PUBS, PATIOS & BARS: Discovering Ontario’s new Craft Gin Trail

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Canadian gin lovers now have a trail they can call their own. The Ontario Craft Gin Trail launched early in June offering a spirit-based version of more ubiquitous wine and beer trails (or in some destinations, rum routes).

The self-guided tour features six distinctive distilleries in Southwestern Ontario (including Stratford, Guelph, Ayr, Arthur, and Elora), all within an hour of Kitchener-Waterloo, and similarly within about a two-hour drive from Toronto.

Marty Van Vliet of the Elora Distilling Company told Travel Industry Today that the idea came from similar ventures in the UK, where the craft gin industry has been flourishing since the 1990s. The US followed about a decade later, but government regulations in Canada didn’t allow smaller distillers to flourish here until after 2009.

As such, Van Vliet says, “We’re a relatively young industry in Canada, we’re just catching up.”

And with consumer interest in craft gin booming in Canada, the time was right to start a trail. “We (Canada’s gin industry) have been crying out for something like this!” Van Vliet says.

Organized with the help of local tourism officials, the route has six inaugural members with hopes that others will soon join. They include:

• Dixon’s Distilled Spirits of Guelph produces an award-winning line of hand-crafted, all-Canadian artisanal gins.

• Elora Distilling Company of Elora makes a line of four gins from local ingredients, as well as a seasonal gin that changes throughout the year.

• Junction 56 Distillery of Stratford uses a unique distillation process and a select mix of local botanicals to give traditional gin a fresh twist
• Silver Fox Distillery of Arthur, the only fully woman-owned distillery on the trail, uses locally sourced grains and botanicals to craft award-winning spirits.

• Spring Mill Distillery of Guelph embraces time-honoured distilling traditions and historic roots that stretch back more than 200 years to bring gin and spirits to aficionados today.

• Willibald Farm Distillery & Brewery of Ayr crafts gin and spirits from products grown right on the farm, in addition to welcoming visitors to its restaurant, brewery and seasonal biergarten.

Silver Fox Distillery

Each distiller is unique, says Van Vliet, who describes himself as a gin drinker who frequently buys his colleague’s efforts simply because they’re different than his own.

At Elora Distilling, which opened in 2020, Van Vliet says four regular gins are made, plus a fifth seasonal offering. But altogether, he adds, the Trail features craft distillers that are small enough to have the flexibility to “create many fabulous experimental” gins – some of which can also be found in the LCBO.

And while Elora also distills vodka, whiskey, and rum, Van Vliet notes that such is the current interest gin in Canada that it “outsells everything.”

Importantly, all distilleries on the trail offer (free) samples – there are over two dozen types across the spectrum – and many conduct tours and/or have their own bars and restaurants. (Note: tours should be booked in advanced).

Individual distilleries may have unique opportunities. Van Vliet’s establishment, for example, offers cocktail mixing classes and has partnered with the local tourist office to offer a walking tour of Elora, focussing on the history of alcohol in the region.

“Because we are craft,” he explains, “what one is doing is not what the other is doing,” thereby creating a variety of experiences amongst the Trail members.

At the same time, not unlike the nearby Niagara wine region, a trek along the Trail simply makes for a great outing, particularly for Canadians who have been cooped up for two years due to the pandemic.

And, says Van Vliet simply, “(It) provides another way for people to get a taste of the vibrant culinary scene this part of the province offers.”

Those interested in the Craft Gin Trail can obtain a passport-brochure at any of the distilleries; those getting three stamps qualify to win a merchandise gift pack. More information is also available on Facebook, Instagram, or at the website,

With glass purposefully in hand, we at Travel Industry Today continue our series on some of the planet’s best bars, patios and rooftop venues. For more articles in the series, click here:


First published at Travel Industry Today

First published at – Global Travel News