Meet Paul Allamby, one of the founders of Levenswater, one of the best new Canadian gins to hit the market. This year, it won a double gold and silver at the SIP Awards in California, as well as Best Non-European Compound Gin at the Gin Guide Awards in London, UK.
While there are a few Levenswater products available, we recommend starting with the Levenwater Spring 34, a beautiful dry gin that's pink—yes, a very pretty pale pink colour.
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."
"And there are amazing gins coming in from everywhere, Italy, Malta, Germany, Australia, Holland—not just the British Isles. I’m excited about some of the superb gins out of BC and Quebec too. I want to break down the barriers and open up more eyes, tastebuds and olfactory glands!
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. I’ve also created four different seasonal variants that will each come to market representing spring/summer, fall, winter and Christmas. I actually created Christmas first, but it will launch last. All of them have seasonally based botanicals."
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.