Coming this Summer: Sudbury’s Own Vodka, Gin & Whisky!

It’s unclear whether is was the Greeks or the Chinese who developed the first known distillation process in about 1 AD but it is known that Italians were the first to distill alcohol in the 12th century and it’s also clear that Greater Sudbury has had stills in the area since the railway construction crews, lumberers and miners first came here in 1883.

Crosscut Distillery Shane Prodan

Shane Prodan with his test still which holds about 100 litres but this still  is nothing compared to the size of the 18 foot high stills that will soon be installed at Crosscut Distillery.

Shane Prodan grew up in Elliot Lake. He put himself through school working in the construction industry and then graduated first with a science degree and later with a degree in business. He worked for many years as a scientist, specializing in chemistry and toxicology, in many positions for the federal government in Ottawa.

Two years ago he decided, with his wife Rya, to move back to the north from Ottawa. The couple have two young boys and wanted to be closer to both their families, who live in Greater Sudbury now too. He also decided, after years of research, that Greater Sudbury would be home to its first, legal, craft distillery aptly named Crosscut Distillery.

Initially he plans on distilling and bottling vodka, gin and white whisky with recipes he will be creating with his test still once his licensing is complete. He’ll be making the golden coloured whisky or rye that most Canadians are familiar with too but in order to achieve the colour and flavour it has to age for a minimum of three years in oak barrels -so we’ll have to wait a while for our rye whisky. He also plans on making a number of seasonal variations of vodkas and gins throughout the year. Crosscut Distillery’s first spirits should be ready to try and purchase by the end of this summer.

Shane chose the name “Crosscut” Distillery for three reasons. He drew inspiration from northern Ontario’s industrial history – mining and lumbering. In mining a cross-cut is a horizontal tunnel that provides access to the orebody. In lumbering, the one or two man crosscut saws were used early on before power equipment was invented. And naturally, the third has to do with the distilling process.

The Heads, Hearts and Tails of Distilling

The distillate produced in the distilling process is not all the same throughout the process. It’s divided into three stages as the heated alcohol and water vapours rise through the copper stack of the still. Since alcohol vapour is lighter than water vapour only the alcohol vapour can make its way to the top, the water vapour falls back in the pot. The initial distillate which emerges is called “heads” which has the strongest proof, the next stage produces what’s called “hearts”  which takes longer to process, while the last stage has a significantly lower proof and is called “tails”. While the distilling process relies heavily on science the distiller’s art emerges when he is able to find the sweet spot between heads and hearts and tails to make the “cut” allowing only the hearts to pass through to the condensers where its cooled and turns back into a liquid. The heads and tails will be reused for the next distillation.

With these reasons in mind he approached the team at Studio 123 in Sudbury to design a logo which will feature prominently on the unique, glass bottles which he has already chosen. At first Shane will only offer Crosscut spirits in 750 ml sizes but is looking at other options already.

Renovations are well under way to the building’s interior. Shane, with lots of help from his family, has been throwing himself into the renovation work, prepared at the drop of the hat to change and meet with government officials to answer questions.  Crosscut Distillery requires a large area to hold the stills, two of which are over 18 feet tall, boilers, fermenters, condensers, tanks, bottling equipment and more. Offices are on a second floor loft area while another large space will welcome people who will visit to purchase Crosscut’s bottled spirits. Shane will be able to host events such as tastings where people will be able to try the different liquors available and seeing the distillery works first hand, the space can be opened for private parties as well.

There is a very strict regulatory process involved in opening a craft distillery, requiring four separate federally and provincially mandated licenses all while working with seven federal departments, two provincial and of course approval from the municipality. He has also been taking specialized training programs in distilling learning from the masters in the UK and United States.

Shane has already met with local farmers to talk with them about growing the grains that he will need to make his spirits and he’s excited about all the botanicals that grow here naturally, from wild blueberries to juniper, that will be used to flavour the spirits he will soon be producing.

And while not long ago Kelly Lake Road was solely an industrial centre with businesses catering to the mining industry today it is experiencing a little renaissance of its own, with Stack Brewery, My Mother’s Place – a specialty food shop and Ristorante Verdicchio all close to Crosscut Distillery’s new location Shane hopes they can all work together to promote their local businesses.

“Like” Crosscut Distillery’s Facebook page where Shane will soon be posting regular updates and information leading up to the opening.

Here’s a little history about Sudbury’s, not so legal, distilling past if you’re interested.

The highway between Sudbury and North Bay was completed in 1912.

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