I have a bit of a soft spot for Ayr, Ontario. It’s where my grandparents lived for the majority of my life and I have a lot of fond memories of that quiet town.

Time moves swiftly though – my grandmother who I remember baking grand feasts for us grand kids isn’t a spring chicken any more. In fact, I recently visited Ayr to celebrate her 80th birthday!

Now, being a car-less city boy, I always take advantage of the weekends where I end up with a rented car and this weekend was no different. I brought up the fantastic OBN BevMap and discovered Willibald, a brand new distillery based right in Ayr.

Willibald is a farm based distillery that currently only has one product: their gin. They have grandiose plans of a distillery that uses mostly products grown on their own acreage: a plan I full heartedly support. Lavender from their own fields, rye that you can see right out the window: the vision is beautiful.

For now though, I want to focus on the gin.

Their gin is unique from other gins. While it does contain juniper and various other herbs and aromatics, it has been barrel aged in American oak. When they showed us around the distillery they also mentioned that the fermentor they use is actually home made. Exciting as that is, they are already at capacity with it and will probably have to make another one soon.

What also surprised me is that they use yeast from Escarpment Labs, Ontario’s only yeast maker and a place that is really taking the Canadian alcohol scene by storm.

This gin is available at the LCBO for $44.95 and it sits at 43% ABV.

Let’s get on to the tasting:

Appearance: Light straw. Thick, slow moving legs.
Aroma: Orange peel and pepper. Green apple.
Taste: Orange peel continues. Lavander and juniper come in a bit later. Very thick mouth feel, oily.
Overall: A fine gin for sure. I like the barrel aging, rounds out the flavour quite well. Might be a bit strong if you plan to mix it in cocktails though.

Since very few people drink gin straight I decided to give it a go in a cocktail. The first step was to make some simple syrup since I didn’t have any. Shawna found us some instructions and helped me make it.

We then made Tom Collins and I have to say, it worked beautifully. The gin mixed in well but added to the flavour in it’s own way. The fact the gin has a natural citrus flavour means I probably should have used a little less lemon juice but I enjoyed it anyway.

Kole McRae

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