Merridale Brandy House
Our brandy house is where we create our artisan distilled products; our spirits and fortifieds. We currently have three spirits and three fortified ciders in production. Our spirits include Apple Oh de Vie, Blackberry Oh de Vie and our newest product Frizz vodka. In our fortified line we have Winter Apple, Pomme Oh and Mure Oh. Follow the links for product descriptions and read below to learn the craft of brandy making.
Brandies are made by carefully fermenting the fruit and then distilling. We have selected a hand-crafted Mueller still from Germany to make our brandy. This still is made of hand-hammered copper and has been designed to preserve as much of the aroma and flavour of the fruit as possible. The craftsmen at Mueller take months to make each individual still, to ensure that it makes the best quality brandy over a lifetime of use.
The process of distilling releases clear nectar known as ‘Eau de Vie’ or water of life. Our Eau de Vie is ‘Pomme de Vie’ or apple of life. To make brandy or Calvados the master distiller ages the Eau de Vie for years in carefully selected oak barrels. The process of aging in oak enhances many of the characteristics of the brandy and slowly adds a distinct flavour.
Although we welcome you to open the door of the Brandy House to have a look at our still, we ask that you don’t enter the room unescorted. All tours of this building must be done with one of our Merridale staff members, as it is a bonded area. However, we welcome the opportunity to take you on an authentic tour of the ancient French craft of turning apples and local fruit into a deliciously aged aperitif, fortified cider, and fruit based vodka.
The Brandy House offers distillery tours, and tastings of our spirits, fortified line, and fruit based vodka. The brandy house is also excellent for stand-up receptions and is a unique venue to host company or group parties. Hot and cold appetizers are available from the merridale kitchen, and can be paired with beverages of your choice.
How We Began Making Brandy
While touring Normandy and South West England, we sampled some of the world’s finest cider brandies made from unique varieties of cider apples. Many of those varieties can be found in our Cowichan Valley orchard, so we decided during that trip to take on the challenge of making North America’s best Calvados-style brandy. After years of study and research we embarked on our newest passion, distilling. Small batch distillation is still carried out in Europe, but is relatively new in North America. A few years later, Rick and Janet tasted the first distilled products from their own cider orchards while sitting in their brand-new Arts and Crafts-style Brandy House.
It was near this same time (2005) that the government of British Columbia eased up on its licensing regulations for small-scale distilleries, and the first craft distillery opened soon after, in the form of Okanagan Spirits. It seemed inevitable that all the pieces came together at the right time for Merridale Ciderworks to join in the nascent artisanal distillery movement in the province. In response to the growing interest, an Artisan Distillers Guild of BC has been formed to collaborate on developing the industry, and to advocate for inclusion in the policies and regulations that currently support the thriving local wine industry. Currently, less than 10 craft distillers are operating in the province and they are working hard to build the burgeoning industry.