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Five Distilleries To Watch in Alberta

Spirits are high in Alberta, with the distillation scene not only booming across the province, but fast-gaining solid international recognition for excellence.

Honestly it is about time; the prairie-heavy land has long been known for its grains. Wheat is the largest yield crop in the province, and Alberta grows more barley than any country in the Western hemisphere, with plenty of it exported to Scotland for their own spirit-making endeavors. Tired of playing second fiddle to Europe and the United States, the past ten years has seen a veritable boom in distillation out west, extending the narrative of Canadian spirits far beyond the well-trodden realms of rye whisky.

These five Alberta distilleries are making waves with their commitment to using locally sourced ingredients to produce uniquely captivating flavors:

Anohka Distillery  –  Parkland County

Did you know that there is a fledgling distillery 40 kilometers outside of Edmonton that recently took home the punchy title of “World’s Best New Make & Young Spirit” at the World Whiskies Awards in London?

Anohka Distillery is Alberta’s newest “farm to flask” distillery, having opened in December of 2021, fast becoming one of the most exciting spirit producers in the country. Spearheaded by physicist-turned-lawyer-turned-distiller(!), Gurpreet Ranu, Anohka not only grows and harvests their own barley, they also have their own peat bog, allowing for the production of smokey sips that are usually stylistically associated with the Scottish island of Islay.

The spirit that has tongues aflame is the “This is Not Whisky”, a heavily peated “single malt spirit” that can’t legally be termed whisky in Canada until it has been aged for three years. Nonetheless, the revered whisky-like spirit beat off competition from Scotland, Ireland, Japan and the US to win the coveted accolade.

Romero Distillery, Calgary

Drawing from the (largely untold) history of rum-running in Western Canada, Romero Distillery is inspired by prohibition “hero”, Emperor Pic. Entrepreneur Emilio Picariello pushed rum through the tight and treacherous Rocky Mountain passes from Alberta into British Columbia and down into the United States, keeping thirsty Americans satiated. In the spirit of a gangster Robin Hood, he then redistributed his ill-gotten cash back into the community, a practice that Romero is undertaking, albeit within the confines of the law this time!

Using Glacier-fed water from the eastern slopes of Alberta’s Rockies and distilling in a Canadian-made copper pot still, Romero Distillery has become the largest producer of newly-made rum across the country, with a slew of accolades and awards to their name. Their Dark Rum, for example, took home a gold at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Wild Life Distillery – Canmore

Ensconced in the rugged rocky mountains, Canmore’s Wild Life Distillery is more than just a local treasure. Opening in 2017 and crafting an appealing range of small-batch gins (including the butterfly pea-infused Rundle Bar Gin in collaboration with Fairmont Banff Springs), as well as a vodka made from unmalted wheat in Alberta, an amaro and a newly-released award-winning range of whiskies made from 100% locally grown grains, Wild Life is staking a claim in the future of Canadian spirits.

Recently upgrading their distillation space, Wild Life is primed and ready to up-production while continuing to experiment with delicious new flavours.

Last Best – Calgary

An inner-city brewery and distillery, Last Best draws its name from the 1800’s Canadian government propaganda campaign “Last Best West”,  aimed at ensnaring new settlers to Alberta, dubbing the fertile land the “last best” chance in the world for homesteaders to lay down their roots. Fast forward a few hundred years – the spot on 11th Avenue is now brewing beer as well as producing a core range of three international award-winning gins: First Love London Dry Gin, Afterglow Contemporary Gin, and Fortunella Classic Gin.

With a touch of irony, due to City of Calgary fire regulations, Last Best is very likely to be the last distillery anywhere close to the downtown core, making it a historical gem in its own right.

Last Best also had a hand in the newly released Maligne Range Tekarra whisky, finally bottled after an eight year effort, in collaboration with Kensington Wine Market. Maligne Range is set to become the first distillery in Jasper National Park, also promising an accompanying “high-end” restaurant onsite. We are, of course, keeping our ears to the ground for further information.

True Wild Distillery – Calgary

True Wild has yet to open its doors, but we are already (heavy emphasis) very excited. Why? Because it is the latest venture of Albertan distillation king, Bryce Parsons. Parsons made headlines in 2018 for distilling 52 different gins in one year out of Last Best and is now not only aiding in the distillation efforts at Maligne Range, but is opening a brand new Calgary-based distillery out of one of the city’s oldest former power stations.

True Wild claims to be “on a mission to revolutionize the global perception of Canadian spirits” and will produce “Canadian single malts, expressive blends, premium vodka and gin that will illuminate the senses.” We await with bated breath.

 Rebecca Felgate