Caldera’s Jarret Stuart: one of Nova Scotia’s newest, brightest distillers

Johanne McInnis

Hurricane 5 Canadian Whisky was one of my best new discoveries at the Festival of Whisky this year. I also had the pleasure of interviewing the owner and mastermind, Jarret Stuart, when I visited Caldera Distilling this summer.

Originally from Calgary, Stuart began his career as a project manager for a large engineering firm. He left that field to begin his own solar energy company which rose to the 20th largest in the world. This led to owning a second successful energy sector business — but after many years of hard work, he sold the company to do something completely different. That is when he found himself saying to his father in law: “You know, I think we should open a distillery.” His wife, Tracy, is a Nova Scotian, and it was during a weekend getaway visiting family in River John that he started to seriously consider the idea. The combination of the untapped beauty of the North Shore, rich ship building history,

His wife, Tracy, is a Nova Scotian, and it was during a weekend getaway visiting family in River John that he started to seriously consider the idea. The combination of the untapped beauty of the North Shore, rich ship building history, abundance of farmland and good natured people willing to help develop their community seemed to be the perfect setting for a distillery.

When I asked Stuart if he simply lucked out or foresaw the region becoming a food and drink destination he replied: “Lucked out! Not only is it beautiful here but a recent influx of extremely creative people has produced an inspiring community spirit which I am honoured to be a part of.”

There is a huge distilling boom taking place in Nova Scotia and Stuart sees this as an opportunity for even more growth. As more and more players come to the stage, they create a niche which in turn pushes the industry to higher levels in term of product quality.

“This province has given new distillers an excellent foundation, a real opportunity to birth an industry and thanks to the trailblazers, our spirits are on the map. Now it is our responsibility as the next generation of distillers to go through that open door and run with it as far as we can.”

Stuart is doing just that by building the first estate distillery on the east coast with a goal to grow the grains and create the spirits on the property. He has the advantage of choosing 100 per cent organic grains that larger mills don’t buy because there isn’t a commercial market for them. He also takes into consideration that the quality of the North Shore soil as well as the climate, could contribute to a heartier grain. This should come through during distillation, thereby creating a unique spirit whose DNA will consists of what he coins “hyper local quality.”

The first crops were planted this spring and there will be more than enough for the current production schedule. This is also where his background in solar energy is an added value as he plans to be a distillery that will have a net zero carbon footprint.

Caldera is already reaching beyond the Nova Scotia borders. Not only did Hurricane 5 garner two bronze medals from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in March, it also came home with a silver from the UK this past summer. Stuart believes that entering these large scale competitions is very important to small distilleries, such as his, as it puts his whisky in the hands of qualified judges who provide much needed feedback and also boosts the Canadian whisky category as a whole. He travelled to the UK this summer to be a presenter for Taste of Nova Scotia and was able to showcase Hurricane 5 on the international stage. This was truly a ground-breaking opportunity as most Canadian whiskies are not available overseas. As a result, it has the very distinct honour of being the only Canadian whisky that is front and centre for all official events at the Canadian Embassy in London, England. Hurricane 5 will be breaking into the very difficult American market this fall. Stuart is targeting New York because each state has its own regulations and something as simple as getting federal approval for a label can take up to six months. “They are ready for a new exciting Canadian whisky and I am confident Hurricane 5 will be very well received.”

This was truly a ground-breaking opportunity as most Canadian whiskies are not available overseas. As a result, it has the very distinct honour of being the only Canadian whisky that is front and centre for all official events at the Canadian Embassy in London, England. Hurricane 5 will be breaking into the very difficult American market this fall. Stuart is targeting New York because each state has its own regulations and something as simple as getting federal approval for a label can take up to six months. “They are ready for a new exciting Canadian whisky and I am confident Hurricane 5 will be very well received.”

Putting crops in this year was just the tip of the iceberg and Stuart foresees huge growth. His next step is to seek additional investment, starting with the people from the Maritimes. As Caldera makes its way west, south and across the Atlantic, he would love to see individuals from here enjoy Caldera’s ride and success as much as he is. The support that he has experienced thus far has been the driving force behind his accomplishments, and he would like to thank his loyal customers by providing them with an ownership opportunity. The new Scottish pot stills will be arriving soon (5500L and 3800L) and he was enthusiastic to share that he has started making a non-molasses based rum by using Panella, which is an unrefined sugar cane product from Columbia. It has been a fairly tricky experiment to get the fermentation period consistent, but he is patient and feels that he’s mastering the art of rum making. He’s very hopeful to see his rum on the NSLC shelves in about 12 to 18 months.

Stuart has worked diligently from his humble beginning as a project manager, constantly striving to reach the goals that have brought his family here. He is proud to be living in River John and very much looks forward to giving back to the community and province that has welcomed him with open arms.

As we finished the tour of the distillery, he reached out to shake hands and apologized for the field dirt he still had on his rubber boots, shirt and hands.

It was at that point that I realized that it is not just a distillery he is building on the North Shore, it’s also about a man who is grateful to be here and wants to create long lasting traditions that Maritimers will be proud to support and call their own. I raise my glass and toast Caldera Distilling, long may you run!

Next Week

We interview Dan Tullio, also known as the “Godfather of Whisky.”

Occasions Recommends

  • Caldera Hurricane 5 Whisky, 750 ml $33.99
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