When we catch up with Kevin Titcomb, the head distiller at DEVINE Distillery, it’s the morning after he’s released the Glen Saanich Single Malt Batch #7 and the day before he starts harvesting his grapes. In between, he’s been juggling the operations side of the business, too.
Titcomb is one busy guy, and he couldn’t be happier.
“I absolutely love it,” he says. ”It’s even been great just moving from Vancouver to the Island.”
Just a couple of years ago, he was working in development and construction on the mainland. His wife, Kirsten, meanwhile, was helping her parents run the business side of the winery they owned on the Saanich Peninsula, with an able assist from expert winemaker and distiller Ken Winchester. “He convinced my father-in-law to purchase a still and get into that side of it. That was in 2014,” Titcomb says.
DEVINE quickly became known for its high-quality, small-batch, handcrafted spirits and Kirsten, her parents and Winchester began urging Titcomb to join the family firm.
In 2020, he finally did. “It seemed a refreshing change,” he says. “It was an opportunity to get involved with a distillery and work with someone I could learn from on the fly.” Besides, he says, “Even when I was in construction, I always enjoyed working with my hands and I loved deep diving into all the spirit categories and the raw ingredients.”
That same year, the pandemic forced them to shut their tasting room and, with their only outlet for wine sales gone, the winery, too. Meanwhile, they got into hand sanitizer and sales soared. At the end of the year, Winchester retired, and later, Kirsten stepped back to focus on her education, leaving Titcomb in charge of both production and operations.
Meanwhile, the accolades keep rolling in — most recently, DEVINE’s Ancient Grains won Spirit of the Year at the 2022 Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition — and Titcomb is experimenting with new projects. “I’ve put a real focus on our whisky program,” he says. That includes new cask finishes, a cask-strength release and a three-year-old Ancient Grains that, for the first time, can officially be called a whisky.
He’s also been quietly working with Victoria bartender Shawn Soole to develop a cocktail-friendly brandy from all those grapes he’s harvesting. “We definitely have some fun stuff in the works here,” Titcomb says. “We have the flexibility to go beyond our annual single malt release.”