It is not every day that a new vodka hits the liquor store shelves, and certainly not one that is fabricated using only (100%) ingredients from Alberta. The bad news is Ginger and Nutmeg missed the grand opening party. The good news the Wild Life Distillery is nearby, in Canmore.
The distillery’s founders Matt Widmer and Keith Robinson are both Bow Valley locals. Widmer grew-up in Banff and Robinson in Canmore, their connection, like many residents, was snow and sport related – in this case, cross-country skiing events.
It might seem strange for graduates of Kinesiology (Widmer) and Business Administration and Marketing (Robinson) to join forces, but they both appear to be driven by entrepreneurial forces. In the summer of 2014, they shook hands on the slightly crazy idea of opening a distillery in Canmore, and the Wild Life Distillery began to take shape.
Nutmeg asked how the concept came together. According to Widmer,
“I have had an interest in distilled spirits since 2010. While living in Tofino, I would chat with a friend (MBA graduate) on a weekly basis about business ideas and options for future entrepreneurial goals. Distilleries were just starting to be a thing on Vancouver Island around then, and it sparked my interest. Why were there no small distilleries in Alberta? I travelled to Chicago in 2011 to take a spirits course and learn about the industry. Then after some investigation with the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC), I discovered that there were extremely high production minimums to grant access to a class-E manufacturing license. So basically, you had to produce 250,000 litres of absolute alcohol to get a license, which clearly prohibited any small distillery from considering starting up. It was then in the summer of 2014 that the AGLC changed the licensing structure, and dropped this huge minimum to zero.”
This was the game-changer that they needed.
“The distilling industry is full of big bucks and big dreams. Keith and I had to find ways to achieve the big dreams without spending too many $$. “
And, sure enough starting a new venture is not easy…
Probably the most difficult part of opening this business was getting permission from the municipality to renovate and acquire our building permit. This involved months of planning, navigating the building and fire codes, and countless meetings with the town to finally arrive at a mutually acceptable solution. Only then, could the space be renovated to suit the production requirements. Determining and finalising equipment needs took months of research and hours of commissioning once it was all installed.
The Wild Life Distillery facility is now fully operational and open to the public Wednesday through Saturday from 12 to 8 pm. Drop by for a tour (at 3 pm), enjoy a cocktail or buy a bottle of local vodka to take home.
Can you tell our readers about the Wild Life Vodka?
We use all Alberta ingredients for our vodka. The grains are raw hard, red wheat and malted barley. We mill, mash, ferment, distill, bottle and label every drop of every bottle on site. It is 100% locally produced, and we are proud to be able to do so here in Canmore. From ‘grain to bottle’ the process is around two (2) weeks. We use Canmore ground water for blending, and the resulting spirit is clean, smooth and authentically Albertan.
Where can readers find your Wild Life Vodka locally?
Stores: Liquor Depot Canmore, Cellar Door, Rusty’s Liquor and Unwined at 3 Sisters
Restaurants: Where the Buffalo Roam, The Drake Pub, Hogshead Pub, and The Hive Gallery
Stores: Liquor Depot Banff, Side-Street Liquor, Town House Liquor, Tunnel Mt. Liquor
Restaurants: Ticino Swiss-Italian Restaurant, Melissa’s Restaurant, The Bison Restaurant, Park Distillery, The Block Bar/Restaurant and The Banff Park Lodge
What is Next up on your list of spirits to be produced?
Gin. We should be ready with gin within several weeks, and then from there, we will likely do a flavoured vodka for summer.
Wild Life Distillery
160 -105 Bow Meadows Crescent
Canmore, AB T1W2W8