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Julie Shore and Arla Johnson- Halifax’s “spirited” couple

With roots in North Carolina, Julie Shore and Arla Johnson fell in love with Canada nine years ago, and have brought an entrepreneurial spirit and their love of fine spirits to downtown Halifax.

Business and life partners, in 1997 Julie and Arla came to the Maritimes and first fell in love with PEI. Julie, a dental hygienist and Arla, a psychologist, decided to leave their jobs behind and build an Inn in eastern PEI. Soon after, Julie started thinking about the business of her ancestors in North Carolina – distilling whiskey, apple brandy and bourbon.  Julie's great, great, great grandfather was I.C. Shore, a Master Distiller. With PEI potatoes everywhere, Julie decided to open a distillery producing potato vodka.

With distilling in her blood, Julie set out to become a Master Distiller. She has taken  a distilling course at Cornell University and yeast-making courses in Montreal and France.  They opened the Prince Edward Distillery, distilling potato vodka, gin and blueberry vodka from local ingredients in small batches. She and Arla travel the world visiting distilleries and learning more about the art of fine distilling.

With the Prince Edward Distillery firmly established, Julie and Arla saw an opportunity to launch a flagship craft distillery in downtown Halifax. The Halifax Distilling Co. opened in July 2016.

Given the long tradition of rum being a staple in Nova Scotia, and their love of the character and atmosphere of downtown Halifax, the couple saw the opportunity that they couldn’t pass up.  Today, the Halifax Distilling Co. has quickly become a can’t-miss venue on the Halifax waterfront.

As women, Julie and Arla are proud to carry on the tradition of handcrafted spirits in a small-batch copper still. After all, women created the first still, beer, and single malt scotch.

The Halifax Distilling Co. not only crafts locally distilled rum, but offers a production tour of the facility, a tasting bar and a retail store to help share Arla and Julie’s passion for fine crafted spirits

Left: Arla, Right: Julie

A Family Tradition - I.C. Shore

Distilling is in the blood of Julie, our master distiller. In the 1890s and 1900’s distilleries were common in North Carolina. The I.C. Shore & Co. distillery was located in Yadkin County, North Carolina and owned by Julie’s great, great, great, grandfather, Irvin Calvin Shore, known as I.C. He was a master distiller, making whiskey from corn or rye. His distillery was particularly known for the attractive ceramic jugs in which the whiskey was sold.

In 1903 the North Carolina legislature attempted to appease Prohibitionist forces by passing a law which required all distilleries to operate in incorporated towns.  Some distilleries closed. However, I.C. and three other distillers decided to incorporate, and so the Town of Shore, NC was born.  They assigned a post office, choose a mayor and alderman, and wrote bylaws and ordinances. After that, those attractive ceramic whiskey jugs for I.C. Shore & Co. all prominently displayed their origin as “Shore, N.C.”

However, continued local opposition to whiskey making in the early 1900s threatened the distillery and led I.C. Shore & Co to open a second distillery in Rocky Mount, NC. Finally, in 1909 NC adopted a statewide Prohibition and I.C. Shore & Co. moved operations to Petersburg VA. When statewide prohibition was adopted in Virginia in 1916, I.C. Shore moved his operations again, this time to Jacksonville FL. In 1911 the NC state assembly revoked the incorporation of the town of Shore. The ceramic jugs are the only reminder of the Town of Shore that once lived because of whiskey. By 1920, with Prohibition in full swing, I.C. Shore had moved on to other professional pursuits. He died in 1953, at the age of 83.

Although the I.C. Shore & Co. company is no longer in operation, the tradition of small batch, fine crafted spirits has been continued by Irvin Calvin’s descendant, Julie. The I.C. Shore line of fine spirits at the Halifax Distilling Co. is a tribute to that family tradition.