The story of James Dun-Waters lives on at a Vernon distillery with an award-winning whisky

Laird of Fintry lives on

For July and August, the Vernon Museum will share a series of articles that explore some of the many heritage sites around the North Okanagan. To plan a visit to any of the sites featured, click here.

In March 2020, Vernon’s Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery received a gold medal for their Laird of Fintry Single-Malt Whisky at the World Spirit Awards in Austria.

The celebrated distillery releases this product only once a year through a lottery process. Although the whisky itself is obviously in high demand, the story behind its unique name is less well-known.

Who was the Laird of Fintry?

He was James Cameron Dun-Waters. Dun-Waters was raised in Scotland, and at the age of 22, inherited a significant amount of money.

This fortune brought him to Canada to pursue his interest in hunting. In 1909, he was exploring a delta along the west side of Okanagan Lake known as Shorts’ Point when he decided this was where he wanted to settle.

A year later, he had purchased the land and renamed it “Fintry” after his hometown in Scotland. Here he remained for 31 years.

Dun-Waters had a great love of the outdoors, and was an avid hunter and athlete. His particular passion was for curling, and rinks in all parts of the province came to know the Laird’s gusty voice and buoyant personality.

Up until the day of his passing, Dun-Waters served as the president of the curling club in Fintry, Scotland. He also had a great interest in Ayrshire cattle, and cultivated his own award-winning herd.

Dun-Waters was an active community member, and was involved with the CPR, the BC Fruit Growers Association and the Armstrong Interior Provincial Exhibition. He was married twice, first to Alice Orde, who died in 1924, and then to Margaret Menzies.

He also served overseas during the First World War.

When Dun-Waters’ health began to fail, and with no heir to inherit his property, he sold his estate at Fintry to the Fairbridge Farm School system for $1.

Dun-Waters died on Oct. 16, 1939.

But what is his connection to whisky?

Dun-Waters was a lover of the drink, and around 1910, had a special batch of scotch sent to him in Canada all the way from his native Scotland.

The Okanagan Spirit’s creation uses a replica of the label that adorned these earlier bottles, and Dun-Waters’ story lives on.

Gwyn Evans is the community engagement co-ordinator with the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives.

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