Lethbridge, the home of the Black Velvet, is not far from the US border but there’s no doubt: Black Velvet is a Canadian whisky, not to say one of the most famous Canadian whiskeys in whole America. The very modern distillery in the south of the Canadian province of Alberta is surrounded by fields with rye and corn and situated at the edge of the Rocky Mountains - best conditions for whiskey production!
|Information about the Distillery|
It’s not only whiskey that’s produced here at the Black Velvet distillery, but if a distillery is named after one of its products it obviously plays a very big role. The Black Velvet Whisky is indeed the main brand of the distillery. Two classic blends make up the core range and they have been supplemented by some new flavored additions recently.
Black Velvet Whiskey (without age statement, but assumed to be three years) and the Black Velvet Reserve (8 years) are two blends that are smooth and fruity in character on the one hand but also provided with very spicy notes, caramel, butter and nuts on the other. This bride aroma profile is due to the whiskys that form this blend, corn as well as rye grains. But opposite to other blends the spirit is not blended after being matured and ready to be bottled, but at the distillation.
Releases like the Black Velvet Toasted Caramel or the Black Velvet Cinnamon Rush Flavored Whiskey have the finger on the pulse of the time: Those flavored whiskys have conquered the US market in the last years.
The Black Velvet Distillery is a very modern and fully automated production area with an immense output. This automation was already installed 1991. It can be read for example that every week eight to ten rail carloads of corn arrive. Production process is extremely efficient and the company is proud to “extract every last bit of alcohol from the starch”.
The production here at Black Velvet Distillery goes from grain to barrels which are stored here in the warehouses. After maturation the whiskey for Canada is bottled here directly, but a large majority, about 85 %, leaves for California and Kentucky, where most of the bottling is done to sell the Black Velvet on the US market. Close to 100 tanker carloads are shipped there every year, one of them equal to 100.000 liters: Black Velvet is the second bestselling Canadian whiskey in the US after Crown Royal.
Former known as “Black Label”, the name of the brand was changed to Black Velvet end of 1940s on behalf of Master Distiller Jack Napier. The black label stayed, but the taste has gained center stage. Napier also was the head behind the new blending method that since 1951 has made the Black Velvet Whiskey special: Blending at distillation, not after maturation.
To that time Black Velvet was produced in Quebec at Schenley Industries. The brand Black Velvet was sold to Grand Metropolitan in 1987, to Diageo in 1997 and further on to Constellation Brands (to that time still named Canandaigua Brands) in 1999.
The distillery here in Lethbridge was established in 1973. When Constellation decided to concentrate all its whiskey production in 2009, it renamed the former Palliser Distillery to Black Velvet Distillery.
There’s no visitor center at the Black Velvet Distillery and no tours are offered.