Quebec’s microdistilleries – Capturing the distinctive flavours of an outstanding terroir
Canada’s French-speaking province has seen explosive growth in microdistilleries over the past five years as gins, vodkas, brandies and other spirits spark interest. We spoke to Geneviève Laforest, development agent for the Union Québécoise des Microdistilleries (UQMD), who is giving a masterclass today.
What is the history of Quebec’s microdistilleries?
It’s really a very young industry. The first microdistillery in Quebec launched in 1998. Then there was this huge gap until 2016. Since 2016, 60 distilleries have opened. There’s enthusiasm for local products, motivated mostly by the beer industry, which has, I would say, 10 years advance on the distilleries. There’s been an interest in making our own alcohol.
How do the spirits produced by Quebec’s microdistilleries reflect the province?
With flavours coming from everything from local herbs to potatoes to seaweed, the spirits represent a way to bottle the terroir or natural environment of Quebec. There’s gin and vodka. Whiskies are coming out. I think we’re striving to make the best whiskey in the world.
Can you give us a sense of the scale on which the microdistilleries operate?
In terms of volume, it’s not industrial. It’s really more craft. We’re taking more and more share of the spirits market in Quebec with our microdistilleries. The big brands see their share go down a bit.
What new products are being showcased at Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris 2022?
There’s a new category of spirit called Acerum. Acer means maple in Latin. We use maple water that we ferment and put in casks. It tastes a bit like rum. It’s the same as fermenting sugarcane, but we start with maple water. It’s brand new and you can taste it here. It has very high potential for export. We have also submitted our candidacy for the next Vinexpo Explorer in 2023.
How much of the production of Quebec’s microdistilleries is exported?
Export becomes very important to develop the distilleries and their markets, as well as developing local agrotourism around the distilleries, so people can come and buy local products on site, exclusive batches. Exports are very small for the moment. It doesn’t represent 10% of the market. It’s so young. There’s Japan, Singapore, Germany, France and the United States. Now we’re conquering the world. If we can double exports in the next five years we will be very happy. We see potential in American markets and European markets. There’s a natural camaraderie between Quebec and France, so we’re really hoping to open the market here in France.
How many people work in the sector and what is your role?
There are about 300 to 350 direct jobs and about 200 indirect jobs. I’m the developing agent for the industry, so I help with exports. I help with unifiying all the numbers. I am working on marketing and promoting the industry in Quebec but also in the rest of Canada.