(Walkerville Publishing’s Elaine Weeks holding up an original Hiram Walker Canadian Club bottle, circa 1936, that was found in a Monmouth Street home in Windsor, during WindsorEats Whiskytown Festival at the historic St. Mary’s Church in Walkerville / Windsor, Ontario, on Saturday, August 10, 2019. Photo above by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)
Last year, in the strongly held belief a city with such a rich distilling history needed a festival honouring the golden elixir, Windsor Eats set out to create the region’s first Whiskytown. Without question, the event had success written all over it and that was equally evident at this year’s edition held Saturday evening on the grounds of Walkerville’s St. Mary’s Church.
Local distillers Wolfhead, J.P. Wisers and Hiram Walker and Sons joined a number of offshore whisky makers, mostly from Ireland and Scotland, offering samples to the hundreds of visitors. Whiskey Ambassador Matt Jones, representing Scotland’s Laphroaig, even brought his own mini copper still. The distillery dominates the hollow by the broad bay a rather historic piece of Scottish land. In days of old, Viking’s would land in the hollow to repair their ships. These days there are Viking’s and Canadians across the nation who are fans, particularly Laphroaig’s Quarter Cask, reports Jones.
A few tents down, Elisha, who has Irish blood and representing Ireland’s Bushmills, was talking up the global award-winning Single Malt 8 and 10 produced in County Antrim, Northern Ireland in that country’s oldest working distillery.
Wolfhead Distillery’s Ryan Bezaire was kept busy filling sample glasses, mostly with the Amherstburg company’s Coffee Whisky Liqueur which is embedded with real coffee. To reduce bitterness, Bezaire says the coffee is cold brewed.
Over at the J.P. Wiser stand, Gary Killops was focusing on four diametrically opposed offerings. According to Killops the reason for such variation is simple enough. Personal tastes dominate the distilled spirits industry and while tastes may vary so do the methods used in the creation of its various brands. For instance, Killops was pouring samples of a brand with Montreal Canadiens hockey star Larry Robinson’s name on the label.
It is one of six new offerings featuring famed stars of Canada’s game. In the case of Robinson, Wiser’s Master Blender Don Livermore strategically set out to weather oak planks. Kept outside for four years, to absorb the fresh air, the boards were then brought into the barrel making shop where the years in the open added a distinct flavour.
Throughout the evening Harrow solo guitar artist Max Marshall entertained musically with a curated selection of folk, country blues and ragtime. Local book company, Walkerville Publishers, decorated its tent not only with some of its popular titles, including Walkerville and 500 Ways to Know You’re From Windsor, but also added some historic artifacts including a bottle of perfume made by a Walkerville company in the 1930s.
While most of the tents were busy with whisky samples, Robbie Bornais and his staff from Robbie’s Gourmet Sausage Co. were busy filling sandwiches with his creations. Delaney Beaudoin tells Eyes on Windsor that Bornais keeps working on new offerings with about 90 different flavours available at any one time.
Organizer Adriano Ciotoli, who founded Windsor Eats with his sister Pina was pretty excited about the packed church lawn. He told Eyes on Windsor there were few changes in the format from the initial outing last year with the exception of setting up a separate area for cocktails.
To him, the idea for the festival is to build a solid, sustainable base and then in future years grow the event. He is certainly off to a good start if attendance at Whiskytown V.2 is worthy of predicting the future.
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.