Imagine sampling some locally-produced single malt whisky and then strolling next door for a drink with friends in Masham. Maybe you’ll do a little shopping, browsing products made by local artisans. This is the vision of La Pêche resident Benoit Charron for the former Knights of Christopher Columbus building located at 6 Ch. Guertin in Masham.
Charron described himself as a big single malt fan. He joked that, “my grandfather used to make gin illegally. Maybe it’s just in my blood!”
Charron works in real estate in the area and said that in the wintertime things really slow down. In the slow times he said he got to thinking about creating a distillery and took steps to develop his expertise in the field. He certified with the Institut Brassicole du Quebec and received a general certificate in distilling from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in the U.K.
He said he envisions beginning by producing gin, liqueurs and possibly other unaged or shortly aged products. Single malt whisky and rum are also in the plans but take longer to produce.
Charron said he’s interested in sourcing ingredients from local producers whenever possible, such as fruits and botanicals, but explained that using local grain producers as suppliers won’t be possible since a distillery needs malted grain, which is a step he wouldn’t have the capacity for.
He added that he’s hoping to create a production distillery with a tasting room and bottle sales on site. He also has plans for a bar and shop, but cautioned that he will have to see what the municipality will approve.
With regard to tourists, Charron noted that, currently, a lot of people come through Masham, but there is really no reason to stop.
La Pêche Ward 3 Coun. Francis Beausoleil agrees. He pointed out that Masham is the north entrance to Gatineau Park with its attractions like Lac Philippe and the Lusk Caves. According to him it’s not a question of attracting people to the area, but rather giving them a reason to stop and spend some time in the quiet little village.
“A little distillery; it’s trending,” said Beausoleil. “It’s not a new concept, but it’s new for the area, and I think that’s going to be a good change for Masham.”
Charron cautioned that the project is still in its preliminary stages. In July, La Pêche council pre-approved the idea of using the PPCMOI (Special project for the construction, modification or occupation of a building) process as a way to cut through bureaucratic red tape. La Pêche Mayor Guillaume Lamoureux explained that this process is a useful tool for council to support projects that the municipality feels will be an asset to the area. It avoids spot zoning and allows the municipality to grant a right in a zone for a specific project. At La Pêche council’s Sept. 6 meeting, the request to use this process was formally approved, moving Charron one step closer to realizing his distillery dream.
When asked about the scope of the project, Charron stated that because the project is still in the planning phase, he wasn’t sure what the investment costs would amount to or how many jobs could be created once the distillery opens, but commented that the municipality had been a great help and support to him so far.