QUÉBEC’S FIRST WHISKEY
Maison Sivo, micro-distillery
Essence du Single Malt, Essence du Rye, Rebel Le Moonshine du Rye, Shámán Herb Liqueur, brandies and liqueurs.
A native of Hungary, Janos Sivo has lived in Quebec for more than three decades. After a brilliant career in telecommunications, he wanted a change of course, which is no coincidence. Since the early 20th century, his family in Hungary had been producing artisanal brandy, a “clandestine” pursuit that was very common at the time in Eastern Europe.
In 2011, he acquired a farm in Hemmingford, in Quebec’s Montérégie region, where he would grow eco-friendly blackcurrants, blueberries and raspberries, and then distill the harvest into liqueurs.
Since then, his project has diversified considerably.
Even though he had been familiar with the craft since childhood, Janos had a lot to learn about distilling. On this journey, he had the fortune of meeting Frank Deiter, founder of Okanagan Spirits Distillery, who soon became a great friend and mentor. Deiter’s advice was instrumental, in terms of distilling technique and marketing savvy. Janos is now very active in the industry, continually expanding his list of contacts in order to gain new knowledge through discussions or workshops.
Although it was his friend Frank Deiter, founder of Okanagan Spirits, who convinced him that Maison Sivo had all it takes to create Quebec’s first whiskey, it was mainly the memories of artisanal brandy production during his childhood in Hungary that are at the origin of this project. Janos returns every year to his native land.
“The biggest challenge when you start out in this industry is understanding how the enormous machine of the federal and provincial governments works for obtaining permits and getting the SAQ to accept your product,” says Janos, who nonetheless had experience with very large companies and organizations. That being said, he believes that the SAQ’s monopoly still has its advantages, especially vis-à-vis quality control of products.
Another challenge is to turn a profit. You need money to build this kind of business, and you must be patient to achieve profitability.
“My nicest surprise was discovering the passion and curiosity that drives the people who work in this industry. I’m just as interested in people as in products, and this field is teeming with specialists of all kinds, such as distillers, mixologists, judges, farmers and teachers, all of whom are committed to excellence.“
“My friend Frank Deiter is undoubtedly a great inspiration to me, but other encounters have also left their mark, especially my discussions with certain members of the Quebec Whiskey Club, who opened up a whole new world to me: the world of tasting!“
For a long time, Mr. Sivo aspired to make Quebec’s first whiskey. Mission accomplished! “Essence du Single Malt” recently changed its name, as it now meets Canadian requirements to be called “whiskey,” meaning that it has aged more than three years in barrels, the minimum for this designation. “Le Single Malt” and “Le Rye” are available at SAQ stores.
Janos is now getting into brandy distilling, hoping to win over Quebecers with a product that is better known in Europe.
“Seeing our products on the shelves at the SAQ is a big deal!” the master distiller tells us. “It’s a long journey from the time when you decide you’re going to create a product and when you can finally sell it.“
The term “goulash” comes from the Hungarian word “gulyás,” which used to refer to cattle herders. The dish is usually made with beef, vegetables and small pasta. However, Janos makes a vegetarian, mushroom-based goulash with paprika and sour cream. It’s a pure delight for people lucky enough to be invited to his farm.
ENFANT TERRIBLE SINCE 2016