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May 16, 2008
Victoria Gin
Scroll down for a photo of Kin Winchester and his handmade still at Winchester Cellars )


If 2007 was the year of the 100 mile menu, then perhaps 2008 will become known as the year of 100 mile drinking.

Helping to promote that possibility is the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, who have just come up with their own in-house gin.

A project to help celebrate the grand old lady’s 100th birthday, Victoria Gin is more than just a custom label slapped on a bottle of premium spirits. The handcrafted gin was distilled by local winemaker Ken Winchester of Winchester Cellars , who used the winery’s wood-fired, copper pot still to blend ten locally grown, organic botanicals, from juniper berries to rose petals (plus one secret ingredient known only to the distillery).

The gin will be sold exclusively by a handful of venues, including the Empress, and already the mixologists in the Bengal Lounge are adding it to some of their specialty cocktails for summer -- not the least of them being the “Queen’s Jubilee” which was created in honour of her Majesty’s visit to the hotel in 2002.

Packaged in heavy French flint bottles, where the traditional shape is intended to recall gin’s reputation as a medicinal cure-all, the gin will also be available for purchase at Straith Spirit Merchants and the tasting room at Winchester Cellars.

From all tasting reports we have heard, it’s well worth the price tag of $49 Cdn. And this won’t be the only artisan alcohol coming from Winchester. Under a new partnership with Barking Dog Spirits of Victoria, plans are in the pipes for locally made vodka, brandy and single-malt whisky.

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