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Innovative distiller masterfully creates high quality spirits

Community ProfileInnovative distiller masterfully creates high quality spirits

Since opening its doors in 2020, Manns Distillery has been offering a variety of premium spirits by utilizing its on-site micro-distillery.

Craig Mann, the owner and operator, got interested in distilling around 2016, enrolling in a new artisan distilling program which Niagara College offered.

He then applied his knowledge when he decided to open Manns Distillery. However, Mann was mindful about the many barriers before establishing his business.

“There are about 650 craft breweries [and] only about 35 distilleries in Ontario, due to barriers to entry which are quite high for equipment; also, taxes aren’t friendly to spirits in Ontario, and Canada in general. We pay a lot more taxes per bottle than wine and beer,” Mann said. “But the craft distilling market in the US has been really ramping up. Traditionally there were just a bunch of big players, whereas now, there are several 1000 small distilleries in the US. In Canada, we’ve actually ramped up over the last few years as well.”

The Distillery doesn’t only have production areas to distill much desired spirits but also has multiple spaces for special events. Spaces on premises include a tasting room, a cocktail lounge, and a classroom area. Photo courtesy Manns Distillery.

However, Mann, who was originally in IT, cut his teeth as an entrepreneur opening up the Blue Dog coffee shop in 2008 on Brant Avenue. He eventually sold it to realize his passion for distilling.  

“From the 35 distilleries in Ontario, there are some that do their own products, or they market a product, but they don’t really distill it, whereas we are an actual working distillery. I found this location in Brantford, built out a cocktail lounge patio, and put all the production equipment in, starting right when COVID hit. That was a challenge, but that gave us time to do a lot of production because a lot of the product we make has to be aged,” Mann explained. “For vodka and gin, you can get that out in a couple of weeks. But for whiskey, legally in Canada, it has to be aged for at least three years…so, the aging of these products take a long time. I just did a whiskey distillation a couple of weeks ago, but we won’t see that product at the shop for another five years.”

Manns Distillery boasts a hybrid 1,100 Litre Pot Still with a 4-plate rectifying column and dephlegmator as well as a gin basket, and condensing column. Additionally, the location also has a 1,100 litre Mash Tun and two 1,300 litre fermentation tanks, and a variety of mixing and steeping tanks. This gives Mann’s a capacity to create varied batches of spirits including Gin, Vodka, Rum, Whisky and Brandy. Photo courtesy Manns Distillery.

Distilling is something that Mann prides his business on and continues to offer a rich variety of spirits. Along with its 22 spirit products, including the very popular white tea gin, and an assortment of bitters, Mann enjoys finding out what people like, and in turn, experiments.

“We’ve got a new product coming out soon and it’s nothing I was thinking of ever doing, which is a peanut butter whiskey. Customers have been asking for it [and it’s been] selling like hotcakes at the liquor store. There’s only a couple of products on the market like it, so we’re doing our own peanut butter whiskey,” Mann stated. “You have to look at market conditions [and] the trends in the industry. We’ve got about five or six different flavors of gin [and recently] we picked lilacs at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington. And that’s used to make a lilac gin. They’re co-branded on our label; so, the Royal Botanical Gardens actually sells the gin there and I sell it at my distillery. So, it’s a nice collaboration.”

Craig Mann is passionate about creating new and exciting spirits; which has helped to attract new customers while keeping his loyal customer base coming back to find new products along with getting their favourites. Photo courtesy Manns Distillery.

While distilling is key to the business, Mann has also worked diligently to create a unique, multi-faceted business operation.

“There are several aspects to the business; I do contract distilling for some companies, where I actually produce their product and they put it under their own name. We also have several licenses that are necessary; one of them for the onsite retail store,” Mann said. “We sell a lot of retail products at the site [like] vodka, gin, whiskey, rum and liquors. And there’s a cocktail lounge [where] people come in for drinks [and] we also have an event space up top where people can book for events like birthday parties.”

Manns Distillery offers a wide range of premium spirits including Manns Rum and Manns Spiced Rum as well as its signature spirit–White Tea Gin along with Grapefruit Gin, Lavender Elderflower Gin, and Strawberry Rhubarb Gin (from locally grown strawberries and rhubarb.) For Vodkas, they include Spruce Tip Vodka, Watermelon Vodka, and the very popular Dill Pickle Vodka. Mann’s also boasts Liqueurs and Bitters. Photo courtesy Manns Distillery.

Mann also has been busy developing programs that get people involved in making their own cocktails and bitters.

“We have a bitters workshop and a cocktail class that we run; they’re usually sold out. People learn what ingredients go into the cocktails and how to make them. For the bitters class people come in and we do the botanicals. We steep them and…it takes about two months. They come back in after the two months and bottle up their own set of bitters. And they’re able to take them home, use them as gifts or whatever they want. It’s a very popular workshop,” noted Mann.

Manns Distillery is one of about 35 distilleries of its kind in Ontario. However, the demand for high-quality spirits has continued to grow and Craig Mann is more than happy to continue to develop and create innovative products to satisfy market cravings. Photo courtesy Manns Distillery.

Four years on, Mann continues to enjoy creating and distilling new spirits as well as delivering high quality products to both new and established customers.

“It’s been really fun. We have had a very loyal following for some of our spirits; people use us exclusively; they say that they have given up the big brands [and] buy nothing but our vodka. But then we also have people that come to the cocktail lounge and hang out with regulars…[and] we still have people that are discovering us,” said Mann. 

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