Prohibition may be over, but some Nova Scotians continue to make a living distilling and distributing spirits.
The province’s distilleries — almost as a nod to the rum runners — recently took home 31 medals at the 2019 Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition.
The competition, which is organized by Artisan Distillers Canada, highlights some of the best artisan booze across the country.
And as Ironworks Distillery co-owner Lynne MacKay pointed out, Nova Scotians know how to make a good product.
“The very fact that Nova Scotia did so well I think is notable,” said MacKay, whose own distillery earned 10 medals, including gold for their gin, pear eau de vie, Bluenose rum and vodka.
MacKay explained that the province punches above its weight given there are only a dozen active distilleries.
For example, British Columbia — which won 104 awards — has more than 60 distilleries.
But when the results are regarded on a per distiller basis, each Nova Scotian distillery earned 2.6 medals to British Columbia’s 1.6.
MacKay said the advanced thinking of the NSLC has helped cultivate an impressive distilling industry.
“When we started this business, they essentially welcomed us with open arms,” she said of the province’s liquor corporation.
“That openness of spirit and interest in encouraging an unusual artisan industry is the basis for how this world started in Nova Scotia.”
MacKay said other variables, such as great fruit and produce, have also helped the industry find a voice.
“Spirits with a story have more impact,” she said.
MacKay pointed to Ironworks’ location in historic Lunenburg and the use of local ingredients as ways of creating a connection to customers.
The Nova Scotia Good Cheer Trail, she said, has also helped market craft spirits.
“There really isn’t another enterprise like it in Canada. We’re kind of ahead,” said MacKay.
Barrelling Tide Distillery, which is based in Port Williams, also earned 10 medals while Halifax’s Compass Distillers garnered seven.