Spirited Away

B.C.’s oldest craft distillery has made an international impact.

Contributed photo.

At the grand old age of 11, Okanagan Spirits is the oldest craft distillery in the province. That may make it a relative newbie on the international scene, but it hasn’t stopped the world from paying it serious attention.

Since its inception in 2004, the family-owned and operated Okanagan business has twice been named Distillery of the Year at the annual World Spirits Awards, and two years ago became the first and only one of its kind in North America to be given a “world class” rating.

“We recognize as a business, we are not really a new business, but as a distillery we are exceptionally young,” says marketing director Rodney Goodchild. “We’re still learning and we’re still growing.”

That growth, including a second, 16,000 square-foot facility in Vernon, came after the notoriously restrictive B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch finally loosened up their rules a bit.

“When we first started, the industry just didn’t allow growth or encourage growth,” Goodchild explains. “Back then we didn’t have distribution—we weren’t allowed distribution—because it was controlled purely by the board. We couldn’t get access to the markets so we had to create our market: we had to get people to come to us. We are always making something different and unique, something outside the norm, and that’s where the creativity and diversity has come from.”

It also helps to be located in farming country with easy access to locally grown fruits and grains for all their base ingredients, allowing them to offer a selection of more than 25 spirits ranging from the province’s first homegrown single malt whisky to various gins, vodkas, liqueurs, fruit brandies, and even aquavit and absinthe.

The biggest seller is their signature Blackcurrant Liqueur, which earned 97.9 out of a possible 100 points to become the highest-rated product ever awarded at the World Spirits Awards.

“It is a product that we’ve really tailored and has worked over the years,” says Goodchild. “People think of blackcurrant liqueur as crème de cassis, and ours is more cassis than crème. The taste has a real pop, goes really well on its own, or over ice cream, or with soda or vodka in a cocktail. The versatility of it is very broad.”

Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery
67 Bernard Ave., Kelowna, 778-484-5174,
5204 24th St., Vernon, 250-549-3120

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