Adrian Spitzer and Mark Watson, the owners and inspiration behind Dunrobin Distilleries, have been lifelong friends growing up in the neighbourhood of Old Ottawa South. They have both been entrepreneurs throughout their lives with Mark heading up Earth Innovations and Adrian managing his own advertising and marketing companies. That all changed when the idea sparked and a long-time vision and dream took shape to start a craft distillery. Mark had moved to Dunrobin, Ontario and owned the farm where it all would begin. They learned about organic, researched and grew their organic crops on the farm and constantly refined the award-winning whisky, gin and vodka they produce. In 2017, Dunrobin Distilleries opened their doors, selling their quality small batch, organic products to rave reviews. Their motto: The Spirit of Exploration.
Since opening, the distillery has been a success with many industry peers providing excellent feedback to Adrian and Mark. As an aside, Adrian shared with Stittsville Central, “we both love to cook using only fresh, quality ingredients. We applied that approach to our spirits. Mark’s farm is certified botanic, but not certified organic, nor are the bees that produce the honey for their liquors. This is due to the next door farms that are not certified. A five-mile radius of organic farms must be in place before being certified organic”.
Dunrobin Distilleries, Ottawa’s premier craft distillery announced its latest triumphs in international spirit competitions, winning a total of ten awards across three different global competitions. These international accolades further cement Dunrobin Distilleries’ reputation as a premium, world class, Canadian distillery, with a wide range of its products winning top honours for exceptional quality and taste. In addition, their bottle design, which pays homage to Canada with a glass blown maple leaf rising from the bottom of each bottle, has also been recognized for its bold design and exemplifies the Canadian spirit of innovation and expertise on store shelves and the world stage. Already winners of international distilling awards in their inaugural year of competition in 2021, Dunrobin’s reputation continues to build from its local roots.
Of the the 2022 U.K. Spirits Business Gin Masters competition (the Global Spirits Masters (GSM) is an international competition that rates spirits across each major beverage category. Judging is divided into 21 separate competitions to ensure each category is rated by specialist judges who are considered experts in that spirit.) Adrian told us, “over 500 entries were submitted and the Dunrobin Distilleries’ Artisanal Gin entry in the Best Gin (Micro Distillery) category brought home a Gold medal and in the Best Flavoured Gin category, their Dunrobin Earl Grey Gin brought home Silver“.
Adrian added, “in the same week at the International Whisky Competition held in the U.S., (the world’s most-followed whisky competition and reaches out to the whisky community on various social media channels. Unique medals are designed to promote each of the winning whiskies.), we took second place with our Dunrobin Canadian Rye Whisky in the Best Canadian Whisky category, earning 91.1 points. Our Dunrobin Canadian Rye Whisky also won second place in the Best Canadian Rye Whisky competition with another total of 91.1 points. We were right behind Canadian Club a long-time Canadian whisky institution. In the ranking of the top 100, we were 40th and so pleased with these wins”.
Mark added in, “With 500 different bottles of gin submitted, I was quite pleased to see my personal favourite the Earl Grey Gin winning. It certainly was a surprise for me when our whisky came second when we were up against the legacy long whisky maker Canadian Club. Our Canadian packaging is unique and people really like it. It is so great to see Ottawa’s world-class products winning these awards, not only for Ottawa, but throughout the world”.
But that is not all that was won, the awards continued in recognition of the fine spirits that Dunrobin Distilleries produce. At the MicroLiquor Spirits Association competition in the U.S., (A tasting & design competition since 2001, the MLSA competition is one of the highest-rated distilled competitions in the world.), their Earl Grey Gin was awarded a *Triple Gold® Medal for its extraordinary taste and received the highest recommendation (the Triple Gold™ Medal is one of the most coveted awards in the distilled spirits industry. Brands receiving this recognition have extraordinary taste, quality, and integrity.)
At the same MLSA competition, their Artisanal Vodka received a Silver Medal and their Artisanal Gin received a Bronze Medal. In the Package Design Competition, the Earl Grey Gin, the Artisanal Vodka and the Artisanal Gin all received Gold Medals.
It is obvious that the strong beliefs of Adrian and Mark have paid off – growing many of the quality ingredients on the farm, only using good ingredients and their investment of many hours upfront in planning at 90% and 10% in execution of the product.
Earlier this week they introduced a new liquor, Silver Pickle Vodka, that they highly recommend to be the main ingredient in Caesar’s or Dirty Martinis. Silver Pickle Vodka was an “inspiration – where can we go using less salt and sugars,” said Adrian.
Their Limoncello includes honey from the bees on Mark’s farm instead of sugar. The addition of sourced Madagascar vanilla beans gives the liquor a creamy and warm flavour, with the addition of Star Anise to add a unique licorice flavour. Adrian shared, “when I was on a trip to the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, there was a young girl selling lemonade. I asked her what was the unique flavour I was tasting. She said just a touch of licorice flavoured Star Anise. That struck home for me and when we were developing our Limoncello, it just had to be an ingredient“.
Our conversation turned from awards and ingredients to their vision for the Stittsville location of Dunrobin Distilleries at 1498 Stittsville Main Street. Both Adrian and Mark iterated that they are looking forward to Stittsville being their home business location. “It will be a great destination for the people of Stittsville and the west end of Ottawa.”
The plans are afoot for Dunrobin Distilleries at their Stittsville location once the city approvals are received for the sewar and water connectivity. They plan to have shovels in the ground in the fall and the building completed by the spring. The building will be three stories and will have a cellar basement with whisky barrels; retail store on the ground floor and a tasting room; patios at the front and back of the building; a sun deck on the second floor; a commercial kitchen, but no restaurant. Adrian and Mark don’t want to compete with local restaurants, they want to promote and compliment them, so have plans to invite various restauranteurs to come for a weekend to highlight their menus and cook their fabulous food. They will offer classes to make gins and whiskies and more and will start a whisky club. They will also offer their space for community use.
Mark and Adrian have also saved some of the building materials from the former Lorne Wagner garage. They have repurposed the wooden beams that will be used in the new building. It was unfortunate to learn that the building had been used as a grow-op and would have to be taken down, but knowing that the new build will contain a bit of history from this former well-known and respected business and our town of Stittsville is promising for this Editor.
We look forward to the opening of Dunrobin Distilleries in Stittsville, especially when their plans include the attraction of Ottawans and tourists to our community as a Stittsville Main Street to discover.
Below is a video of Mark and Adrian sharing their story of Dunrobin Distilleries. Enjoy!