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You probably didn’t think you wanted to learn about Acadian history while tasting the world’s best alcohol, but you do. At least if you’re visiting the incredibly interesting Fils Du Roy distillery. During this remote distillery tour one fascinating story splinters off into a dozen more, and they all end with a unifying theme: Alcohol.
It’s difficult to imagine a small distillery in Petit-Paquetville, New Brunswick raking in multiple medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, but that’s exactly what’s happened in 2015 and 2016. But the story behind the creation of the gin is as interesting as the spirit itself.
How did Fils Du Roy come into existence? Did you always produce gin?
Well, the story behind Fils Du Roy is long. I was a lifelong brewer, but when my community of Petit Paquetville began to experience difficult financial times, I wanted to do something to help the community. We didn’t always make gin. That was actually a mistake. Initially we wanted to produce absinthe. It’s such a nuanced and interesting cocktail. It’s so layered. I became fascinated with it.
Isn’t absinthe illegal?
Sort of. It was until 2010, but under false accusations. At one point wine became very expensive and absinthe became the predominant spirit in Europe. To regain control of the market, many wine producers began to spread myths about absinthe; that it makes you crazy, that it makes you sick, etc. All of these stories have been proven false time and again but they still linger.
So how did you begin producing gin?
It’s important to me to source as many ingredients as I can from New Brunswick and some of the ingredients in absinthe are native to the region. New Brunswick has an abundance of juniper berries and botanicals that lend themselves to a very good gin. I began experimenting with the gin but didn’t intend to sell it. When entering the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, I was informed I’d be able to submit some extra bottles of my spirits at essentially no extra charge, so I decided to throw my experimental bottles of gin into the competition. When the results came back, I thought they had made a mistake. My absinthe received a third place medal, but my gin had received the highest honour: Gold!
What makes your spirits so distinct?
Well, as I mentioned, we try to source as many local ingredients as we can. In addition to this, we use a very traditional method of production. We use white oak barrels, specialized copper pots that are created in the same method they were 150 years ago, zero artificial ingredients. I just use a temperature gauge, I smell the spirit, I taste the spirit, I oversee every single step along the way.
Which spirit are you most excited about at the moment?
Well, I initially became fascinated with the absinthe, and then eventually the gin, but I’m currently very intrigued by whisky. I really enjoy the production and nuances of it. I’m really enjoying creating our line of beers and we’re currently producing a whisky that’s nearly clear. It’s a white whisky! Many whiskies use a colourant to get that amber colour that many whisky drinkers are familiar with. We use a very very small amount of incredibly dark maple syrup produced right here in New Brunswick. It colours it very nicely and gives just a very slight hint of maple at the end. I’m really enjoying creating and perfecting it.
Sébastien Roy originally created the distillery to create jobs in his town of Paquetville, New Brunswick
Absinthe has always been legal in Canada (even with wormwood)
Absinthe does not have hallucinogenic properties
Roy now brews beer and distills a gin and whisky
Many of his brews and spirits have significant Acadian history embed in their recipe and name
Many of his products are available at New Brunswick Liquor Corporation locations and SAQ