A beacon for all those who seek to celebrate craft gin, Long Table is a shining example of the power of shared passion and kindred spirits. Vancouver’s first micro-distillery opened its Hornby Street doors in February 2013, which marked a moment of both great relief and excitement for passionate distiller Charles Tremewen.
When the project began in 2010, opening a distillery in the downtown core was untested and therefore, fraught with a vast number of challenges brought on by the City’s planning, engineering and inspection departments.
Tremewen, a former senior product manager in the organic food and beverage industry, knew that it would not be easy, but in equal measure, knew that their spirits would have local appeal. He decided to take a leap of faith. Three years of planning and building challenges ensued, finally coming to an end when they received their occupancy permit and distilled their very first batch of gin in early Spring of 2013.
When asked whether or not he had envisaged just how many obstacles there would be, while he sat in his own micro-distillery being interviewed by the Vancouver media, Charles replied “On several occasions we seriously considered abandoning the project due to the time constraints and over runs, which seemed insurmountable at the time. But, our passion for what we do drove us to completion”. Even today, although Charles is thrilled to have decided to open the distillery and to be making gin, describing just how difficult it was to deal with three levels of government, seems like a task that would have discouraged many others from pursuing their passion.
Even after they’d crossed the initial hurdles, new challenges have kept arising too. One such difficulty was the decision made by British Columbia on 1st April 2015 to change its liquor policy – reducing the percentage of commission that micro-distillers get for sales of their own drinks.
Micro-distilleries are required to pay a vast portion of proceeds from sales in their tasting rooms to the Liquor Distribution Branch. The commission that they receive for this was dropped from 30 per cent to seven per cent, taking a substantial cut out of revenues. Charles, speaking in his capacity as President of the B.C. Craft Distilling Association, said that with the new laws, the province has “literally killed this goose that laid the golden eggs; the loss to us is extreme.”
Another element affecting Long Table is that it can no longer call itself a “craft” distillery, as the neutral grain used for their spirits comes from all over Canada. This, however is a can of worms for another time and another article – the rights and wrongs of the “Craft” debate is not one that is easy to surmise…
Suffice it to say, we’re glad that they managed to negotiate their way through the hurdles placed in front of them, have found ways to remain positive about the process and just how confident they are today about taking any new challenges in their stride. It’s also great to see that this confidence means that they can really focus on what drove them to get it all started – a love of producing finely crafted spirits.
As for the name? Friend filled evenings, great conversations, fine food and beverage sparked their desire to create a tasting room, suitable for kindred spirits to share in their craft. The ‘long table’ was the ideal place for those folks to meet – hence the distillery found both its identity and a namesake that matched its raison d’être.
Since their launch, along with other bartenders and chefs, Long Table have been promoting ideas to further the city’s uprising cocktail scene and Charles and his co-founder and wife Rita, have been working towards fostering a community as impassioned about local, small batch spirits as themselves.
While Charles’ first love is Gin, the duo’s wider passion for small batch spirits that share a sense of sustainability and a local ethos, has transformed the distillery’s offering into a substantial and award-winning collection; three gins, a Texada Vodka, Långbord Akvavit and four seasonal spirits, including their latest: a sherry barrelled Amaro created in collaboration with a local bitters company.
All their spirits are copper pot distilled in their 300ltr Christian Carl Still. During the distillation process they macerate all their botanicals prior to distillation and when required, they take advantage of a unique in-line botanical column they save for the extraction of volatile aromatics in fresh botanicals.
Talking of botanicals and staying true to the idea of promoting local – just before the snow dissipates or when new growth appears in the Spring, you’ll find pickers harvesting local juniper and a host of fall forest botanicals they find in the local mountains around Vancouver. For a few of the ingredients in their spirits, Long Table work with botanicals that are sourced from these local foragers throughout the province of British Columbia. Some of the selections used include local spruce tips, mountain ash, wild ginger and common juniper.
Long Table Gin to taste…
The first of Long Table’s three gins we want to mention is their Cucumber Gin. A Gold Medal winner at San Francisco World Spirits competition in 2015, it is bottled at 44% ABV and made with nine botanicals. The key to its flavour is their use of fresh cucumbers sourced a ferry ride away on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast.
Long Table’s Cucumber Gin has a distinct freshness with soft citrus notes accompanying it on the nose. To taste, underlying the entire journey is an ever present verdant juniper, with the cucumber moving from fresh to green, while a lingering peppery finish emerges as the flavours evolve. Two peppers are used to make the gin, creating an earthy spice and while they do not overwhelm the cucumber, they are in our opinion, just as prominent (if not more so). As a spice, they mix particularly well with the cucumber’s vegetal character, which lingers on the palate even long after the gin has disappeared.
The second, a classically styled London Dry Gin is also bottled at 44% ABV but made up of eight botanicals. Juniper and a touch of fennel are clear to taste upfront in an otherwise classically styled gin. Woody, evergreen notes emerge strong when tasted neat with notably very little citrus. There’s a strong hint of pepper again towards the finish that gives it a warming nip to end, allowing for some similarities with the Cucumber bottling to be drawn. Fragrant, flavourful, fresh – this is a gin for Gin LOVERS. We recommend serving it in a G&T with a lemon slice.
Last but not least in their gin portfolio is Long Table’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Gin, a barrel aged version of their London Dry Gin. It too is bottled at 44% ABV after being aged in 30ltr bourbon barrels for up to 4 months to yield optimum oaked flavours and its distinctive golden hue. The expression is indeed one of a small batch spirit, in every way. On the nose there’s a hint of baking spices and a complexity of vanilla. To taste, the wood is assertive yet combines well with the underlying gin to create a smooth, almost velvety mouthfeel. Sweetness and wood come to the fore to finish.
Three years into the journey, Charles and Rita’s vision of creating award winning, locally handcrafted small batch spirits has grown into a much larger operation than they expected in such a short period of time, yet their inspiration behind both the name and their spirits remain as simple as it did in the start. Long Table celebrates being social, together. Whether it’s family, friends, new acquaintances, or communities that are getting together or connecting with others.
Speaking of connecting with others, look out for Long Tables’ spirits in the year to come as they continue to expand their export distribution into new markets. With a small foothold and some availability in the UK, they are seeking to expand over 2016/17 rapidly from here on in.
If you do happen to be in Vancouver, Canada, visit their tasting lounge and shop where you can share their craft over a tasting flight on the long table itself. In addition, Long Table hosts many events including their weekly “Gin & Tonic Fridays” and “Saturday Cocktails” at their distillery ‘cocktail laboratory’ both from mid-afternoon until 9pm. Furthermore they have a different food truck out front every week.
Great gin, good food, good times and good friends… enough said.
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