Loon Vodka, a Distinct Pleasure from the Canadian North

loonI had the opportunity to go to an artisan distillery in Hurst, Ontario, that is making Vodka. Speaking with Marcel Rheault owner and Master Distiller of Loon Vodka, the pride of his family-owned Rheault Distillery is quite apparent. While some very nice whisky and liquors are being produced, the flagship spirit of this far north company is the vodka.

I first learnt that and not all vodkas are the same; some are made from potatoes and the better ones are made from grains. I had to ask if there is really a difference, and was told without any uncertainty, yes.

Starting from the bottom up there is: Standard, Premium, Deluxe, and of course Alpha. Contrary to popular belief the best vodka’s are not colourless and odorless, but have a distinctive taste and feel.

What exactly makes an Alpha Vodka; it has to be made strictly from wheat and/or rye grains and not corn or potatoes. The methyl alcohol content must be less than 0.003%. Multiple distillation and purification steps achieve this goal, which may include classical filtration methods, silver ions and milk proteins and of course, charcoal.

The detail of each how much and how long of each step is Marcel’s secret to an incredible product. In small batch productions there are slight differences in source products, meaning the distiller has to adjust the spirit accordingly to ensure a distinct final outcome.

After one taste, I knew this is not the vodka that you would mix into a sugary drink or with the usual tomato juice. I am not even sure I would dilute it with a classic martini mix (but just for the scientific process I will give it a try). Ideal drinking for this perfected vodka is straight up and cold; out-of-the-freezer-cold with a chilled shot glass and all.

What makes all of this so fascinating is the steel copper pot and reflecting column of the distillery is in the living room of the Rheault home where the still has become part of the family fabric. I am so impressed that I will have to move my bottle of Grey Goose over as I need a new spot for the Loon on my top liquor shelf.

Mike Callaghan
Mike Callaghan is the Team Canada BBQ Director, a Pitmaster on his own team The Black Pig BBQ Mike provided his leadership, skills and experience for the team and their international program

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