FROM THE GRAIN TO THE BOTTLE, EVERY DETAIL COUNTS!
Paul Cirka, President and Master Distiller (center in the image above this page).
Premium quality spirits: Vodka Terroir, Gin Sauvage and GIN375. And soon (in about 18 months), a series of whiskies that “do their time” in barrels, the proper way. Canadian law requires that whisky be aged in casks for at least three years in order to qualify as Canadian whisky.
Cirka Distilleries began operating in 2015. Paul Cirka joined his friends JoAnne Gaudreau and John Frare to acquire a building that could accommodate their stills. John, a general contractor, knew the agri-food business well, which would be a valuable asset to them.
Starting in late 2016, Vodka Terroir was sold as a private import to bars and restaurants, including Les Enfants Terribles. The products currently available to consumers are white spirits (pending the arrival of Cirka whiskies!), available in Quebec, Nova Scotia, Alberta, and recently in Ontario.
Cirka Distilleries has a unique approach. They produce their spirits from grain to bottle: grain cooking, fermentation, distillation and bottling. The alcohol bases are distilled on the premises, using GMO-free grains from local producers.
Paul Cirka, master distiller and founder of the distillery bearing his name, has lived several lives. After a science education, he worked as a landscape architect before entering the world of high tech, which brought him from London to Montreal about 15 years ago to join a start-up company.
At that point, he wanted a change. “I wanted to catch my breath after years of working in an overly competitive industry,” Paul explains.
During the two years before the distillery began operations, Paul Cirka travelled across North America, accumulating hundreds of hours of training with all types of artisanal distillers, “very experienced people,” he says.
“I remember being in London drinking a Caol Ila whisky (pronounced cull-eye-la, a Gaelic name), a fabulous whisky made by a very old distillery on the island of Islay off the coast of Scotland. I was enjoying this moment – and this whiskey! – thinking it was unbelievable that a spirit could evoke so many different feelings and sensations… I understood that day that I was much more of a spirits lover than a wine lover, and that I had to get closer to this industry.”
“Building brand loyalty, because today’s consumer has a lot of choice. We have to make ourselves known, not only in Montreal, but across the country and around the world. Building a brand on an international scale is a big challenge for a small producer like ours, which does not have the resources of large companies.”
“If the craft distillery industry was still a new movement a few years ago, that is no longer the case. Our industry has become very competitive.”
“When I entered the world of microdistillers, I discovered extraordinary people, always ready to share their passion and knowledge. Quite a shock for someone like me who had just spent 15 years working in the high-tech world, where everything is secret!”
“Another nice surprise: our vodka won some gold medals in a contest before we even put it on the market! We participated only to ‘test the waters’ with our product, and were surprised – and delighted! – to be among the winners.”
Paul Cirka has always been a fan of spirits as well as a history buff. He goes into the story of London Dry Gin which, surprisingly, is originally from Holland, not England! The name “gin” has no geographical connotation.
A brief history of London Dry Gin: “Genever” (so called because it contains juniper berries) was a medicinal concoction used in Holland in the 16th century. People believed that the juniper had antibiotic qualities. Over time, as it became an “everyday” drink, the character became mellower (it originally had a very thick malty texture). After the British Admiralty lent a helping hand to Holland when it was fighting against the rest of Europe, the Dutch gave the English a major shipment of their genever, and that is how the famous drink ended up in London. The British soon improved it, switching the malt base to a lighter wheat base, then adding sugar to make it more pleasant. The recipe had changed so much that this (new) drink was called “Old Tom Gin,” a sweeter product than London Dry Gin, but drier than the Dutch genever.
Inspired by this story, Paul Cirka had the idea to recreate an Old Tom Gin (GIN375), but this time with products from Quebec. “We thought no one was making sweet gin anymore… and the idea was born. Our gins contain local seasonings, including juniper berries, wild mint, cranberries, cherries and a fabulous honey made in the Laurentians, which gives them their ‘Old Tom’ touch.”
Build a global brand, but Paul Cirka’s daily life is now that of a microdistiller, and his greatest pleasure is making his products known to the people who visit him. “We are very proud of what we do.”
“The recipe concocted by Maximilliano, chef mixologist at Les Enfants Terribles, using our Gin Sauvage!”
The « Solstice » :
- Cirka Gin Sauvage
- Sivo Rhubarb Liqueur
- Lemon juice
- Elderflower syrup
- Egg white
“Barbecued octopus (the one at Les Enfants Terribles is excellent).”
ENFANT TERRIBLE SINCE 2016
Web site: cirka.ca/
Each month, we feature one of our suppliers, a local producer with whom we are proud and happy to work with.
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