Compass Distillers Launches “Thank You” Boston Tree Gin
Monday, November 25, 2019
Every year, we celebrate a unique tradition in Nova Scotia by sending a tree to the people of Boston to say thank you for their assistance after the Halifax Explosion. This year, the tradition has been infused with a new idea: an exclusive gin distilled from the actual boughs of the tree.
We talked to Alex Wrathell and Renae Perry from Compass Distillers to learn more about the origins of this unique gin celebrating the Nova Scotia Tree for Boston.
“There's a lot of experimentation in the distillery,” explains Wrathell, a distiller at Compass. “Aside from working on main products, we do little tests and infusions and macerations of different ingredients.”
As a distillery that sources the majority of its ingredients from within the province, this isn't unusual. From seed to first sip, ingredients come from local producers, suppliers, and foragers, carefully chosen to ensure maximum quality.
While working on their ‘Gathered in Nova Scotia’ GiNS, which are made with 100% Nova Scotian ingredients, the team was playing around with different botanical infusions. This led to the idea of sourcing needles or branches from a tree, which began to grow when Taste of Nova Scotia brought one of Compass’ award-winning gins to serve at the reception following the Boston Tree Lighting last year.
One of Compass’ distillers, Ezra, was in Boston around the same time on a Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) Trade Mission. “While checking out the Tree in the Boston Commons, Ezra had the idea of using clippings from next year’s tree to create a unique product,” says Perry. “We realized it was a match made in heaven. He mentioned it to Jessica McCall at NSBI, who encouraged the idea.”
As the season approached, the team got in touch with the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture, who choose the annual Boston Tree. The Department introduced Compass to the tree grower, who they were able to visit. While there, they cut a few boughs from the tree.
“It was a great partnership between us and the grower of the tree to be able to make this really unique, special gin,” explains Perry.
The production process for the Boston Tree Gin took several weeks, beginning with Nova Scotian-grown wheat, which was mashed and fermented, and then distilled three times.
“For the Boston Tree Gin, it's a blend between a contemporary and a classic gin in terms of botanicals used,” explains Wrathell. “We’ve actually taken the fresh needles from the clippings we were given and are essentially infusing those into the finished distilled product.”
The result is described as a classic gin with an extra piney punch to support the juniper and other botanicals.
“It’s very Christmassy,” explains Perry. Wrathell, however, assures us it doesn't taste like drinking a tree. “But it definitely has a distinguished characteristic that is reminiscent of its origin.”
The gin is heading to Boston for the celebration, where it will be served after the tree lighting ceremony – a full circle moment for the distillery, as this was the location where the idea was born a year ago.
Understandably, there is a very limited quantity of the Boston Tree Gin available. This unique gin is available for purchase at Compass Distillery’s storefront in Halifax, with one dollar from every bottle sold donated to the CNIB in Halifax.
“The CNIB in Halifax is incredibly progressive and helped a lot of people after the Halifax Explosion. We're really happy to partner with them – especially with this gin,” shares Perry.
"CNIB has been rooted in the north end of Halifax since the Halifax Explosion, when more than 1,000 survivors sustained serious eye injuries from flying glass and debris," says Shelley Adams, the CNIB Foundation’s Manager of Community Engagement. “More than 100 years later, we're still helping people impacted by sight loss – and Compass Distillers' generous donation will help us change what it is to be blind today.”
A final thank you to Nova Scotia
When asked about growing Compass Distillers beyond Nova Scotia, Perry shares, “We've had a lot of help. We've been really, really lucky to have Taste of Nova Scotia behind us, and NSBI helping push us along the way – that advice is immeasurable.”
Thinking again about giving thanks, Wrathell adds, “It’s a great idea to build as many strong relationships as you can and learn as much as possible from other people who have worked in the industry longer. There's definitely great things we've learned from discussions with some of the original distilleries in Nova Scotia who were at the forefront of the craft distilling scene.”
“Nova Scotia is a small community of great producers, and the better we can support each other provincially, the stronger our overall relationships and economy can become.”