August 7, 2018
It might seem unusual to draw parallels between working a drilling rig in Alberta’s oil patch and distilling liquor, but as it turns out, they’re not so different.
“There are a lot of things that I learned working on the rigs that I use in my day to day management of a distillery,” muses Keith Robinson, founder of Wild Life Distillery, “In terms of fluids, fluid dynamics, a lot of mechanical operations. I didn't expect to be using those skills anywhere else.”
Robinson and co-founder Matt Widmer started Wild Life Distillery in 2014 with a handshake and a promise, but it would be several more years before they’d have any fluid flowing.
The duo took time to get a crash education in the craft distilling world, hitting the road for Scotland where they took a hands-on whisky making course at a craft distillery in Perthshire. They also spent a day at the iconic Islay distillery, Bruichladdich, where former Master Distiller, Jim McEwan took them under his wing.
“The biggest lesson we learned there was not rush things; that things take time and slower is better than faster. The more time you take, the more attention to detail you can ensure, and ultimately the better product quality that you can offer,” explains Robinson.
After spending several weeks in Scotland, including surfing the North Sea and spending a night in a bothy (basic wilderness shelter once used by shepherds), sipping whisky they’d been given straight from Bruichladdich’s barrels, they were ready to get to work back home in Alberta.
“Alberta is home to both Matt and I,” says Robinson. “We have amazing water running from the Rocky Mountain slopes here, and the grain that is being produced in Alberta is world class. Traditionally, Alberta has been exporting a lot of our grain to Scotland to make Scotch Whisky. Now, Matt and I having the opportunity to use these great ingredients locally is very special. It just makes sense for us to live, support, create, and to help grow an economy in a place that can support us too.”
The doors finally opened at the distillery in Canmore, January 2017, and interest was instant from locals, and international tasters.
“We actually just won a Gold Medal for our Vodka at the Sip Awards—an international spirit competition hosted in the U.S.— and that was really, really cool, to see that recognition on an international level. Our Gin won Double Gold Medal at that same competition. We have had amazing support from our local community and fans from day one. It was huge however, to see some recognition from an international competition panel, no doubt."
Having their products carried in Co-op Wine Spirits Beer has allowed Wild Life to reach more new customers, faster.
“Co-op has been very supportive and they’ve been very focused on working with all of the local distilleries to give each distillery a chance. That’s allowed us to increase our customer awareness around craft spirits. That kind of support for Alberta-produced products has been amazing.”
Wild Life Vodka
Wild Life craft vodka is made from all Alberta grain. Expect hints of vanilla on the nose from the main ingredient: red wheat. It’ll taste sweet and buttery with up with a complex yet smooth character.
Wild Life Gin
Wild Life craft gin is all about balance. With juniper and citrus notes that pop out of the glass, alongside fresh lemon, coriander, pepper and blood orange expect a flurry of aromatic botanicals.
Find Wild Life vodka and gin at your local Calgary Co-op Wine Spirits Beer location.
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