288 Esplanade E Unit 103, North Vancouver, BC V7L 1A3
(778) 802-3500

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