What’s your preferred method of consuming your spirits?
I’m a traditionalist, so usually just straight up. With the vodka, we serve it in our tasting room at 4 degrees Celsius, which is fridge temperature. With a sipping vodka, you don’t want it to be super cold. Otherwise it totally takes the aroma and flavor out of the spirit. Cooling it down a bit takes the edge off the alcohol. So we find 4 degrees is a nice balance. Sipping it a little bit warmer than that, say cellar temperature, a little bit of the flavor comes through and the aroma comes through more strongly. You just need to be a little more used to sipping spirits straight, drinking them at those types of temperatures. With whisky, especially single malts, I always drink them at room temperature, neat.
What was the first batch of vodka that you produced? When was it?
We started distilling almost exactly two years ago today. It was early June, 2009, and it was stressful. It turned out surprisingly well. We basically put two test batches together. We weren’t exactly sure, with the sipping vodka route, we weren’t sure how much flavor to keep in the vodka. We still have a little bit of spirit left from our early batches. It is quite different from what we actually decided to release to the market. That first batch, it’s very smooth, and it’s very nice to drink. I actually prefer to sip it straight. It’s very smooth, but the flavor is quite a bit stronger than the typical vodka you would find. We let restaurants and bartenders taste it, and we also went to people we knew at liquor stores and let people sample it. The feedback was that it was good, but too flavorful, that the market really wasn’t ready for such a flavorful vodka. Our test batch mostly most went to samples that people tried, then we decided to refine it a little bit more. What we’re producing now is a little less flavorful, but still more flavorful than the typical vodka you’d find on shelves.
Do you work much with bartenders and mixologists?
We do for sure. Our marketing strategy is really a one-on-one, face-to-face. We go and meet with a lot of people and do a lot of tastings, and go to a lot of food and wine tastings, if they’ll let us in there. We’re constantly meeting with a lot of restaurateurs and definitely bartenders. We have quite a good following that likes to use our vodka because it is a sipping vodka. We found that we found a lot of bartenders have moved away from vodka based cocktails, because they find it to be a little boring. Vodka doesn’t add a lot to it. With our sipping vodka, they see it as a bit of an ingredient that does have a little bit of character to it, so they can use it in cocktails. That’s been really good for us.
What was one example of a cocktail collaboration that’s impressed you?
We’ve worked a lot with Lauren Mote, who works at The Refinery in Vancouver. She’s a pretty highly regarded mixologist, and she’s done some really nice cocktails. One of the first ones that she ever did with our vodka, that I tasted, which is probably still one of my favorites that she’s done – she produces her own bitters and poaches different fruits in spirits. She did a cocktail, which was our vodka with Concord grapes that had been poached in brandy. It was quite a simple drink. It didn’t have too much in it to mask the flavor of our vodka, but it had really nice flavor it. The called it the Flight of the Concord.
Where and what do you like to drink when you’re not working?
Often at the end of the day, when I get out of here, I like to go home and have a beer to kind of take me away from the distilling end of things, but often during the summertime, I’ll serve our vodka on the rocks with just a twist of lemon in there. I find in the summertime it’s a nice, refreshing drink. The ice dilutes the vodka a little bit. You can still pick up the flavor. It’s kind of a toss up between that and a beer.
A beer that you’ve made?
To be totally honest, it’s been a few months. When we get into potatoes, then we have a little bit of time where we go flat-out, so I don’t have a lot of time to brew beer during potato production, but we’ve probably got a week left until we’re done with potatoes. I’m going to have to schedule a batch of beer in pretty quickly.