Quite some months after the fact, I reckoned that it was high time to bring to the ‘net my visit to the Prince Edward Distillery on Canada’s Prince Edward Island.
Though the distillery was not on my official Canadian Tourism Commission itinerary – through whose good offices I had gotten to PEI in the first place – my ever genial and accommodating PEI guide, Grant, kindly acceded to my hopeful requests and – despite a lot of miles and a lack of time – got me to the distillery on the last day of my visit to the island, where I met the delightful Julie Shore, craft distiller and one half of the couple behind the production of Canada’s first potato vodka.
Well, do ya?
18lbs of potatoes in one bottle. Weighty stuff, this potato vodka.
Julie Shore was talking me through the process of making potato vodka at the small Prince Edward Distillery that she established in 2008 with her partner Arla Johnson in Hermanville, in the north east of the island. “Our distillery is about distilling the agriculture here on PEI,” said Julie, “and the number one crop is potatoes. That being said, potatoes are the hardest thing to distill – a potato is 80% water, so it takes a lot of potatoes to make a bottle of vodka. My colleagues look at me like I’m crazy to do it.”
Essence of island agriculture: PEI potato vodka
They say we produce the most potatoes per person in the world.
So Stanley MacDonald commented casually as we sat in the café at Prince Edward Island‘s potato museum, munching through cinnamon rolls (which, needless to remark, featured a little added potato in the dough). With 145,000 residents on PEI and a production of around 1.1 million tonnes annually, the assertion sounded perfectly plausible – an output of 7.5+ tonnes per person is a whole lot of spuds in anyone’s book.
With production in such quantities and with potatoes such an integral part of island life, it’s no great surprise that PEI should be home to a potato museum, one of the few in the world – reason enough for yours truly, and for the generally spud inclined, to visit. Head ‘up west’ to the community of O’Leary in the heart of PEI potato territory and you’ll find it – a giant spud marks the spot.
A rather big spud marks the entrance to the Canadian Potato Museum on Prince Edward Island.
Sure what else would you have?
PEI, it’s potato country here – it’s a big part of who we are as an island, a big part of who we are as a culture
Kendra Mills, Marketing Director, PEI Potato Board
The first thing, the very first thing that Grant, my endlessly amiable guide did when I landed on Prince Edward Island – before lunch, before a cup of tea, even – was to whisk me off to the offices of the PEI Potato Board. He explained later that, while he had escorted many visitors around the island, each with their own agenda, I was the first he had encountered with quite such a singular focus on spuds. And I wondered – as a dedicated potatophile might – why that would be, for here on PEI – potato capital of Canada, Idaho of the north – there is an awful lot for the spud-minded to see.
First stop, the PEI Potato Board