Five new student-created spirits debut from Class of 2023
Good spirits abound at Niagara College’s Teaching Distillery, with three new medals from an international competition, and with the debut of five new craft spirits from the College’s Artisan Distilling Class of 2023 to graduate in June.
The NC Teaching Distillery won two silvers and a bronze at the 2023 U.S. Open Whisky and Spirits Championship. Silver medals were awarded for Spirits 101 Single Malt Whisky (Canadian Whisky category) and Spirits 101 Spiced Rum (Rum Spiced/ Flavoured category) while School Spirits Vodka (Vodka category) won bronze.
“Winning three international awards shows that our Teaching Distillery produces some of the best craft spirits in the world,” said Steve Gill, General Manager of NC’s Learning Enterprises. “We are so proud of our NC students who are involved with the making of all of our premium spirits, with instruction and guidance from our expert distillers and faculty.”
School Spirts Vodka and Single Malt Whisky are from the Teaching Distillery’s core line of spirits, made with student involvement, while Spiced Rum launched as a student capstone project.
“It’s tremendously rewarding when student projects garner international awards,” said Maija Saari, Associate Dean of Culinary, Tourism and Beverage Studies division, which includes NC’s School of Wine, Beer and Spirits. “The outcome speaks to the remarkable creativity the students bring to the professional distillers, who help them nurture the ideas to life. It is truly a collaborative and unique learning environment.”
Head Distiller David Dickson noted that winning awards is even more impressive when considering that most students begin the one-year Artisan Distilling program with little or no distilling experience.
“It feels like a validation of what we are teaching the students in the program and the Teaching Distillery, as well as the students’ capabilities for the future, when entering the workforce,” said Dickson.
Single Malt Whisky, first released in December 2022, was distilled by the second cohort of Artisan Distilling students (Class of 2020). The recipe for this staple spirit was created by Head Distiller David Dickson and each student in the program is involved with its production.
“We are immensely proud of how this Single Malt turned out. We can get an idea of what it will be like before it goes into barrel, but we still have to wait the minimum of three years to see if we were right,” said Dickson. “This was the first of its kind for our distillery which debuted when we were so young as a program.
Spiced Rum was a student capstone project from 2020. It was first released in December 2022. The “molasses forward” base rum and its spice blend were developed by a group of students in 2020 and, after the aging process, the recipe was adjusted by College distillers – based on the change of flavours over time in the cask. The Class of 2023 assisted with the final balance of flavours.
School Spirits Vodka, another staple spirit which debuted in 2019, has been distilled, filtered and bottled by students since the first cohort of the program.
View usopenwhiskey.com for competition details.
New student spirits
The NC Teaching Distillery is rolling out five new spirits created by NC’s Artisan Distilling Class of 2023.
The new releases include Mediterranean Vodka (with fresh lemon peel, picked basil and mint, coriander seed and a touch of fennel seed), Tanzanite Gin (a gin with butterfly pea flower, giving it its purple-blue colour), Class Amigos Agave (a tequila-style spirit), Fruit and Honey Fusion (a spirit using NC-made honey from the Commercial Beekeeping program) and Eastern Hospitality (a rice-based grain spirit with inspiration from Japanese shochu).
The five new spirits were all student capstone projects which give Artisan Distilling students an opportunity to come up with ideas for new spirits for the Teaching Distillery and, once a number of projects are approved, work in small groups to produce them. The project is for two of their classes: a technical class where they produce the spirit, and a sales and marketing class.
By the time students complete the program, their capstone projects are bottled and hit the shelves available purchase while supplies last at NC’s Wine Visitor + Education Centre (located at NC’s Daniel J. Patterson Campus at 135 Taylor Rd., Niagara-on the Lake) or online at ncteachingwinery.ca. Spirits are available in addition to a variety of student-made products from NC’s Teaching Winery and Teaching Brewery.
Artisan Distilling student Disha Bhendwalis, who will graduate in June, is excited about the release of her group’s spirit, which they worked on from production to marketing, and is proud to see bottles of the product on the shelves.
“Mediterranean Vodka will always be close to my heart; we have worked really hard, and I feel so elated that it turned out to be really good. Everyone loved it; I got some really great reviews from people who tried it,” she said. “It’s a lifetime opportunity which I was lucky enough to get.”
NC’s Teaching Distillery is a 2,500-square-foot facility located at Niagara College’s Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It is home to NC ’s one-year Artisan Distilling graduate certificate program within NC’s School of Wine, Beer and Spirits.
Niagara College has a full-time enrolment of more than 9,500 students from over 80 countries, who study in 130 diploma, certificate and bachelor degree programs at specialized campuses in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara College is also involved in educational projects and partnerships around the world and is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 10 colleges for research funding. Learn more at niagaracollege.ca.