Interview: Master Distiller Peter Hunt (Victoria Spirits)

Distiller Vancouver Island


How did you decide on which botanicals you’d use in the gin?

We played around with botanicals quite a lot at the beginning, so certainly it was a little bit of trial and error. A lot of botanicals that we use are in other gins, but then there’s a few that are unique to our gin. Over the development of the gin we’ve dropped a couple and added a couple to really fine tune the flavor. And then also, adjusting the distilling technique will vary greatly the flavor of the gin. Our gin has quite a robust flavor. It’s got a lot of citrus, a lot of floral flavors. We try not to overpower the consumer with juniper flavor, so we like to balance out all the other flavors of the gin.

Spirits Vancouver Island
What are the other botanicals in there that you can name?

Well, there’s juniper, of course, which makes gin gin. There’s coriander, lemon peel, orange peel, star anise, orris root, angelica, cinnamon, roses and a secret ingredient as well, which is on display in our tasting room, which you can taste and smell and guess at. We’ll let you know if you’re right.

How do you like to enjoy the gin?

We like to make all our products so they can be consumed neat, but they’re not necessarily – I personally like the Victoria Gin mixed with citrus. It makes a fantastic Aviation or French 75. The Oaken gin is more whiskey like with those other layers of caramel and vanilla. That one I like as a martini with a little bit of sweet vermouth, and a little bit of our orange bitters.

Would you say that you have any mentors when it comes to distillation?

The distilling community in B.C. is pretty small, so I certainly chat with other people in the distilling industry. Frank Dieter, he’s the owner-distiller at Okanagan Spirits. He is really sort of the pioneer of distilling in B.C. He has been doing it for several years. He is somebody that I’ve learned a lot from.

You said you have a background in molecular biology?

Yeah, I’ve got a Master’s in Molecular Biology, which has certainly helped.

Van Vancouver Island
Where did you get your Master’s from?

From UVic. I was actually working at the B.C. Cancer Agency for a couple years doing genome mapping at the Genome Sciences Center, but then was helping out, doing the distilling, out of curiosity, then I ended up taking over the distilling, and have been at it the last three years.

You talked about using sustainable sawdust briquettes and using the heads for biodiesel. Why is it important for you to be eco-friendly in your business practices?

It’s just generally important to be conscious of these things. Any way that you can be more sustainable in business is good.

Is that a byproduct of growing up around here?

I suppose so. I guess most people that I know try to do things as sustainably as possibly, and with as much care for the environment as can be taken.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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