February 23, 2020

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Niagara College opens Canada’s first Teaching Distillery

niagara college distillery

Students in Niagara College’s pioneering Artisan Distilling (Graduate Certificate) program will receive hands-on experience with industry standard equipment in a brand new 2,500 square-foot Teaching Distillery, located on the College’s innovative Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus.

Niagara College welcomed their first batch of students into their Artisan Distilling (Graduate Certificate) program, a first-of-its-kind program in Canada.

The 2,500 square-foot state-of-the-art Teaching Distillery, housed at the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus, is directly adjacent to the college’s unique Wine Visitor + Education Centre, and is based on the college’s successful teaching winery and teaching brewery – also Canadian firsts. The fully operational distillery houses five stills, four mash tuns and ten fermenters that allow for on-site production of a wide variety of distilled products, including vodka, gin, whisky, brandy, rum and more.

Spirits will be crafted by Artisan Distilling program faculty and students and will be sold on campus alongside NC’s award-winning student-made wines, beers and ciders.

“Our Canadian Food and Wine Institute is at the forefront of food and fermentation sciences in our country; it is a centre for excellence in education and training, a resource for industry and a catalyst for innovation in the sector,” said Niagara College president Dan Patterson in a media release. “Our Artisan Distilling program and the Niagara College Teaching Distillery significantly enhance our position as a national leader in this important sector.”

The Artisan Distilling program provides an in-depth understanding of the scientific, technological and business aspects of distilling and fermentation. Students gain relevant skills, knowledge and experiences in the production cycle of distilled spirits, including production, testing/analysis, and packaging/merchandising. The first-ever class of 16 students began their studies in September, and over the past several weeks have been acclimatizing themselves to the new facility, equipment, and their classmates.

“We’ve already learned a lot in the program so far – the faculty and our distiller David Dickson have been excellent,” said Artisan Distilling student Kirin Tsang. “And we’re not only learning how to make spirits; we’re also learning about each other. Everyone in the class brings with them a diverse set of skills and life experiences, and we’re looking forward to experimenting and succeeding together in this exciting industry.”

Graduates from the program will leave with the skills to pursue careers working with both small- and large-volume distilleries as distillation technicians, product development and quality control experts, export licensees, sales and operations professionals and more. They will learn their craft under the guidance of David Dickson, former head distiller at Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers, who joined Niagara College as the distiller in August.

Dr. Don Livermore, master blender at Hiram Walker & Sons Limited, spoke at a grand opening ceremony Oct. 4. “As a local leader in premium spirits production, Hiram Walker & Sons is a strong supporter of this state-of-the-art program and facility. In addition, I am personally very proud to see the continued growth in education under the disciplines of distilling and fermentation in Ontario,” said Dr. Livermore. “Niagara College graduates will be the next generation of leaders and innovators in this industry, and we are excited about the potential for future collaborations with students, and also the possibility of providing fulfilling careers for some of them. This program will fill a growing need for skilled, experienced workers in this expanding industry.”

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    By Niagara Independent Staff Time To Read: 2 min