Local distiller launches 'Collingwood' whiskey 0
Canadian Mist general manager David Dobbin takes a sip of Collingwood Whiskey as Brad Fletcher looks on, during the official launch of the brand at the Collingwood LCBO, Wednesday, August 31, 2011. Morgan Ian Adams/Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin
COLLINGWOOD - Brown Forman is ready to put Collingwood on the map.
Collingwood whiskey, that is.
On Wednesday, the American-based distiller officially launched Collingwood Whiskey, a product produced at its Canadian Mist plant in Collingwood - and the first new whiskey brand launched in North America in about a decade.
"'Collingwood' is a great name, it's regal," said Brad Fletcher, Brown Forman's managing director in Canada, as a large crowd of local dignitaries and run-of-the-mill shoppers sampled the new whiskey at Collingwood's LCBO. "We could have named it anything, but with the quality of the product, but we wanted to recognize the Georgian Bay water, and the people who make it."
Collingwood has been three-and-a-half years in the making, and joins Canadian Mist and Canadian Mist Black Diamond - a brand predominantly sold in the U.S. - as one of three products to be distilled at the local plant.
The launch is good news for the industry as a whole, and the local distillery in particular, said Canadian Mist general manager David Dobbin.
"The Canadian whiskey category has not been a huge growth category," said Dobbin, who signed on as G.M. about a year ago. "We're hoping this revitalizes the category."
Brown Forman built Canadian Mist in the late 1960s; the plant was encouraged to come to Collingwood through a federal government incentive program. However, until recently, whiskey produced at the plant was mostly intended for the U.S. market.
The plant employs 35 people, and is the only Brown Forman distillery in Canada.
"When you have to age something for three years, you can imagine the lead time (for a product launch)," said Dobbin. "It's very exciting, especially when other industries are able to launch new and improved items all the time.
"This is really an event."
Fletcher hopes the new brand - described as a very smooth product - shakes up the Canadian whiskey market.
"Canadian whiskey has the image of being stodgy and uncontemporary," he said. "You have scotch, and there's a great depth (of history) to scotch, and even American whiskey such as Jack Daniel's (another Brown Forman product), and there's great depth to that.
"Consumers are drinking less, but they're drinking better products, and people who want better products needed an option from us," he said. "Canadian whiskey has not done that much, and over the last 10 years we looked at what was new, and the result was nothing.
"We've gone to the drawing board to come come up with a super premium product... (Canadian whiskey) needed an injection of something exciting."
Fletcher said along with the access to Georgian Bay water - which he referred to as the "best spring water in the world" - the Collingwood distillery also has access to a ready supply of Ontario corn; that's a requirement for the product to be known as a Canadian whiskey.
Brown Forman's intention was to use Ontario as a launching platform for the new whiskey, but Fletcher said liquor boards in British Columbia and Nova Scotia have also shown interest in carrying the product. It will also be available in 11 states.
But, said Fletcher, "we will definitely be taking this around the world."