Beverage Dynamics

Beverage Dynamics Jan-Feb 2016

Beverage Dynamics is the largest national business magazine devoted exclusively to the needs of off-premise beverage alcohol retailers, from single liquor stores to big box chains, through coverage of the latest trends in wine, beer and spirits.

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10 Beverage Dynamics • January/February 2016 TRIP REPORT THE FRIENDLY FOLKS TO THE NORTH BY JEREMY NEDELKA IN NOVEMBER I TRAVELED NORTH ACROSS THE BORDER to Gimli, Manitoba, to meet the team of people who craft Crown Royal Canadian Whisky. The distillery in Gimli opened in 1968 as Calverts of Canada, and was owned by Seagram's at the time. In 1991, the plant began distilling and aging the requirements for Crown Royal. Today the plant, which is located next to Lake Winnipeg, distills 33 million liters of pure alcohol (LPA), running non-stop and year-round with 75 employees. EXPANSION UNDERWAY Originally built alongside 24 aging warehouses on 360 acres, the campus now houses 46 warehouses and Diageo is building four more. When the expansion is complete, Gimli will hold 1.6 million aging barrels. Because the fi re suppression system could freeze during harsh Canadian winters, the warehouses have built-in heating systems – but are not cooled in the summer. Unlike most of its counterparts in the U.S., the Gimli plant has palletized ware- houses, stacking six-barrel pallets on top of each other to the rafters. That allows workers to move product with a forklift, rather than rolling barrels into racks one at a time. Since barrels stay in one place during the aging process and are lined up by batch, palletizing is the most effi cient way of aging for Crown Royal. But one prob- lem did arise as the warehouses began switching to pallets – the bungs needed to be moved to the head of the barrel, instead of the side. The visit also included a tour of the plant operations, including the warehouses and distillery. Gimli no longer has a bottling line, so once the barrels are emptied, the juice goes into huge container cars and is sent by rail line to the nearest Diageo bottling plant. IN THE BOTTLE Our group capped off the day with a blending session led by Crown Royal master blender Joanna Scandella, who took the media members in attendance through the whisky variations that go into Crown Royal. By changing the distillation process, base Barrels in the warehouses are palletized, which allows them to be moved with forklifts. However, it also means the bung is relocated to the header of these barrels, instead of the side. ingredients, barrel wood, barrel age and aging length, there are endless possibil- ities of blends the distillery can create. For our blending session, we used two base whiskies and three fl avoring whiskies (Continuous Base, Batch Base, Bourbon Style, Rye and Coffey Rye), ex- perimenting with different percentages of each to create our favorite blends. I was able to create a Canadian Whisky that tasted like it came from Kentucky by favoring the Bourbon Style in my blend. During the trip, I took particular note of our tour guides – long-time and re- cently retired Gimli distillery employees, many of whom trace their time back to Seagram's. It's wrong to assume that a brand with case sales in the millions is made at an automated factory lacking heart and soul. The men and women I met in Gimli prove that the same pride and commitment you would fi nd at a craft distillery can exist at a mass-market brand like Crown Royal. BD Full disclosure: Crown Royal covered my lodging, travel and meal costs during this trip to Canada. The tour included a blending session with Crown Royal's blending team, where the group got to create our own expression using the fi ve whisky bases that make up a Crown Royal blend. Since the distillery doesn't have an on-site bottling plant, the fi nished spirit is taken by train car for the fi nal step of the process.

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