August 18, 2020
At first glance, a distillery named after one of the monsters of the Mesozoic might seem a bit strange. But it turns out T-Rex Distillery is one of the more appropriate name choices for an Alberta craft spirits establishment.
“We took a family trip to visit the Royal Tyrell museum in Drumheller and saw this giant Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil they have there called ‘Black Beauty’—it’s one of the most well-preserved T-Rex fossils in the world,” recalls Felix Irnich, founder of T-Rex Distillery, “I just looked at it and thought we should use this since Alberta is the dinosaur capital of the world.”
All of T-Rex Distillery’s spirits are tied into the dinosaur theme. The company’s T-Rex Platinum Vodka is the headliner, while the newer Raptor Dark Rum is also now available at Calgary-area Co-op Wine Spirits Beer stores.
T-Rex Distillery is based in St. Albert, but Irnich’s family immigrated from Germany in 2007 and ran an eco-focused homebuilding company until 2015 when a devastating arson fire on one of their major job sites caused them to re-think their future.
“It was absolutely devastating to our company. My parents took it as a sign. It was time to try something else.”
The family had been making spirits for generations back in Europe, and Irnich’s mother had also apprenticed with an Italian gelato maker as a teenager. While Irnich was still in university the family decided to combine these two experiences and created what Irnich dubs ‘the world’s first ice cream distillery’.
Their company, DaVinci Gelato Originale Inc, was one of the first to make boozy gelatos under the Happy Hour Alcohol Gelato brand, with the family starting out in the frozen treat business, scooping gelato from a small trailer at the local farmer’s market. Eventually the business became so successful, the family knew they needed to expand. Irnich quit university, where he was studying commerce and sciences, to join the growing family empire where, perhaps not coincidentally, he was able to put both skills to work immediately.
“We already had a distillery set up to make the spirits for the gelato,” he explains. “We grew to be an international supplier of this gelato, so we thought it made sense to expand into also distilling craft spirits.”
T-Rex Platinum Vodka is made in the European style; fairly neutral in flavour and taste and also made from 100% Alberta grains, while the Raptor Dark Rum is what Irnich calls ‘Spaniard navy strength’.
“It's 50% alcohol, so we call it navy strength. It's actually it's a Spanish style rum and it’s very strong. When it comes to rum, we found the big distillers tend to strip away all the flavour of the sugarcane, but we like to preserve some of it for a natural sweetness.”
Find T-Rex Platinum Vodka and Raptor Dark Rum at Calgary Co-op Wine Spirits Beer.
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