By Shelley Boettcher
Paul Allamby is one of the founders of Levenswater, a Canadian distillery located in and maker of Levenswater Spring 34, an award-winning dry pink gin made from potatoes and 34 botanicals. (It takes at least 12 pounds of potatoes to make one bottle!) Although it has a Toronto address, Levenswater is distilled in Niagara and draws on ingredients from the surrounding farmlands.
Allamby recently spent some time chatting with us at Drink with Me about what he loves best about gin — and why he makes it. Here’s what we learned about his distillery and what makes it special.
1. What does the name Levenswater mean? “Levenswater is Dutch for ‘water of life.’ My great grandmother was half-Dutch and I grew up in a home where there was always a bottle of Bols around!”
2. What made you start a new Canadian gin? “It started as a hobby actually. One of my daughters bought me a gin kit and I just got deeper and deeper into experimentation. I dove into my family’s history—I was born in London, UK— and I decided that any gin that I made should really represent my current city, Toronto, which I love: the diversity, the complexity of different cultures, languages. Pretty much all of the botanicals came out of Kensington Market. I chose potato vodka because of its smoothness. It gives a uniform base from batch to batch.”
3. What was missing, do you think, in the world, as far as gins go? “There are some amazing Canadian gins, but I felt that there wasn’t one that actually tried to capture all of what makes Toronto so special: allspice, saffron, tellicherries, blood orange and on and on. I wanted a boldness both in flavour and aromatics.”
“And Niagara is like my back garden. I live in Toronto but having our distiller there (we use Niagara Craft Distillers), is such an incredible luxury. I LOVE that I can actually be involved in making each batch with the master distiller. I grind and mix all of the botanicals, we then ‘layer’ them into the potato spirits sequentially. The aromatics go in last.”
4. Thinking of love, what is it that you love about gin? “I love to infuse. I feel like I’m painting on a blank canvas and, because I’m in Canada, I don’t have to follow a bunch of rules (well, I always want my juniper anyway—but I think you know what I mean)! Gin, to me, has no boundaries.”
5. What makes Levenswater unique from the other spirits on the market? “I’ve spent five years figuring out how to create an experience that delivers a layered exposure at the nose, first, and then at the lips, through to the throat and then at the finish.”
6. How do you prefer Levenswater best? “Spring is so malleable: as a G&T (with a good tonic, like Sipsmith or Q). I’ll slice some red chillies, add some orange peel and stir. But most of the time, I’ll sip it neat with some ice, a twist of thyme (which is a botanical element) and lemon.”
7. What are the future plans for the company? “Gin, gin, I will do a Jenever homage at some point, more gin. Our winter gin is currently sitting in 14-year-old whisky barrels in the distillery.”
8. Where do you want to see Levenswater in five years? “Levenswater will always be about alchemy and experience, but I also want to embrace the communities that we will be making and distributing our products in. Fresh water should be a right for everyone. Our water comes from a tributary of the Grand River but there are still First Nations communities that can’t get fresh water even today. Brands are grown from the ground up and I believe that they need to put goodness back into the earth that they sprang from.”
9. What did you do before starting Levenswater? “I come from a long line of cooks (all men in my family) – my great-great grandfather, my grandfather were all ships’ cooks, and I’ve cooked my whole life (not professionally but for fun and for charitable causes), and I’ve always been a gardener and amateur botanist. I have worked in the beer, wine and spirits business as a marketer on Diageo (Johnnie Walker, Guinness, Crown Royal, Tanqueray), as well as with Campari and LVMH.
10. Where can people find your gin? It is available via ecommerce off of our site. You push the Buy button and Canada Post does the rest! It is available for $50/bottle plus shipping. We also sell to bars and restaurants, and through SAQ in Quebec.