Food and Travel: Glenora Distillery; Glenville, Nova Scotia
Glenora Distillery is located in Glenville, Nova Scotia on Cape Breton Island. Cape Breton boasts breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean with lush greenery in Highlands National Park making it a destination for hikers, whale watchers, seafood connoisseurs and whisk(e)y lovers alike. It was also the home of many settlers from Scotland who made Cape Breton home in the 1800’s settling in areas reminiscent of their homeland. Glenora is a relatively young distillery, founded by Bruce Jardine in 1989. I had the pleasure of staying at the Inn and partaking in the Culinary Package that included a night at the Inn, a distillery tour and four course whiskey infused dinner.
The distillery was founded in 1989 by Bruce Jardine, who wanted to ensure his single malt was done in the traditional manner and consulted with Bowmore Distillers from Scotland to ensure Glenora was true to tradition. Glenora follows the age old single malt recipe of barley, yeast and water. The water used comes directly from the highlands of Cape Breton from the MacLellan’s Creek. There are no other ingredients. The single malt is aged in bourbon barrels made of American charred white oak, our guide informed us that the barrels used came from Buffalo Trace. They also have a whisky aged in ice wine casks. In 1990, Glenora’s first yield of 20 barrels occurred. Today they estimate that they ship out 50,000 bottles of their product annually. This is truly a small distillery when you consider Scotland produces approximately 7 million bottles a year.
We learned that Glenora uses barley from Western Canada and yeasts are sourced out of Montreal from Denmark. Two tonnes of barley are used in one run and the distillery uses approximately 418 tonnes during a distilling season. Glenora’s whisky flavor is similar to those made in the Lowlands of Scotland where the whisky is a little smoother and mellow and smoke and peat are not as predominant.
The whisky is barreled, aged and bottled on site.
My flight of whiskies started with a no age whisky, similar to white dog or moonshine. Expect the same high proof, blow your head off taste. Hey, the whisky has to start somewhere! Next up was a 15yr 43% whisky, Battle of the Glen, with floral notes, light wood and cherries, a creamy mouthfeel. The third sample was a 10yr Glen Breton Ice, aged in Ice Wine casks and came in at 52.7%. This sample was sweet, with hint of wood and fruity notes. It had a much thinner mouthfeel and slightly longer finish than the 15yr. The 23 yr, 65.3% was my favorite. The nose was reminiscent of a bourbon as was the flavor notes, sweet buttery caramel, very smooth with hints of oak and slightly creamy mouthfeel. The 13yr Ghleann Dubh (The Dark Glen) came in at 43% and was a peated whisky. A thinner mouthfeel and heavy on the peat, with serious flavor of leather and smoke. A bourbon lover at heart, this was my least favorite sample – but single malt lovers would be pleased.
The Glenora pub is open to the public and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. We participated in the culinary package, and sat dining room, looking out into the courtyard, which provides a beautiful backdrop. The culinary package offers 4 courses; 2 apps, a main and dessert. A half litre of wine is also included as well as a dram with dessert.
Dinner started with the seafood chowder (how can you not?) which offered bay scallops, clams, mussels and atlantic salmon in a creamy flavorful soup base. The second app was also a must do. Famous Digby scallops, wrapped in thick, maple and whisky infused bacon, sitting on top of a red onion marmalade aioli. These scallops were perfectly cooked and delicious with the traditional bacon wrap. The aioli offered a nice complement to the rich scallop.
An “Angel’s Share Whisky Sorbet” was presented to cleanse our palates, which was a refreshing ice with a distinct whisky flavor. Quite delicious.
The main was a linguine in a smoked tomato and basil pesto sauce with lobster and scallops and garnished with grilled chili lemon shrimp. Outstanding. Generous amounts of seafood with a sauce that did not overpower their flavor. The pasta was cooked perfectly.
Dessert was served with a 15yr Battle of the Glen. A pecan shortbread tart served with drops of whisky sauce and cheesecake with a whisky caramel sauce or sticky toffee pudding with a whisky caramel Chantilly cream. Yes to all of the above!!
Service during dinner and the next morning at breakfast was attentive, friendly and fun with ample time between courses to chat and enjoy the ambiance. Each course provided options and will accommodate any diet restrictions with an advanced request.
The Inn is well appointed. The rooms in the main Inn were large and immaculate, with Keurig coffee maker, tv, free wi-fi. We were on the second floor and had a short staircase to climb with our bags. They are currently adding another building with 8 rooms next to the distillery, and will be open October 2018. The Inn also houses the pub and the restaurant. The gift shop and registration are located in the building steps away from pub entrance. Access to the wing with the guest rooms is secure and require your room key to enter. They also have chalets that are nestled in the hills above and overlook the glen as well as a lodge that has 5 guestrooms. Each accommodation offers a bit of different experience.
The spacious rooms are comfortable and have all the usual amenities. Although while you are in Cape Breton, it’s likely the only time you’ll spend in your room is when you sleep. Aside from the lovely patio, surrounded by lush gardens and looking across the brook to the distillery, you can enjoy the twice daily ceilidh in the pub or hop in the car and drive up the Cabot Trail to see breath taking views of this gorgeous island. Lots of activities, including whale watching, beach swimming are the most popular.
Interesting story…when the Distillery registered an application to trademark the name “Glen Breton” in 2000, the name of their primary single malt whisky, the Scotch Whisky Association took exception to Glenora’s use of the term “Glen” and felt it would cause consumers confusion, leading them to believe it was a Scotch whisky (presumably made in Scotland) and fought the use in court. After almost nine years and multiple appeals, Glenora won the battle and officially registered their trademark whisky name, Glen Breton. To celebrate the victory, they released a commemorative whisky in 2010, aptly named “Battle of the Glen”.
Glenora whiskies are award winning, including gold and silver at the 2016 New York Wine and Spirits Competition for the Glen Breton Rare 21 yr and Glen Ice 12yr as well as a silver medal for Gleann Dubh at 2017 Whiskies of the World competition.