Kinsip House of Fine Spirits (Prince Edward County, ON) is a relative newcomer to the Canadian distilling scene – at least as a corporate entity and brand. The distillery itself has been around since 2012, and was formerly known as 66 Gilead Distillery (named for its street address), making unique, crafted white and brown spirits.
When the former owners decided to sell the business, a group of professionals from Toronto and Ottawa came along as suitors. Jeremiah Soucie was an airborne paramedic, and his wife Sarah Waterston is a pediatrician; her brother Michael and partner Maria Hristova live in Toronto working in health care and IT respectively. While they don’t fit the mold of your typical distillery owners, they had already been considering starting a distillery of their own in Ottawa, and ultimately took the plunge in October 2016 by purchasing 66 Gilead, and started looking into ways to grow the business.
I had the opportunity to visit the distillery in fall of last year after contacting Jeremiah, and arrived in the morning to find myself immediately inserted into a discussion with a photographer from a local paper and the staff about the best shape of bottle for their whiskies (more on the results of that below) while waiting for Jeremiah to finish some paperwork. While admittedly a bit annoyed at the short wait, I very quickly realized this was simply an early insight into Jeremiah’s character. After even a minute of conversation with Jeremiah, it’s readily apparent that he is consummately passionate about everything he does – whether that’s distilling, doing admin work, or preparing lunch for his kids. The short wait was well worth it, as I had the good fortune of seeing all of these passions of Jeremiah’s, while hearing about the direction he and his partners plan to take Kinsip.
Jeremiah first went into some history of the farm and distillery. Originally a hops farm, the farmhouse was built in 1874 and currently serves both as Jeremiah and Sarah’s home, and the retail store for the distillery. It sits on 75 acres of land, which the group plan to grow barley and other crops on for use in their spirits. The original oast house is now the barrel warehouse and the barn is used for events and at the time of my visit, a haunted house! If you didn’t know you were at a distillery, it truly would feel like a visit to a farm, as chickens, ducks and geese run wild everywhere, and barn cats are plentiful!
The warehouse currently holds about 160 barrels, of which only a handful have been distilled since the change of ownership, as they’ve focused more on white spirits and new product line development. The stock from the previous owners include a variety of barrel types including Prince Edward County wine barrels, virgin oak and more, and contain rye, corn and malted barley spirits inside.
We made our way to the purpose-built distillery building where Jeremiah told me about their equipment and process. The stills are a hybrid pot and column still, all copper. Water management is a big deal, as the dry summers often lead to water shortages and limit the amount of distilling they can do during those months. They use enzymes, as most distilleries do these days, to ensure consistency and stronger fermentation yields.
Jeremiah then showed me the R&D table, and pulled out samples while sharing some insights into their future plans. He likened his approach to that of Dillon’s in Niagara and Hillrock Farms from NY – a strong focus on innovation and a broad product line-up. That breadth was made apparent as he pulled out samples of individual whisky runs, hand-crafted bitters, and liqueurs of all types – limoncello, coffee, chocolate, blackcurrant and probably the most interesting: Damson plums. The breadth extends to barrel choices too, as they’re finishing spirits in rye, rum, brandy, port, and other fortified wine barrels!
He also gave some insight into their future whisky line-up, which will include a blended whisky (likely to remain branded Wild Oak, as it was under 66 Gilead), their maple syrup barrel-finished whisky, a Rye (being released today! more on that below), and a peated single malt (!!) which is yet to be released. Jeremiah manually siphoned some of their home-grown rye out of a virgin oak cask for me to try, and the main takeaway was the fantastic potential it has at only 1 year of aging so far. The same can be said for their peated malt, which after only a year or so had a great soft peaty earthiness, and strong vegetal notes to it. The R&D table was definitely a highlight, and we’re very excited to see what gets released in the future.
After the sampling, Jeremiah had to make food for the kids, and we continued the conversation inside the house while he crafted some mac and cheese! He also poured me some samples from his personal collection, including his favourite North American single malt from Hillrock, and some 50’s Beam which he poured as a mystery dram…I was way off on my guess. He also showed me his miniature glass still that he’s using to create essential oils, another potential product line in the future. His passion for his kids, his craft and spirits in general give great confidence that this distillery will be creating quality whisky for many years.
Since that visit, we’ve kept in touch with the team at Kinsip, and I am extremely thankful and excited for the opportunity to be one of the first to announce their all-new Cooper’s Revival Rye, being released to the world today! This high-rye blend (with ~10% corn for body) is a new take on the old Crimson Rye from 66 Gilead. It retains the spicy rye character, and tobacco / leather notes from its wine-barrel aging, but has a stronger oak backbone and cereal notes in the place of Crimson’s sweet fruitiness. Overall, it’s more delicate and refined than its predecessor, while offering a bit more depth as well. Trying them side by side is a very fun experiment, and if you have some of the Crimson still kicking around, this bottle is well worth picking up for the comparison alone!
The final bottle design (that was being debated at the beginning of that visit) is also being revealed here for the first time, and was a custom design that will be used for all of their whisky releases in the future. The distillery is having a big launch party today, and they’re also giving away bottles of Cooper’s Revival to a few lucky visitors, so if you can make the drive to the County, do it! Whether you get a free bottle or not, it’ll be well worth the drive!
Big thanks to Jeremiah, Maria, Michael and Sarah for the hospitality, and the chance to try this great new release in advance of the launch date! We’re looking forward to our next visit, and the eventual release of the first peated single malt from Ontario!