Raise a glass!
By: Alain Bossé
Compass Distillers was founded in June of 2015 and opened its door in October, 2017 by lifelong friends Graham Collins, Josh Judah & David LaGrand. All three share a love of quality craft spirits and started Compass Distillers with the goal to make world class spirits 100 per cent from scratch with as many local ingredients as possible.
Compass Distillers produces a full line of spirits including vodkas, gins, rums, whiskeys and bitters. The vodkas, gins and whiskeys are all made using Nova Scotian grain from the Annapolis Valley, while the rums start as raw sugar and molasses sourced from Crosby’s in New Brunswick.
Compass is committed to creating 100 per cent of their spirits from scratch without the use of any mass-produced product. All of their spirits start as raw ingredients; they mill, mash, ferment, and distill on site. This is rare in the distilling industry because of the higher costs to produce each spirit from scratch. They believe that this promise is what makes Compass Distillers stand apart from others in the industry.
The distillery has been recognized for their efforts with many accolades including three Best In Canada wins at the World Gin Awards 2020, three Double Gold medals from international spirits competitions, 10 Gold medals—with a total of 63 medals thus far. The distillery is also proud to have won Nova Scotia Distillery of the Year in 2018, Nova Scotian Product of the Year 2018, and New Business of the Year in 2019.
Aside from producing outstanding spirits, Compass has also put great thought and care into their labels. Each is a piece of art designed by Halifax based artist, Alex MacAskill of Midnight Oil Print & Design House. It was extremely important to Compass that they hire a local artist for their design work.
Alex MacAskill says, “Compass spirits each tell a story, and I try to design and illustrate the label in a way that highlights that story and compliments the spirit itself. Whether it’s how the ingredients were sourced, using unique and uncommon flavours, or it’s a lesser-known spirits from other parts of the world or time periods, there’s always inspiration for beautiful imagery that can help illustrate Compass’ passion for the craft and attention to detail.”
Being proudly Nova Scotian is so important to the brand: a lot of the label designs have allowed Alex to reference imagery and illustration styles that are historically significant to NS. They visually root the product here as firmly as it is physically rooted here.
One of most unique products Compass produces is their Lobster Vodka. It actually started out as a bit of a joke. The distillers were talking about Mezcal Pechuga, a traditional Mexican spirit distilled with a chicken breast in the still. They thought it would be funny to try to make a similar spirit but with a Nova Scotian twist – instead of chicken they would use lobster! They were all impressed with the spirit that came out of the still. The base is 100 percent Nova Scotian wheat grown in the Annapolis Valley. On the nose you are reminded of brine & shellfish, the taste gives you an unexpected sweet and buttery flavour. It’s perfect for taking your classic Canadian Caesar to new depths. Their first batch of Lobster Vodka is sold out but I’m told there will be more to come!
You can find their spirits on site at Compass Distillers at 2533 Agricola Street and shipping within Canada through their website at www.compassdistillers.ca.
Their spirits are also available in select NSLC, ANBL, PEILC locations, other Nova Scotian sellers include Harvest Beer Wine & Spirits, Bishop’s Cellar, & Liquid Assets.
Currently tours are available by appointment only in groups of six or fewer. Tastings are available through their bar during regular hours.
Compass Distillers also offers a virtual tour & tasting option.