Bottoms Up!

Feeling thirsty this Saint Patrick’s Day? Your librations need not come from far away this weekend. Home-grown beer and spirit producer Yukon Brewing has recently released something new into their line up; a Yukon-made whisky, Two Brewers Single Malt.

February 13th marked the much anticipated release of their first batch, of which approximately 700 bottles were made. They were put up for sale at 9:00 am that morning and were completely sold out by 3:15 pm that afternoon, says Bob Baxter. Baxter is one of the proprietors and  one of the ‘two brewers’ for whom the whisky it is named, along with Alan Hansen.

“It was nice to see the interest, nice to see it move,” says Baxter “People keep saying to me, ‘It’s good, but I didn’t expect it to be this good!’ I mean, from my point of view, it’s as good as anything out there – but of course, I’m biased.”

This second release – a special sherry cask finish- came out March 5. While the first whisky was a “classic” type, a style their website describes as being, ”typical of mainland Scottish-style whiskies,” this second batch is of the “special” type, with a sherry-cask finish. This was a larger release, says Jasmine Sangria, communications manager for Yukon Brewing, of  1650 bottles. Of those, half went to be sold in Alberta, while the remaining 825 were made available to the local market. Of those, only 400 bottles remain, says Sangria.

”Every release will be different,” says Baxter. “Our goal is to have no two whiskies (we make) be the same… the only way we could have a consistent flavour would be to use (artificial) flavours and colourings. We didn’t want to do that, so we went to the other end of the stick.”

Hansen and Baxter bought the still in 2009 and this first release is the fruit of seven years of labour, Baxter says.

It is important to note that what Yukon Brewing is producing with Two Brewers is whisky, not scotch. Even though the process is nearly identical; only whisky made in Scotland is legally allowed to be labelled and sold as Scotch.

Whisky, Baxter says, is beer which has been further distilled, and the process is a long and complicated one. It takes 10,000 litres of beer to make just seven barrels of whisky. Barrels are 200 L each in size, although the whisky held in them in is about 68%alcohol before being diluted down to something in the (much more drinkable) 40% range. However, up to one-third of the product can be lost, he notes, to evaporation, known in the industry as “the Angel’s Share,” as well as leakage. Both are “painful but inevitable, as part of the process,” he notes.

Currently, they are planning to make more batches, although Baxter adds that, “batch number three is not even a twinkle in anyone’s eyes yet- our focus has been on getting number one and two done and … we don’t want to sell all we can make, because we want to let it get older, too.”

Baxter points out that Yukon Brewing is currently limited in the size and scale of their whisky production, which has to stop in the spring and restart again in August, as the facilities will be focused on making their main product, which is, of course, beer.

As to how these whiskies should be taken, Baxter says blithely, “You pay good money for it – do what you want with it. If you like it with an ice cube in it, put an ice cube in it – just please, don’t mix it with coke.”

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