QUEBEC — There’s a new gin on the market, and it’s taking the flavour profile of the popular spirit in another direction. Piger Henricus, an artisanal gin featuring parsnips, debuted late last month in Ontario.
Parsnips give the drink a distinctive taste, says Stephan Ruffo, one of gin’s three founding partners. “Artisanal spirits known for their ability to distill natural ingredients are the latest trend in alcoholic beverages.” He notes that the parsnips bring a delicate bitterness to gin.
According to Ruffo, although the artisanal spirit trend has been hot in the U.S. for at least 10 years, it’s just starting to surface in Canada. Fuelled by a growing craft distillery market, it’s embraced by men and women as a fresh, boutique-style alternative to traditional commercial spirits. “It’s all about creating new taste sensations that can be enjoyed ‘au naturel’ on the rocks or with mixes,” said Ruffo of the gin, which has an alcohol content of 43 per cent. “It’s not your grandfather’s gin — it’s a smooth-tasting product that belies its alcohol content.”
Piger Henricus, named for the furnace used by alchemists in the Middle Ages, took root two years ago in Quebec when three friends quit their day jobs to study the art of distillery at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, before attending seminars and workshops in California. After selecting a custom-built copper pot still from a leading German distillery provider, they set up shop in St-Alexandre (southeast of Montreal), so they could access raw ingredients and spring water. Each batch of the high-end gin is produced by hand and distilled slowly following strict quality guidelines.
Since launching in Quebec earlier this year, Piger Henricus is receiving rave reviews. “We’ve shaken the gin category,” said Ruffo. “People love our unique taste experience. We’re bringing innovation to tradition and opening gin up to a wider audience.”
Piger Henricus is available at more than 100 LCBO stores, primarily in the Greater Toronto and Ottawa regions. It retails for $39 for a 750-ml bottle.