W&A Gilbey Distillery
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It was Charles Douglas, also known as “CP” that first suggested that Gilbey’s Distillery from England be built in Canada. Charles Douglas was from London and a representative of Gilbey’s in West Africa and West Indies. He married a Canadian girl and had a son named Robert S. Douglas who was a previous general sales manager of the Gilbey’s Canadian company.
W and A Gilbey (Canada) was formed in 1931 and opened in the late summer of 1933. The original plant was built on a 3-acre site and had employed 50 employees from New Toronto. In 1936, additional buildings were built to accommodate its increasing business.
Other than Gilbey’s original product such as Smirnoff Vodka, Gilbey’s London Dry Gin, and Gilbey’s Spey Royal Scotch, the New Toronto plant also produced original whiskies and rums such as Gilbey’s Black Velvet and Governor General Rums that gained popularity nationwide. By the 1960s, Gilbey’s Gin was the largest selling Gin in Canada.
Today, there is no sign of the more than 3-acre distillery district in the area. The former Gilbey site was eventually sold to the board of education and now houses different types of establishments: the Lakeshore Collegiate Institute and the Ford Performance Centre, formerly known Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence which serves as the official practice location for the Toronto Maple Leafs.