Black Fox Distillery – Saskatoon

Visiting Black Fox Distillery was a real treat, as we had tried their spirits in the 2018 Canadian whisky awards where they won in the under-aged spirit category!

Compared to the industrial/roaring 20s feel of Lucky Bastard, Black Fox was quite the change – this is a huge, legit farm! Gorgeous grounds, stone building, rolling hills, farm activities for kids. It had it all!

John and Barb Cote started the operation fathers day 2015 on this 80 acre property. They used to be farmers further north and moved to Saskatoon to grow vegetables and cut flowers, and the location had a distilling license already.

Their interest in growing different grains led to a desire to distill various grains that aren’t common in the industry today. They’re experimenting with wheat, rye, triticale and oats, most of which they grow themselves and store in these silos connected to the stillhouse!

Their typical fermentation time is 4 days and they also experiment with different yeasts in their mash, and sometimes use multiple yeast strains in a single run to increase the number of congeners, enzymes and flavours that result!

Their still is a custom-made 1000L still from Germany. They don’t do a stripping run, and just distill once to retain as much flavour as possible. it comes off the still at about 89% ABV.

Their process is incredibly efficient and their goal is sustainability. They use the water from their process for cooling, wastes used as fertilizer, citric acid for cleaning, geothermal heating, they use the heads as fuel for their tractors and more, constantly monitoring their process via technology.

They’re actually working with the Department of Agriculture to show farms how they can all implement many of these sustainable practices! In some ways they’re as much a research facility as a distillery, studying how to be sustainable in farming and distilling.

Another unique aspect of their distillery is their open air barrel aging process. All of their barrels are out in a locked compound without any protection from the elements. Because of the dry climate, their annual losses are about 8%. They had about 400 barrels at the time of our visit, which was mostly triticale. They use all virgin oak to start, but also utilize some ex-sherry and ex-port barrels.

They held a first ministers conference in Sask a while back and all of the premiers signed a cask. They were going to bottle it in 5 years and each current and subsequent premier would get a bottle from it.

I did not get to try that barrel of course, but John was kind enough to pull samples from a couple of barrels for me! They were as I remembered from the awards – a ton of potential and very unique owing to their non-traditional processes. Their whiskies are now available for purchase online!

We went back into the shop where I was happy to present their TWS Awards in person. Their sustainable vision for agriculture and distillation was very cool to see and hear about, and their spirits are great! Highly recommend you check them out if you find yourself near Saskatoon!

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