Essence of Vancouver Island beach distilled and turned into world’s ‘best contemporary gin’

Jason MacIsaac’s wife, Alayne, who manages the business side of the Vancouver Island distillery, said they had been «frantically trying to keep up» with demand since the World Gin Awards were announced.

Jason and Alayne MacIsaac, owners of Sheringham Distillery with bottles of the Seaside Gin which captured World’s Best Contemporary Gin at this year’s World Gin Awards

Jason and Alayne MacIsaac were walking along French Beach, close to the site of their upstart Sheringham Distillery on Vancouver Island, when they were overcome by the beauty of the smells around them.

It was the summer of 2015.

“The sweet sea air, the smell of the forest, and the Nootka roses blossoming along the path,” recalled Jason. “It was all these things — the beautiful sweet sea air we smell any time of the year in this area. With the combination of everything we thought, how are we going to capture the essence of this feel, of this sensation, or at least get close to that?”

MacIsaac went back to the distillery, which was then located near French Beach in Shirley, B.C., on the southwest edge of Vancouver Island, and got to work.

He used three stills — one to ferment the B.C. grains, another to create the high-proof alcohol, and the third to add the botanicals.

It’s the addition of the botanicals — which in this case included juniper, coriander, winged kelp (a local seaweed), rose petals, lavender, lemon and orange — that create the unique taste.

By October 2015, and after eight trials, Sheringham Distillery had produced its first batch of Seaside Gin.

It’s this gin that last week won world’s best contemporary gin at the World Gin Awards, which are part of the World Drinks Awards — an online-based series of annual industry awards for different categories of alcoholic drinks.

“Winning this is definitely a big honour and there’s a lot of excitement around it,” said MacIsaac.

His wife Alayne, who manages the business side of the distillery, said they had been “frantically trying to keep up” with demand since the awards were announced.

Their products are distributed through private liquor stores in B.C., restaurants, cocktail lounges and pubs, and in some Alberta and Manitoba liquor stores.

They are also now producing whiskies.

MacIsaac said the distillery moved to a larger location in Sooke in July.

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