September 3, 2018
When some products write ‘harvested by hand’ or ‘family owned and operated’ on their labels, they’re reaching. But when it comes to Canmore’s RAW Distillery, they mean it.
Distilling is All in the Family at RAW
“We go out and hand pick the spruce for our gin ourselves. We actually go out and harvest it the day we distill it. We do family outings and take the kids with us and get them to pick the spruce tips,’ says Brad Smylie, head distiller and co-founder of RAW Distillery.
Smylie’s wife Lindsay is his partner in the distillery, which focuses on local ingredients, and unique flavour profiles. Their Botanical Gin, Peppercorn Gin and Rye are available at Co-op Wine Spirits Beer.
“We’re RAW distillery because we specialize in using raw Alberta grains,” explains Lindsay. “We really specialize in using rye as our choice grain. We’re passionate about what we do here in Canmore, using Alberta’s bounty and our glacier fresh water.”
Extracting Botanicals Individually
RAW uses a method called vapour pass infusion in crafting some of their spirits, which allows them to create spirits with individual and specific flavour profiles that are then blended together in just the right balance.
“This allows us to treat each botanical the way it needs to be treated. That’s very unique in the industry,” says Lindsay. “We work with one botanical at a time. We pick juniper and work with that…”
“…Or we’ll take lavender or coriander and derive those aromatics right out of them one at a time, then blend it to our specific recipe,” adds Brad.
Making the Leap from Hobby to Business
Brad had been home brewing beer for more than a decade when he and Lindsay decided to make the leap into craft spirits. He still works as a firefighter, while Lindsay left a job in consulting to start RAW.
Even as relative newcomers to the distilling industry, they’re already winning awards for their spirits.
RAW’s Un-aged Rye won Best in Class in Alberta, and Best in Class in Canada, plus a Bronze at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. RAW’s Peppercorn Gin won a Gold Medal at a Canadian competition, and a Silver at the San Francisco event.
Worldwide Recognition for Alberta
“Alberta is getting international recognition for its spirits,” enthuses Brad. Adds Lindsay, “with distilleries here able to source some of the best grains in the world in our back yard it’s no wonder our industry is getting recognized. And we’re looking forward to Alberta being even better known for its spirits.”
Not a couple to rest on their laurels—or their spruce tips—they’re continuing to experiment, looking for the next amazing flavour for their spirits.
Says Lindsay, “Right now we’re at a lot of different farmers markets and making amazing connections. We’re starting to do some experiments and collaborations with other local producers. We’re doing some experiments with chocolate right now, and so far that’s turning out great.”
The RAW Distillery team is excited about their partnership with Co-op Wine Spirits Beer.
“What I love about Co-op is that Co-op pays attention to local,” explains Lindsay. “Co-op helps local suppliers and really promotes us and encourages us, and is helping to really educate customers about what’s available and promoting opportunities to try local products.”
Find RAW Distillery products at your neighbourhood Co-op Wine Spirits Beer.
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