Nova Scotia is known for it’s delicious seafood, pretty lighthouses and being the home to the donair. It is also becoming more and more popular for it’s craft spirits. 2019 marked the 5th anniversary of the Nova Scotia Craft Spirits Festival Spirited Away celebrating all of these delicious spirits.
Distillers from across the province take part in this festival over a weekend each October. There are many opportunities to sample, purchase and enjoy their tasty Gins, Rums, Vodkas, Whiskeys and more.
What is the Nova Scotia Craft Spirits Festival?
The Nova Scotia Craft Spirits Festival also known as Spirited Away is a celebration of all things craft spirits. The festival consists of various events from the Sip and Dash drinking tour to multiple spirits related workshops, a gala event, a distillers market and more. All of these events take place in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia within a few blocks of each other.
The festival brings visitors and locals together to enjoy some of the best craft spirits that Nova Scotia has to offer. The festival is put on by Lynne and Pierre of Ironworks Distillery which is also located in Lunenburg. It is more than just a drinking a event, it is also a great place to learn about craft spirits, delicious cocktails and a little about the town as well.
In 2019 the NS Craft Spirits Festival featured spirits from Compass Distillers, Still Fired Distillers, Authentic Seacoast, Raging Crow Distillery, Barrelling Tide Distillery, Coldstream Clear Distillery, Steinhart Distillery, Tipping Point Distillers and Ironworks Distilling.
The Sip And Dash Event
Sip and Dash is the first main event of the festival and the most popular. There are roughly only 130 tickets for sale and they sell out far ahead of time. For the Sip and Dash event everyone is split into groups with a tour leader for each. Each group is lead through Lunenburg visiting unique locations along the way that you might not normally get to visit. There are 8 stops featuring 5 mixologists and 3 distilleries that offer you a great sample cocktail featuring a local distiller at each destination.
For the 2019 festival Compass Distillers served up their Gin Royal with honey syrup and lemon juice as the cocktail “Queen Bee” at the Dory Shop. Shane the Bartender served Coldstream Clear Distillery premium vodka with lemon and grapefruit juice, ginger syrup and cranberry-hibiscus tea as a “Down by the bog” drink at Adams and Knickle. Drinks with Ali served up Still Fired Distillers vanilla bean vodka with Still Fired molasses moonshine, strawberry syrup and lime juice as a “Lequille Sunset” drink at the Cranston Art Gallery. These were just a few of the stops with the venues and drinks varying each year.
The Sip and Dash event ends with some snacks and live music entertainment for all at the Fisheries Museum.
Craft Spirits Workshops
On the second day of the 2019 festival there were six different Craft Spirits related workshops offered. Taking place at either 10:30am or 2:30pm some are offered at both times to give you options when scheduling.
At the festival I attend the “Shrubs and Other Cocktail Oddities: Out of the Box Ingredients ” workshop. In the class we learned that a shrub wasn’t a bush and was instead a mix of sugar, fruit juice and vinegar. Shrubs are great with some soda water or can make a really great cocktail base. We also learned how to make a couple great cocktails with them.
I also attended the “DIY Gin making: Create your own bottle of Gin!” by Ironworks Distillery. We learned about the history of gin, what it is made of and got to taste some great gins. Then we were given the opportunity to mix juniper gin with distillates of our own choosing to make a tasty new gin of our own. I chose a few citrus distillates and hibiscus to give it a great color and flavour. It was such a fun experience to take part in.
Other workshops offered taught the history of rum and rum runners in Nova Scotia, Beer Cocktails, making Whiskey Ribs and Bartending 101.
Spirited Away Distillers Market
The Distillers Market takes place in the afternoon giving you plenty of time to shop between workshops. At the distillers market there was live music, oysters from Dory Mates Seafood Shop, craft spirits related books for sale and tables selling spirits from all of the local distillers. The Distillers market is a great time to talk with the local distillers and more importantly try EVERYTHING they have to offer.
Some of the local distillers can be found at the NSLC liquor stores but not all and not all of the products that they offer. The distillers are also located all over the province so this is truly the best time to find about a new local craft spirit, meet the distillers, find your favorites and everything they offer all in one spot.
image credit BoBoAndChiChi.com
Spirited Away Gala
The Spirited Away Gala at the Nova Scotia Crafts Spirits Festival takes place at the historic Lunenburg Opera House. This popular event features all of the participating distillers as well as some of the best bartenders and mixologists creating delicious cocktails to sample. There is also live music and lots of delicious food to eat. The Gala can be quite busy so I recommend to arrive as early as possible before it gets crowded.
Why should you attend the NS Craft Spirits Festival?
Whether you are a lover of all spirits or don’t know much about them this is the perfect festival for you. You will leave knowing way more than you knew before and you will get to learn about a lot of unique and delicious craft spirits from all around the province. The festival also gives you the opportunity to learn some of the best cocktails to make with them.
Attend to have your mind blown and eyes widen about some of the amazing local Spirits Nova Scotia has to offer. To learn about everything from the history of spirits to making a cocktail shrub and taking a DIY Gin class. And to make new friends!
Another great thing about the NS Craft Spirits Festival is that it also allows you to explore Lunenburg in a way that you might not have before. Wander the streets, visit the Opera house and go to places that might not normally be open to the public like the Dory shop. By this late in the fall parts of Lunenburg have already shuttered for the tourist season but the town still has a lot to offer.
The NS Craft Spirits festival is one of the best drink festivals I have ever been to. You definitely get the value for your money and are able to participate in as little or as much as you want to.
Where to stay in Lunenburg?
When attending the Nova Scotia Craft Spirits Festival stay in a centrally located hotel like the Smugglers Cove Inn. Then you can sample and drink to your hearts content without needing to worry about getting a drive as everything is conveniently in walking distance.
While visiting for Spirited Away I stayed in the Smugglers Cove Inn. It was quite literally the perfect location for the festival as all of the main events took place next door and surrounding the hotel. However Lunenburg is so small most places to stay are within walking distance of all events. Other Lunenburg hotels recommended by the festival are: The Mariner King, Boscawen Inn, Brigantine Inn, B2 Lofts, Lunenburg Arms and the Salt Shaker Deli Inn. To learn about more Lunenburg Hotels click HERE.
What is Ironworks Distilling?
Ironworks Distilling are the founders of the festival and have put the whole festival together for the past five years. Originating in Lunenburg in 2009 it is owned and operated by Lynne MacKay and Pierre Guevremont. Ironworks Distilling can be easy to miss on the edge of town but is a must stop when visiting Lunenburg. Famous for their rums and gins you can visit and try a taste test and buy some of their delicious spirits. Some of their most popular products are their Rum Boat Rum and Around the World Rum. The Around the World Rum sailed around the world in a barrel before being bottled. Ironworks is also known for their Gin like the Gin Noir Black Currant which I prefer purely for the cute cat on the logo.
Ironworks Distilling recently just got a new still so we are all excited to see what they will be making next.
For more information about the Nova Scotia Craft Spirits Festival Spirited Away and to get your tickets for 2020 visit NSSpiritsFestival.com.
Enjoy my highlights from the 2019 festival here:
Please drink responsibly. Special thanks to the Nova Scotia Craft Spirits Festival for having me. All opinions and reviews expressed are my own.