Only a year into its launch, Yukon's Two Brewers' whiskies made a splash at the Canadian Whisky Awards this year — bringing back three silver medals, making the territory home to some of the best whisky in the country.
"That's pretty cool," says co-owner Bob Baxter, who wasn't expecting to receive such a title.
"We thought, well, who knows if we'll even get noticed there. We might as well send all three of [our whiskys] and see what happens."
- Yukon distiller says ruling could open way to online whisky sales
All three — the single malt peated, classic and special finishes — ranked silver, along with 18 other Canadian whiskies. A panel of blind-folded, independent judges from around the world blind-tasted the whiskies that were "distilled and matured in Canada for a minimum of three years," according to the competition's website. The scores are based on a standardized score sheet.
The Two Brewers whisky has been in barrels since 2012.
"We thought, no not ready," said Baxter. "Every time you taste it, you go, ah, jeez, it's better but is it good enough?"
In 2016, they deemed it "good enough." The launch brought about hundreds of Yukoners lining up, and a total of 6,000 bottles were sold throughout the year — the company's target.
"They flew out the door," said Baxter.
The company is targeting the same amount this year. Baxter said production ranges from between 12,000 and 14,000 bottles a year.
Heading west and south
Two Brewers whisky is currently sold only in the Yukon and Alberta.
But the recent awards opened doors for the Whitehorse company to expand in the western market.
"As a result of these awards, we managed to get the products registered in B.C.," said Baxter. The whiskies will be available to sell in B.C. soon, he said.
And it might reach the South as well, according to Baxter who was in the same meeting as the president of Ontario's liquor control board last month.
"[He] tried it, and said: 'Why aren't we selling this?'" Baxter recalled. "We accomplished what we wanted to do, but we know that we have to expand our market."
Making whisky making is a form of creative art, Baxter said. For instance, their first sour mash whisky was formed by accident. It literally soured.
"There was something that got into the wash and in the fermentation, it came out funky," said Baxter. "And we thought what the heck do we do with this stuff?"
Baxter said they just decided to "stick it in the barrel" to see what happened.
A few years later, the sour whisky transformed into a success.
A fifth whisky release is in the works.