Winchester Cellars: Gin dandy

Perfecting a handcrafted gin, at Vancouver Island's first distillery.

Credit: iStock

Longtime winemaker and whisky connoisseur Ken Winchester was so captivated by the history and mystique of gin that he waded through red tape for two years and took that time to perfect his recipe for Victoria Gin, handcrafted at Vancouver Island’s first distillery. As a result of his efforts, Winchester is now president of the newly formed Artisan Distillers of B.C.

Winchester is also founder and president of Winchester Cellars winery, which uses grapes from the nearby Barking Dog organic vineyard. He chose the site of the winery to distill gin in his copper potstill. Winchester says he enjoys his gin neat – much like a single-malt whisky – so that he can taste the spirit’s complex flavours. He describes a fine balance of eleven organic and wild-gathered botanicals, including juniper berries, orange peel, star anise, coriander and rose petals, that give Victoria Gin a full-bodied flavour and aroma.

The eleventh ingredient, which remains a secret, imparts its own mystique and character, much like the visage of a young Queen Victoria, the spirit’s namesake, which bedecks the bottles.

The three batches of Victoria Gin made so far have sold out, but the Fairmont Empress Hotel is serving it as its premium gin; try the Vic Gin mojito, or source your own bottle at select liquor stores.

Winchester Cellars/Barking Dog Spirits
6170 Old West Saanich Road, Victoria