Fruitful endeavour

Family-owned distillery crafts world-class spirits from homegrown harvests

With its extended growing seasons and miles of fruitful orchards and rolling vineyards, B.C.’s Okanagan Valley is known best as Canada’s wine country. The site of many a weekend winery tour and the occasional fruit stand pit stop, one can hardly say “Okanagan” without also uttering “wine.” A lesser thought of connection? Distilled spirits.

Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery, a family-owned operation, started out as a small venture in 2004—boasting one 150 litre copper still that concocted the province’s first homegrown single malt whisky. Twelve years later, the business is Western Canada’s largest craft distillery, with 27 spirits in its portfolio.

“We’re at the heart of the fruit industry in B.C. and there’s tons of fruit around us and some great grain,” says CEO
Tyler Dyck.

“No one was really utilizing the excess of that. Every year, the production in Okanagan for fruit usually outstrips the demand for it, and so a lot of it was just going to waste.”

Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery’s award-winning portfolio includes Aquavitus—a vodka-style spirit infused with aromatic herbs—gins, whiskys, liquers, absinthe, and their signature eaux de vie.

Like farm-to-table kitchens, the distillers wanted to promote a little-to-no-waste ethos, using local ingredients and local production; they call it harvest-to-flask.

“I think in the beginning, it started out as a unique idea to recycle the power of the environment, and the fruit and the grains of this area, and started out as this small idea of that and has really blossomed,” Dyck says.

“[It’s a] really European-style model of doing everything from scratch. From meeting with our orchardists and growers, to choosing and crushing the fruit, fermenting it, processing it, distilling it, and bottling it—everything is done on site. Ninety-five per cent of the work is done at the place.”

To be clear, there are actually two places: one in Vernon, and the smaller distillery located in Kelowna. Both locations boast a barrel room and a summer patio. 

“When we built both facilities, we wanted to be as carbon neutral as we could, so we spent a lot of time sourcing recycled lumber and recycled metal products, and glass countertops from recycled bottles,” Dyck explains.

“We do make stuff that doesn’t ever hit bottles because it doesn’t meet our quality specs and it gets repurposed for other things.”

With 27 spirits made in house, it’s hard to believe there’d be room for even more. Among them, the best-selling Blackcurrant Liqueur, which won the 2013 and 2015 Spirit of the Year at the World Spirits Awards, receiving 97.9 points.

“We have a lot of pride in what we do, and we want to make sure everything that gets released from here is world class.”

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

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