I’m getting a little closer to the “spirit world”, thanks to my friends at Bruinwood Estate Distillery. Their small-batch distillery, located on their five-acre property in Roberts Creek, is a must-visit for spirit lovers and those looking to support local Sunshine Coast businesses.
Jeff Barringer, head distiller, and Danice Lofstrom, manager, first dreamed up the idea of owning a distillery more than two decades ago:
"After an evening of sumptuous dining and excellent wines, our host poured us each a shot of nucino and told us about distilling. 20 years later we finally opened the distillery we imagined that magical night,” they explain on their website.
Having just opened their doors in June 2018, Bruinwood has become a sensation with locals, tourists, and even media. Their acclaim has landed them most recently in Montecristo Magazine.
The artisan distillery serves up selection of flavourful vodkas, gin, and liqueurs. Their quaint retail store also offers naturally made tonics, shrubs, homemade honey, and gift baskets overflowing with local treats from the best of BC suppliers.
Interestingly Jeff and Danice have a background in culinary TV. In the early ‘90s, they launched their first show, “Galley Chefs”, which documented their sailing journey up the Inside Passage to the North End of Vancouver Island on a 46-foot sloop. On this trip, they cooked local cuisine and met plenty of characters along the way. They’ve also produced the “BC Wine Cellar” and “Canadian Wine Cellar” TV series, as well as Knowledge Network program, “Gaslight Gourmet.”
Their penchant for adventure and passion for gastronomy ultimately lead them on the path to distilling - a way for them to continue their exploration of flavours.
Jeff adds: “With distilling everyday we can start something fresh and new and let it go where it will. I would say distilling is lot more like cooking than wine or beer making is.”
As I take a sip of their signature Aquasen vodka, I catch a smooth and creamy taste of malt, with a subtly sweet after-finish. As I savour it, Jeff explains that whiskey lovers enjoy this vodka because of the malt is so prevalent. I take a mental note for my husband, Ross (a Scottish man with a great whiskey collection). Next, I sample their holiday Vanilla vodka and new Chocolate Espresso Vodka varieties. Both are as fragrant as they are delicious.
As I move onto the gin (my favourite of all the spirits.), I initially taste juniper and coriander, followed by hints of lemongrass, citrus, anise, and sarsaparilla. I learn from Jeff that the Bruinwood gin is actually a Dutch-style genever, although it’s produced in a London Dry style. In other words, it starts at a very high proof before it’s brought down to a drinking strength of 40%.
“Because it’s got the malt base, it’s a much richer, more sumptuous gin that what you would normally get,” Jeff says excitedly. “One of the things I love most about making gin is that it’s very much like cooking. You and I can sit down with the same ingredients, the same recipe and we can both make the same gin and yet we’re going to make two completely different products. And yet, as a drinker, I’m going to love both of them.”
Honey is the touchstone for all of the spirits distilled at Bruinwood Estate. They harvest it right on site and also source honey from top quality local suppliers. If honey is your thing, you might be interested in trying their Heavenly Honey Liqueur.
With 25 years on the Sunshine Coast, these two know this community inside and out.
As we wrap up our tasting session, Jeff and Danice reminisce about their waterfront wedding and subsequent honeymoon at a B&B just down the road. Jeff recalls the day they bought this property one rainy January and fell madly in love with it. Danice mentions their favourite watering hole, the Blackfish Pub.
With adventurous spirits such as Jeff and Danice, I get the sense that they spend a lot of time creating: art, photography, film, and, most importantly, spirits! I imagine these two, sitting down for a tipple as they brainstorm their next concoction. Then Jeff - part scientist, part chef and part artist - painstakingly sourcing honey, fruit and fine grains, before tinkering on his recipes for months until they are just perfect. I’ll bet they have a lot of fun testing the product before it goes to the masses.
If that’s not enough to get you into the spirit, I don’t know what will!
Swing by Bruinwood Estate Distillery every Friday-Sunday or visit one of the Sunshine Coast farmers’ markets during the summer months. Learn more about Bruinwood Estate Distillery by checking them out online at bruinwood.com or follow them on Facebook and Instagram at @bruinwooddistillery.