Changes to Alberta’s distilling laws in 2013—there is no longer a minimum production requirement—spurred a number of craft distilleries to set up shop. Here are a few of the people behind Alberta’s thriving new industry.
Matthew Hendriks, master distiller at Park Distillery in Banff
A former bartender, Hendriks taught himself his trade and helped to start the world’s only craft distillery located inside of a national park. PARK opened in 2015 and has since won a host of national and international spirits awards.
Try this spirit: Park Glacier Rye
Made from Alberta rye grain, and glacier water from Banff National Park, the Park Glacier Rye has citrusy and earthy notes and is like a taste of the mountains.
Marko Cilic, Jordan Ramey and Ivan Cilic, co-founders at Burwood Distillery in Calgary
Founded by Ramey and the Bosnian-born Cilic brothers in 2016, Burwood takes inspiration from Eastern European and Scottish farm-style distilleries, using unique distilling techniques to create their spirits.
Try this spirit: The Honey Eau de Vie
This spirit is an homage to the Cilic’s heritage and is made from pure honey sourced from their father’s beehives—it makes the perfect celebratory drink.
Caitlin Quinn, master distiller at Eau Claire Distillery in Turner Valley
Quinn holds a master’s degree in brewing and distilling from Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University. She came to Alberta to work for Eau Claire (opened in 2014 by David Farran and Larry Kerwin) and has since helped make the province’s first single-malt whisky.
Try this spirit: The Prickly Pear EquineOx
This is a barley-based white spirit infused with the flavours of the prickly pear cactus (found throughout southern Alberta) and citrus.
Lindsay and Brad Smylie, head distiller (Brad) and co-founders at RAW Distillery in Canmore
Using largely local and fresh ingredients, husband-and-wife duo Brad, a firefighter, and Lindsay, a former business consultant, have created a unique lineup of spirits since opening RAW in 2017.
Try this spirit: Peppercorn Gin
Made from Tellicherry peppercorns, and bursting with flavour including green cardamom, the Peppercorn Gin was made with Canada’s favourite cocktail in mind; the Caesar.
Adam Smith, founder and master distiller at Strathcona Spirits Distillery in Edmonton
After a few years working at a brewery, Smith wanted a new challenge so he turned his underground music venue into a distillery. When Strathcona Spirits opened in 2016 it became the city’s first-ever distillery.
Try this spirit: Badland Seaberry Gin
The rich and refreshing Badland Seaberry Gin is made from 10 botanicals, including wild juniper grown in the Alberta Badlands and Seaberry, hand-picked within Edmonton’s city limits.
Rob Gugin, founder and head distiller at Old Prairie Sentinel Distillery in Lacombe
Nearly 16 years ago, Gugin reluctantly gave up his job as a brewer for a more fiscally responsible office job. But his love of brewing and distilling never went away and, in 2016, he returned to his passion, opening Old Prairie Sentinel.
Try this spirit: Premium Single Malt Vodka
The Premium Single Malt Vodka is made from 100-per cent locally sourced malted barley, giving it a sweetness and smoothness, perfect for sipping.
[This story appears in the August 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine]