History was made earlier this year when Canadian whisky was distilled in downtown Montreal for the first time in decades at the Sazerac Company’s Old Montreal Distillery. For more than a year Sazerac has been putting the elements in place, installing grain mills and a 4,000 gallon mash cooker, converting existing equipment and hooking up fermenters. Recently a key piece, a brand new still, was added to the Distillery located in the downtown Montreal area, adjacent to the Port and Old Montreal. The still is 18 inches in diameter and 37 feet tall and was made at Vendome in Louisville, Ky.
The Old Montreal Distillery has long had the capacity to distill spirits, including Genever gin, but had always wanted to bring back whisky distillation to Montreal. “With the long standing connection this city has had with distilling premium Canadian whisky, through the headquarters of the legendary Seagram Company and its patriarch Sam Bronfman, it was always a goal of ours to bring whisky distilling back to Montreal,” said Mark Brown, Sazerac Company president and chief executive officer.
Not only does the new still mean Canadian whisky will be made here, it will also allow experiments with new whiskies, something Sazerac is itching to do. “With over 500,000 Canadian whisky barrels in inventory, we’re anxious to get started experimenting here in Montreal similar to what we do at our other distilleries,” said Drew Mayville, Sazerac’s master blender. The Montreal project holds a special place in Mayville’s heart, a native Canadian now living in Kentucky, who worked for Seagram’s for 22 years, serving as the fourth and last Master Blender under the Seagram dynasty.
Plans are still under wraps for now as to which Canadian whisky or whiskies will be made at the Old Montreal Distillery, and a formal christening of the still will be held later this year. It is likely tours will be added later this year as well.
The Old Montreal Distillery joins a pair of similar projects by Sazerac. First came their giving the A. Smith Bowman Distillery a restart at a new facility; then came their acquisition and revamping of the Popcorn Sutton Distillery in Tennessee, turning that into a Tennessee Whiskey outfit under the guidance of old George Dickel hands John Lunn and Alissa Henley.
Sazerac has also acquired three Irish Whiskey brands, and may build a distillery in Ireland to supply them at some point in the future. They also own the Glenmore Distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky, which is principally a bottling plant at the present time.
The Old Montreal Distillery dates back to 1929. It currently employs more than 100 people. The addition of the new distilling operation adds a few more full time employees. Caribou Crossing, the world’s first single barrel Canadian whisky, is bottled at the Old Montreal Distillery, along with many other long time favorites.