By Johanne McInnis
It seems as though some of the best ideas happen while sittng in front of a bonfire enjoying a few beers with friends and for Bob Baxter and Alan Hansen, co-owners of Yukon Spirits, this is no different.
Albeit from Ontario originally they both worked and lived in Whitehorse most of their adult lives. It was on a canoe trip together that they came up with the idea to open up a brewery together with the goal to create quality beer as well as local jobs. Lo and behold later that year in 1997 Chilkoot Brewing Company Ltd. started selling their brews. In 1999 they changed their name to Yukon Brewing Company and continued to brew tasty beer. Over the course of the next few years, they started talking about and planning for an expansion but the laws were written as such that brewing was the only type of alcohol production that was allowed in that territory. Alan and Bob kept working hard at perfecting their craft and in 2009 it paid off when their Amber Ale – Yukon Red was awarded Canadian Beer of the Year at the Canadian Brewing Awards.
Things progressed quickly after that. The Yukon government changed alcohol production regulations which opened the door for the pair to finally look at the possibility of creating something else at their brewery. Alan, a chemical engineer by trade, bought a 400 litre still and started experimenting with different styles of spirits that ranged from schnapps all the way to gin, but both had their heart set on creating Whitehorse’s first single malt whisky. Soon thereafter their sister company Yukon Spirits was born. The pair could have released a whisky for the market 3 years from the time they started distilling but chose to wait patiently while the spirits aged and in February 2016, their first single malt was available exclusively at the distillery. All 850 bottles were sold in less than 6 hours! Thankfully over the course of 2016 three more releases hit the market by storm (pardon the northern pun). So far the single malts are only available in the Yukon and some liquor establishments in Alberta. When you consider that the Yukon recorded the coldest temperature in North
When you consider that the Yukon recorded the coldest temperature in North America (-63 degrees Celsius), it’s hard to imagine that whisky could even be produced in such a harsh climate but the reality is this northern territory has four seasons just like the rest of Canada and it’s clear that Bob and Alan certainly have no issues creating great products there. Alan and Bob are still at the helm of both companies but are extremely busy introducing their products to as many Canadians as possible. However, just like their whiskies, they are taking the time to grow their business and expand production. Canada is a country where craft distillation truly takes place from coast to coast and in this case, those of us who have had the pleasure to try Yukon Spirits can say it was worth the wait.
My Tasting Notes
- February Release 1 – Classic Single Malt: Honey, lemon custard
with a backdrop of a fresh fruit salad.
• March Release 2 – Special Finishes (ex-sherry cask): Rich red
cherries, Danish pastry and baking spices.
• June Release 3 – Peated: Smooth, almonds & dried coconut with
an oaky smoky finish.
• November Release 4 – Special Finishes (ex-bourbon cask):
Whoppers (malted milk chocolate), creamy with a touch of spices.