April 9, 2019
Like many folks in Calgary’s burgeoning brewing and distilling industry, Ross Alger started out making his own libations at home. After watching his pals at university make beer, he decided to take things a step further, and try distilling his own vodka.
"Me and a friend took a pressure cooker, drilled the hole in the top, put a copper pipe on it and called it a still. And then we took some potatoes, put it in water, added yeast— and then we had moldy potato water,” laughs Alger, “Eventually we figured out how to ferment things. Finally we were able to create some pretty horrible moonshine. Over the last 10 years, I've been refining that.”
Alger is the founder of Confluence Distilling, makers of Confluence Manchester Dry Gin and Headwater Vodka, available at Co-op Wine Spirits Beer. He says Calgary is the only place he’s ever wanted to start his business, in part because his family has deep roots here.
“My grandfather was the mayor of Calgary in 1977,” explains Alger, “He was named Ross Alger too, and I’m named after him.”
Paying homage to his family is just one aspect of Confluence’s creation. Alger also chose the name as a nod to the meeting of Calgary’s Bow and Elbow rivers. But the local connections don’t stop there.
“We use Alberta flora for the botanicals in our gin, and all Alberta grain—it comes from Innisfail from a small farm there,” explains Alger, “In the gin that’s on the shelf at Co-op, we use Alberta-grown Saskatoon berries, Alberta wild rose. We have Alberta grown coriander and small amounts of Alberta grown juniper. We feature those flavours so that our gins are unique to the world because we're using flora that is unique to Alberta.”
Alger notes that he’s seeing a resurgence in interest in gin, and that customers are becoming adventurous when it comes to sampling local spirits.
“Originally gin was the kind of conventional London dry gin that we know is very simple. But the new wave of gin, ‘new western dry’ or ‘contemporary’ style gin, has this massive variety of flavours that you can play with and enjoy.”
Alger shares that he loves experimenting with distilling gin most of all because of the creativity involved.
“Gin has this huge range of what we can try. And so to me you get to paint with a larger palate than if you were to start distilling other spirits.”
Alger has come a long way from the mouldy potato water of his youth, having since gotten an education in distilling and spent time working in the industry, but he still retains his youthful enthusiasm for his profession.
“When I was making my own vodka at home, I thought that it be the greatest career in the entire world to work at or own a distillery in Alberta. Turns out it is.”
Confluence Distilling Tasting Notes:
Manchester Dry Gin
Our Gin is a crisp blend of handpicked botanicals, distilled in the Manchester district of Calgary. We delicately balance Juniper, Saskatoon Berries and Wild Rose, to impart subtle sweetness with floral notes. You won’t be overpowered by any crisp tastes, similar to what you find in a traditional London Dry. This isn’t your Grandfather’s Gin, but we’re sure he’d love it!
All of our fresh-picked botanicals are immediately distilled, to capture the freshness. We distill them individually to ensure the best possible flavour profile of each botanical, and carefully blend them to ensure each batch tastes exceptional, batch after batch.
Try it in a classic G&T, in your favourite cocktail, or on the rocks. We made our spirit versatile, perfect for any occasion.
Our Vodka is distilled from pure glacial waters and family grown Canada Prairie Spring Red Wheat, handcrafted with utmost precision. We believe that the best grains in the world are found right here in Alberta, which create some incredible tasting notes in a Vodka.
We carefully distill our Vodka to ensure the smoothest, purest spirit possible, free of any impurities. The Red Wheat does something special—it gives our Vodka a subtle sweetness and ensures no unwanted lingerings of impurities after a sip.
Headwater Vodka also has a subtle scent of Banana and Vanilla on the nose, with some palates noticing an aftertaste of cherry.
Some folks think that Vodka isn’t as much fun as other spirits, but to us, it is the beginning of an incredible new drink. Experiment boldly, and re-discover what fantastic craft Vodka can do.
The holidays can be an overwhelming time of year. Between gift buying, trip planning, gift wrapping and holiday gatherings, there is barely any time to breathe.
Let’s admit it—for many of us, one of the exciting things about the holidays is the opportunity to share fun and festive drinks with friends.
As you’re working away at your holiday shopping list, there’s always a few folks who are hard to buy for.