A Glass with...

A Drink With…

Geoff Dillon of Dillon's Small Batch Spirits

The head distiller shares his family's story, and how the homegrown distillery has already managed to launch a wide range of flavours and styles in less than three years.

Q. When you say “convincing,” you mean your family?

That’s right. My dad, Peter Dillon, is an inspiration for everything, being a chemistry prof with a life-long passion for spirits. He’s actually where everything kind of starts. My dad’s got a lab at his house and he’s just in there tinkering with steeping botanicals and playing with new flavours. My father-in-law, Gary Huggins, handles the business side and I’m the one in the middle trying to keep everything together.

Q. And your father’s experimentation is the reason that a distillery that opened its doors less than three years ago has already managed to launch such a wide range of flavours and styles?


Yes, my dad also has a 10-acre hobby farm with a ludicrous amount of botanicals and wine grapes and blackberries and everything you can imagine, that we just play around with. Our Rose Gin Liqueur, for example, came from a giant, thorny rose bush that was driving me nuts, because I kept brushing against it. We stripped it down and used it to make our first batch.  
 
Q. Do you grow all your botanicals on your dad’s farm?

No, we need more than we can grow, so we source from our local farmers, too. Our pears come from Torrie Warner just down the road; our cherries from nearby Cherry Lane. At first, we also partnered up with local vineyards and used their “thinned” grapes, the 25 per cent or so that are pruned and left to drop to the ground before the real harvest. We couldn’t get enough, though, so we had to start contracting out to Niagara grape growers for more.

Q. How important are Niagara grapes to Dillon’s unique style? Is that what gave it the edge in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition?

The grapes are what give our spirits such a great mouthfeel. It’s a little viscous and sticks in your mouth a little longer, which helps you taste all the botanicals, like lavender, juniper and hibiscus.

Q. Do you have a favourite food that pairs perfectly with a Dillon’s gin cocktail?

We love a gin and tonic with fresh lime and ginger bitters served with pan-seared tuna with avocado, ginger and lime. It’s a really light and fresh combination.
 
Dillon’s Unfiltered Gin 22 won the coveted Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2014.

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