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The Woods Spirit Co.

If you are like me you know a little, but not a whole lot on traditional Italian spirits. That is why I was excited to visit The Woods in North Vancouver, to learn more about this local distillery, after the new owners have taken over.

Long story short, this was a lengthy process and the new show runners are a family that cannot wait to start injecting some fresh and lively energy into the space.

Their goal is to win over the hearts and minds of all their customers, creating memorable experiences through their unique processes, while providing a positive impact in the world through collaboration with their vibrant community.

They want to make their brand an indispensable one, a household name. With quality at the forefront, and integrity as the backbone for everything. They plan on innovating and evolving so that their products and services exceed expectations. And are already planning a couple of new products to be released this year.

This was teased as the start to their whisky program, with Andy the head distiller is at the forefront with his Scottish background. They will also be releasing an orangecello, which is like lemoncello, but make it orange. And in winter 2024 they will have a winter liquor release, which looks to be brandy, as we got a chance to tap the barrel for an early taste.

The evening began with a welcome reception, guests were greeted with a spirit spiked slushie. Either their Frozen Amaretto Sour with Limoncello, SOV amaretto, and apple juice; described as smooth and bright. This reminded us of Yakult, but boozy.

Whereas the Frozen Negroni was bitter and sweet with Cascadian Gin, Barrel aged amaro classico, sweet vermouth, and grapefruit juice. Both were like an adult slurpee, great for the upcoming summer weather.

The rest of the bar was also at our disposal and we were able to try a handful of their signature cocktails, pre-mixed for the occasion.

The Life on Earth is Amaro Chiaro, beet & dill vacuum distillate, mezcal, and blanco vermouth. The Woods uses vacuum distillate to create flavour profiles that other bars can’t, and we got a taste of that with the beet and dill flavour in this. The beets bleed pink into this otherwise clear liquid. It was fragrant and an easy sipper, with a medicinal sweetness and the freshness of dill that lingers. Also worth pointing out is the hand cut ice that they use and the artisan feel they put into all of their offerings.

The Blood Orange Garibaldi was my favourite. Prepared with The Woods Amaro Classico and blood orange juice. This cocktail was tart and tangy with plenty of tannis.

The Black Woods Manhattan was The Woods Nocino, rye, maraschino, and cold Brew. Spirit forward there was a hint of coffee, but it was faint and watered down with the whisper of herbaceous botanicals.

As we drank and chatted we were invited to graze on a cheese and charcuterie board with fruit.

And small plates were being served by the staff and owners. The room was ecstatic over the spring side salad with onion, tomato and shredded Parmesan cheese. Dressed in a vinaigrette mixed with The Woods Lemoncello liqueur.

There were also cubes of caramelized pork bites in a cup going around. Prepared by a local caterer.

And for dessert a dark chocolate ice cream with The Woods Nocino as a syrup drizzle. Sweet, bitter, and a full bodied bite.

Then in two groups we were given a behind the scenes look at their distillery with Scottish Andy as the guide.

He gave us the summarized version of their operation, how they do everything from scratch and as a designated craft distillery their products are made with grain from British Columbia.

This grain goes into a kettle where it is mashed up. To it they add yeast for the fermentation process. This is about 1600 pounds of grain for 700 litres of “porridge” mash.

This is distilled in lower temperatures, and the resulting rudimentary alcohol is then transferred to hybrid still where it will be boiled hot. Theirs is a pot with a 16ft still, producing 69% alcohol to a super dry state. And as mentioned earlier they have a unique distillation system that is custom built. Where a pump is used to removed air and reduce pressure. The result is a really clean, neutral grain spirit.

We would then get to sample a few bottles from their collection. The Lemoncello is part of their core range. A tart candy-like spirit that can be used in place of lemon juice, as with their salad dressing and in baking.

This they make with soaked lemon peels, which we got an interesting look and smell of.

The Wood’s flagship product is Amaro. According to Wikipedia this “is an Italian herbal liqueur that is commonly consumed as an after-dinner digestif. It usually has a bitter-sweet flavour, sometimes syrupy.” This is made by “macerating herbs, roots, flowers, bark, and/or citrus peels in alcohol, either neutral spirits or wine, mixing the filtrate with sugar syrup, and allowing the mixture to age in casks or bottles.”

Our next sample was the barrel aged version of their classic Amaro, aged in ex-bourbon barrels, mixing the old with new liquid. It had a darker label to match its darker hue from its time spent in aged barrels. Their Pacific Northwest Amaro is distilled with grand fir, grapefruit, rhubarb, and bitter orange. Each ingredient is macerated individually then vacuum sealed so that none of the bitterness comes through. Held in three different casks in the course of three years, the goal is for a mellow flavour from 9 botanicals, aged in 2 year old barrels. The flavour was true to its herbaceous origin with nuances of citrus and pine.

And we also got to learn more about Nocino through our next sample. Nocino is liqueur made from pickled green walnuts. History says it use to be made by witches, before being enjoyed as an Italian digestif by all.

The walnuts they use are harvested by hand from the Okanagan. It is pressed, vacuumed sealed, and compressed alongside cinnamon, clove, orange peel, and anise. The result is a rich and syrupy liquid with baked notes. I got dark fruits like black berry and plum, making it a great topping over ice cream, or a spirit to bake with. Last year this won an award for the best liquor made by a craft distillery 2023.

And after I asked, we also got a sneak peak taste of their brandy in its making. Brandy is made similar to cognac, an alcoholic beverage distilled with either wine or a fermented fruit mash. At this stage they were still adding in water to proof it down. It is originally casked at 65% to 63.7% and the minimum they need to bring it down to is 40-30%.

In closing, it is great to know of another local distillery that doubles as a bar, offering guests the opportunity to sample something other than vodka, gin, or tequila. Lesser known fine liqueurs that are the fastest growing spirit category in Canada. I am looking forward to seeing more of them at this weekend’s BC distilled.

The Woods Spirit Co.
1450 Rupert St, North Vancouver, BC V7J 1E9

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