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Women of Spirits: Barb Matchett of Black’s Distillery
It was never part of Barb Matchett’s plan to become an actual distiller, even when she opened Black’s Distillery in Peterborough with partner Robert Black last spring. Here she is, though, filling the role of assistant distiller and handling day-to-day production with ease, thanks to a lifetime in entrepreneurship, albeit in a very different industry — fashion design. Her passion for spirits is really owing to her partner, Black, who makes all the executive distilling decisions, but the more she learned about the industry, the more fascinated she became with the craft.
Black’s Gin starts with Red Fife wheat, a heritage grain invented in the Kawarthas about 175 years ago that imparts a hint of sweetness. The gin, which won gold at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, is savoury and the perfect compromise between foresty and floral gins.
Being raised here in Peterborough, we wanted to put Red Fife wheat on the map. Its invention helped open up Western Canada, and it happened just down the street from us. We have a local farmer who still grows and mills it for us about 10 minutes out of town.
Black’s Distillery is located right in downtown Peterborough — a really important move for its founders, who wanted not only to honour the past with its Red Fife spirits but also to contribute to the future by opening a business in the heart of the city. Matchett says they always knew they wanted to be front and centre but were even more keen on it after discovering the area once had about seven distilleries, making Black’s an important part of reviving that spirited legacy.
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