De Vine is a Saanich Peninsula winery, however distiller Ken Winchester has been experimenting with turning grapes into a base spirit for gin and other spirits over the last couple of years. His philosophy is focused on being a local winery and distillery, using Vancouver Island ingredients first and wherever possible. The winery’s grapes are now all grown locally making De Vine’s gins among the few using island grown ingredients for their base spirit.
After training in distilling at Bruichladdich, Ken had an initial foray into distilling in British Columbia in 2008 as a co-founder of Victoria Spirits, but instead decided at the time to focus his efforts on making wine. The introduction of the new framework for BC’s new craft laws in March of 2013 allowed him to act on his idea of making spirits from his own grapes, and his love of distilling pulled him quickly back towards making spirits.
Ken found his still a couple of years ago as a bit of a diamond in the rough. Built initially as a brandy still, it is a pot still that has had a bit of a rocky past, having been used and discarded, exchanging a couple of hands across the country before falling into his hands to be re-furbished and returned to life.
In September of 2015 De Vine officially launched their first publically-available spirits – Vin Gin and New Tom Gin. The two gins are quite different. Vin Gin showcases mostly local botanicals, with the grape base spirit adding a distinctive backbone to the gin, and the New Tom Gin is a more robust and spicy version of the Vin Gin, but barrel aged. When Ken discusses the Old Tom category, he mentions a wide variety of traits that the category can encompass, however indicates that his goal is to produce one in the mid range that introduces the category to the local area. His overall aim is to move towards making everything local and to showcase unique island botanicals that are not necessarily commonly being used.
One of Ken’s primary philosophies, in his own words, is that “you can’t make a good spirit from poor quality grapes”. He fully admits that distilling from grapes is not cheap, but is an endeavor he is passionate about, and one that has been helped to become a reality by the changes in the craft distilling laws. Despite only recently releasing his gin, he has been running his still for a couple of years now. When you walk into the distillery there are barrels of different types and sizes everywhere as evidence of his love of experimenting with ideas that promise interesting future spirits releases for De Vine.
– Photos courtesy of De Vine