LEFT: Head distiller James Marinus at work. RIGHT: Shelter Point grows the barley for its whisky onsite.
In 2005, Evans (a third-generation farmer) and his family purchased the 380 acres of property in Campbell River, B.C., 140 km north of Nanaimo. Evans asked himself what the best use of the land would be, and decided it was to bring a value-added industry to the shores of Vancouver Island. “Can you say single malt?” he laughs. Established in 2011, Shelter Point is B.C.’s only pot-distilled single malt whisky distillery, and only the second in Canada. The traditional copper pot stills — prized for the style of spirit and the flavour profile they bring to the finished whisky — were shipped from Scotland, via the Panama Canal.
SPIT AND POLISH
The highly prized copper stills were held up en route by U.S. customs for a month; it took 200 hours of Campbell River elbow grease to bring them back to their former glory.
Evans made his longtime farming colleague James Marinus his main distiller, bringing in several experts as consultants along the way. “The first year, we relied heavily on Michael Nicholson, who had a long career being a master distiller in Scotland,” Evans notes. “Luckily for us, he retired to Victoria and was able to work with us for six months. “We still bring out different distillers. It’s like working with different chefs — each has their own area of expertise.” The grain — barley — is grown on 200 acres of their farm; the all-important water is drawn from a mountain-fed aquifer from beneath the ground at Shelter Point. The other essential ingredient in traditional single malt whisky is time. And so they distilled the whisky, batchby-batch, and they waited. For five years.