I had the pleasure of visiting Compass Distillery in Halifax this past Sunday.
My goal was to listen to the guy that actually makes gin! No matter how many courses, research and sampling one can do in our busy lives, having a perspective from the creators is always icing on the cake.
The first thing that struck me was their pot still. They have a column still to make vodka, which is far more authentic than many distilleries that buy neutral spirit in bulk. In fact, the UK must do this due to some alcohol tax law!
So, once they have vodka, a portion of the distillate can be used for making gin. At 95% ABV it will be reduced to 31% with water and the botanical added. Except in the case of their Hybrid still not all the botanicals will be steeped.
Some will be placed in the vapor basket. This is fairly unique and much like a combo of traditional gin making with an element of Bombay Sapphire distilling techniques.
On top of the onion style still was a short column still leading to the vapor basket. All of this produces a well-balanced gin with finesse. They will take their cut at approx. 75% ABV however, its done more by smell rather that the ABV reading. Finally, it will be brought down to between 40-45% and bottled for our enjoyment.
After the first hour in the still room it was time to move to the tasting room for a wide variety of gins. Along with their regular gin, which uses Italian Junipers, the Wild was available to taste with a good dose of Junipers on the nose & palette all picked in Nova Scotia.
My absolute favorite part of the tasting was the two aged gins. The first had spent four months in new American Oak cask. This would be without any bourbon being matured in the cask however, it would still be charred providing the usual vanilla, toffee tastes one would find on a single malt.
To be honest, I found it lacked presence of a traditional Juniper forward gin and moved on to the lighter colored second gin. WOW! This is the future in gin. Same cask now refilled. Refill casks are used often in aging single malt whisky.
Some of the cask elements had disappeared to be replaced by gin botanicals with just hint of the oak, burnt toffee and caramel.
This was basically a gin with a hint of a single malt whisky and this could quite easily become common practice and enjoyed by many gin enthusiasts in the future.
The final hour was spent with Jordan at the bar. He made and explained many gin cocktails and had the group totally in awe.
What a great Sunday afternoon and thanks to all the staff.