A little while ago I went on my yearly trip to Montréal, in the province of Quebec. I love that city for its nice mix of North American and European influences. It's about 5 hours away from Toronto by car, which makes a long weekend very doable. Their liquor stores (SAQ) are a government monopoly, just like in Toronto. But their selection is different, so it's always worth having a look online to see if there are any gems to be found. Last year, I drove around Montréal to different liquor stores to buy most of their inventory of Clairin for example.
In this case I didn't see much, other than a Rhum Rhum PMG and some locally produced expressions. One of these local distilleries is La Distillerie de Montréal, known for their Rosemont brand of rums. Nans Canapa, one of their staff members, noticed on Facebook that I was planning a trip to Montréal and asked me if I was interested in visiting the distillery. Twist my arm! Of course! We set up a time for Sunday to meet at the distillery.
When we arrived there, I couldn't find any street parking. It's a somewhat industrial area that felt abandoned on a Sunday afternoon, so I didn't want to park far away. In the end, I decided to park on what seemed to be the distilleries property. It wasn't my best parking job and I will share the result of that later in this story. We went inside and met up with Nans in a very slick looking, giant tasting room. Turns out they do all sorts of tasting and educational sessions there for the general public. After another local rum enthusiast, Joachim Groleau, had arrived, Nans took us for a tour around the distillery. We looked at bottling, fermentation, the stills and the ageing cellar. It seems casks are lying all over the distillery, but the cellar has the most and is an impressive space. It doesn't have thousands of casks, but still, I didn't expect hundreds of barrels resting in such a beautiful space in Montréal.
Once we got back to the tasting room we did what people are supposed to do there, taste rum. Joachim brought some amazing rhum agricoles, I brought Foursquare Sovereignty and 1731 Mauritius rum from Grays.....and of course we tasted expressions from Rosemont. We tried their standard, non spiced version and their pineapple rum, which were nice. What got my blood flowing was Nans saying:"I have a couple of cask strength versions". Oh yeah! This was good stuff. They aren't sure if they'll bring some of it to market. I think they could sell a ton in Ontario alone if they find a way to ship it. My guess is that a limited cask strength release would do very well.
I asked Nans if he was willing to answer some questions in regards to the distillery. I was happy he said yes to this.
What is your role at the distillery?
Apart from being the rum guy at the distillery, we recently launched an importing agency to help our wine and spirit artisans from all over the world to reach the Canadian market. I’m leading this beautiful project.
When did Distillerie de Montréal start its operation?
Our story begins with a burgeoning friendship. Lilian Wolfelsberger and Stéphane Dion met in university in 1997. Although they initially carved their own path, their bond steadily grew over the years and the two men eventually decided to merge their passions to bring this ambitious project to life. Distillerie de Montréal launched in 2013.
Led by this inventive duo and sustained by the energy of an extraordinary team, our distillery
has paved the way for Quebec-made spirits and works tirelessly to earn them well deserved
international recognition. Our company is widely renowned by Quebec consumers and has
received several awards in international competitions, yet our human and artisanal approach
remains unchanged and deeply rooted in Montreal.
Who are the owners?
After having studied law, Stéphane first led a career as a lawyer. Passionate about the business world and an entrepreneur at heart, he dared to embark on a new adventure: with Lilian, he founded the Distillerie de Montréal.
Stéphane has always been a visionary, keenly aware of both the challenges of the business and of his friend’s extraordinary creativity. Stéphane created the ideal conditions to allow the
partners to devote themselves to their craft with complete peace of mind: facilities optimized for production, close to home, state of the art equipment, including the indispensable Charentais still and incredible prospect for growth.
Distillation has been part of Lilian’s family for five generations. Our distiller spent his childhood roaming the orchard of his native Franche-Comté, his uncles and grandfather, quickly acquiring their ancestral knowledge, which he later deepened with experienced distillers who became his mentors.
Lilian came to Quebec in 1993. As a student, then teacher of political science, his desire to
master his craft was intensified by his contact with the natural richness of his adopted
environment. His perseverance and determination then led him to the eastern townships where he set up his first distillery and obtained one of Quebec’s first micro distillery permits.
Passionate about fermentation, distillation and fruit brandies, Lilian’s partnership with Stéphane allows him to fully express his creativity. Always up for a challenge, Lilian particularly enjoys finding new ingredients to invent creative recipes.
What does the distillery produce?
The first alcohol produced at the distillery was rum. We then started the production of vodka, gin, liqueur, whisky, brandy, agave spirits and pastis.
Where are the molasses coming from?
Green molasses from Colombia, fancy molasses from Guatemala.
How much rum is produced each year?
60 000 liters of rum.
How many rum casks are in the aging cellar?
Where are the stills from?
Our pot stills come from the Chalvignac house in the Charente region in France. They are typically used for Cognac production.
How long is fermentation?
The fermentation usually lasts for over 10 days.
Is a special yeast being used?
3 different yeasts are used depending on the primary material, but are kept secret.
Which types of casks are used?
New French oak, new American oak with different profiles and toast levels, Bourbon cask. And there are more to come in the near future.
Which are the rums that are currently produced and sold?
Rhum blanc, Rhum N3, Spiced and Rhum épicé, Rhum après ski, Rhum à l’ananas, Rhum Punch, Baba au rhum.
What are some future plans?
As time passes, our aging spirits are becoming the key to our future. We will launch a few small batches of rum. We would like to please our rum friends with different single casks, overproof and different finishes.
Thanks Nans, you've been incredibly generous with your time at the distillery and in answering these questions!
At some point we had to start our journey back to Toronto, as we didn't want to be home very late. Plus, one can't drink too much when driving. We said our thank yous and goodbyes. My girlfriend bought a bottle of Rosemont pineapple rum and we then went on our way. When we got to the car there was a parking ticket on my windshield. A very hefty fine. Turns out my car was partly parked on the side walk......in this industrial area that's abandoned on a Sunday. Clearly, a very motivated or quota desperate parking enforcement officer saw an opportunity. My mistake, I should have been more careful. It turned out to be an expensive Sunday. However, we still left with a smile. Our time at La Distillerie de Montréal was such a joy. It's a great operation that I encourage anyone to visit if you can.