The Distillery District has long been known for its booze-filled history. Dotted with heritage buildings from its heyday in 1860’s when it was the largest distillery in the world, this historic part of Hogtown is getting a hooch revival, with Spirit of York opening its doors after three years of preparation.
The name itself evokes the era in which the buildings were born, this settlement on the lake was still York up until 1834, the Gooderham and Worts Distillery was founded in 1832. The throwback is more than just a moniker, Spirit of York is intent on creating a product Toronto can cling to, something to be loud and proud about, and with the bottles of gin and vodka ringing in at the same price as a bottle of Belvedere, imbibers with upscale taste can now toast the town properly.
The distillery is a feat of engineering, hollowing out a heritage building to accommodate the vessels required to distill and bottle the product; this serious retrofitting took a year to complete. The design was a collaborative effort between half a dozen design agencies, with input from shareholders and partners too. The space is eclectic and energetic, rustic nods like the bitters library echo the age-old process, while the main bar area is crowned with a living garden. Floor to ceiling windows allows for gawking at the methods, with workers distilling in plain view, almost like a chef’s table for booze.
Oversized leather armchairs let you sink in and zone out, with a little reading nook carved out for those who want to linger. The apothecary style bitters library isn’t just a spoof of a Murdoch Mystery set, those sampling the goods are encouraged to pause and waft the bottles of tinctures and herbs, meant to engage the senses and subtle nuances of the spirits.
Gerry Guitor spearheaded the project after years of working in the beer industry with Sleeman’s and Moosehead. Partnering up with barman extraordinaire Simon Ho (Drake, Fat City Blues), the duo is eager to share their love of spirits with the city. While the space is for retail and samples only, a cocktail program will be rolling out once the permits are in order. Tours are guided by friendly and knowledgeable staff, who all seem to be drinking the Kool-Aid; they are as passionate about the product as they are space, showing off the goods and detailing the main ingredients, water, and grains sourced exclusively from Ontario.
While they aren’t fully rolled out in the LCBO yet, they are selling in select retail shops and plan for an LC debut when they can keep up with demand.
Spirit of York is open 7 days a week, 11am-9pm.
What do you think of the Spirit of York in Distillery District? Will you take a tour of the revived distillery? Let us know in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.