After nearly a year of battling red tape with city hall, Edmonton’s first distillery is finally open to the public.
“It’s been a very long road and it’s very exciting now that we’re finally able to engage with the community,” Strathcona Spirits owner Adam Smith said Friday. “Finally, our doors are open.”
Strathcona Spirits — located at 10122 – 81 Ave. — has been producing alcoholic spirits for nearly a year, but municipal bylaws kept the distillery from opening to the public and selling its products.
“There was a rule you can’t sell alcohol within 500 metres of another liquor store,” Smith explained.
Arguing that the distillery wasn’t a typical liquor store, Strathcona Spirits appealed the decision and lost. However, Smith said city council acknowledged their struggle and earlier this year, the bylaw was loosened to allow the distillery to open to the public.
Fast forward to this weekend and the distillery is open for business.
“It’s really great to make the transition from having launched a little over a year ago,” Smith said of welcoming people into the distillery.
“It’s great to be able to have people walk in and see the quirky stuff we’re doing in here and learn the history of the area and the building.”
Not only is Strathcona Spirits the city’s first distillery, at less than 800-square-feet, it’s the smallest distillery in North America.
“Everything here is designed to work in a very small space,” Smith explained.
The equipment and products have been brought in from around the world — a bottle filler from Italy, a filter from France and a custom-built still from the Ozark Mountains in southeast Missouri.
But the distillery hasn’t forgotten its roots — there are plenty of locally sourced ingredients. The juniper for the gin comes from along the banks of the Red Deer River near Drumheller. The region was also the inspiration for the label on the gin bottle.
And if you live in south Edmonton, you may even see Smith picking sea buckthorn berries.
“That comes from all over Edmonton. It might have come out of your backyard if you live in the Southgate area. I was out on 111 Street picking them the other day.”
Smith is passionate about distilling. Before opening the distillery he toured facilities in the United States and Mexico to learn the process. He’s beyond thrilled to be able to share his product with the community and see where the business can go from here.
“You look at what happens in communities that have these artismal breweries and distilleries, it’s enriching part of the community, there’s engagement,” he said. “It’s great for communities.”
Right now, Strathcona Spirits is selling vodka and gin, with plans to bring whisky on board in the next few years. Smith’s product is also available in some restaurants and boutique liquor store in Edmonton and Calgary.