Booze and Vinyl.
It’s the name of a book for sale at local businesses SRC Vinyl and Limited Distillery. And it’s fitting, as the two businesses are housed in the same Henegan Road location.
Danny Keyes and his partner (in both business and life), Jennifer Miles, have been selling vinyl records out of the store for three years.
When they bought the building, they were intent on opening a distillery there, and began to produce some small batches of whiskey. However, they quickly hit a number of roadblocks on the journey to combining their two passions under one roof.
The major obstacle, says Keyes, was the fire code. Apparently, the flammability of spirits forces a distillery operation into the highest-risk category.
“We had to stop producing, and do a lot of renovations, as the Ontario Fire Code and Building Code puts a distillery in the same high-hazard category as a propane facility.”
So, engineers were consulted, and changes were made. Sixteen months later, Limited Distillery was given the go-ahead to produce spirits on the premises.
On Oct. 18, they were finally able to hold the distillery’s grand opening, and it was a smashing success, with more than 250 visitors over the weekend event.
When you arrive at Limited/SRC, it’s the vinyl that jumps out at you first. Neatly filed in homemade wooden shelving, records from many different artists, old and new, are on display throughout the store.
In the center section, 375 ml flasks of six different spirits are stacked, along with accessories for serving liquor, and for spinning vinyl.
Next to the final alphabetical section of albums, sits a rough-hewn wooden table, where Keyes serves up samples of those spirits, including a pumpkin-spiced rum, a mint “elixer”, and a jalapeno “moonshine.”
He explains the latter two products take on a green tinge from mint leaves and jalapeno peppers, which are added after the distilling process.
Keyes admits it’s a unique concept, selling vinyl and spirits out of the same warehouse-like location. But that uniqueness works for the couple, and it’s already begun to attract a crowd who enjoys browsing the crates while sipping some whiskey.
Visitors often take a tour of the clean, open distillery operation out back. Keyes guides the curious to the two unsealed cyprus vats, where the mash noisily ferments.
“This is what makes us unique,” says Keyes. “We ferment in these tanks with no temperature control, they’re open-ferment tanks, with no control of wild yeast. You get a lot more complex flavours when you make it this way.”
The mash ferments for about four to five days before it’s ready to be transferred to the still. This particular still, made of stainless steel and copper, was originally used somewhere down in the Ozark Mountains, which adds a bit of authenticity to the whole experience.
After the distilling process, some of the whiskey is bottled in its clear form, and sold as Limited’s Moonshine, at either 45 per cent or 50 per cent alcohol.
Alternatively, it is transferred to barrels for aging, where it picks up the amber colour more familiar with mass-produced whiskeys.
Mass producing is not something Keyes and Miles have in their sights. In fact, the name they chose for the business outlines the philosophy behind their production.
Though they do plan to begin trying to sell their spirits to bars and restaurants, and would like to eventually claim some space on LCBO shelves, Keyes is adamant they want to keep their production in limited quantities of about 700 bottles.
“Our most popular product right now is the jalapeno moonshine. That’s the first thing we plan on rolling out to bars and restaurants. We have a skid of about 750 bottles waiting for labels right now.”
That jalapeno moonshine, by the way, has a unique, spicy bite to it. It certainly is a product that will stand out in a crowded whiskey landscape. And the three tourists from Quebec who were in the store the day The Local visited, obviously enjoyed it.
Keyes says most weekends they are already accommodating about 20 tour groups per day. He points to two women from Vancouver who stopped in at the grand opening as part of their Ontario distillery tour that weekend, as proof that the word is starting to spread.
Though it’s somewhat off the beaten path, situated as it is in an industrial park, Keyes is confident that tourists and locals alike will add Limited to their wine/beer/spirits itinerary.
And if they pick up some vinyl to go along with the booze, the party can only get better.