City’s newest craft distillery is focused on making ‘spirits for bartenders’
A new artisan distillery opening up in B.C. isn’t exactly news these days. There are already 51 of them around, with another 13 in the works and as many as 80 licences floating around out there, according to B.C. Distilled founder Alex Hamer.
What is news, though, is when that distillery is co-owned and operated by one of Vancouver’s best bartenders.
“What I tried to do is understand distilling from our perspective,” says bartender, distiller and co-owner Brian Grant, whom you may know from his years behind the wood at Pourhouse, or from the boxing ring – he’s a trainer at Eastside Boxing Club, where he works with at-risk youth. “It’s spirits for bartenders.”
His Resurrection Spirits has become a sort of mecca for the cool cocktail kids since its tasting lounge opened in “soft” mode a few weeks back. On Dec. 2, it’s opening for real, and is sure to be a serious draw for everyone who is serious about spirits and cocktails in this city, especially now that star mixologist David Wolowidnyk has come on board as bartender and apprentice distiller.
Grant got interested in distilling a decade or so ago when he couldn’t find the bitters he wanted for Pourhouse and started making his own. “That planted a seed,” he says.
He took a distilling course at Dry Fly Distilling in Spokane, Wash., and it was while he was there he came up with the name for his distillery.
“We’re resurrecting the history of distilling in North America, and it’s also a play on resurrecting spirits,” Grant says.
It took a few years, but eventually he partnered with Peckinpah restaurateur Tyson Reimer and defence lawyer Adrian Picard, and they took possession of a 3,700-square-foot site in the East Village.
Then Grant worked with noted distilling consultant Laurent Lafuente (who also worked with The Liberty Distillery) to develop recipes for rye whisky, eaux de vies and seasonal specialty products.
Rye is the big deal here. Most B.C. craft distilleries, especially the ones that want to make whisky – which is just about all of them – use barley, which is both less expensive and easier to work with.
“We’re one of the first to be using rye as our main input,” Grant says, noting that the rye they’re using is an organic grain from Armstrong. (In B.C., to be considered craft and receive the related tax breaks, 100 per cent of the product a distillery uses must come from within the province.)
So far, the results are promising. It’ll take three years of barrel aging before they can call it a whisky, but Resurrection’s $44 white rye has proven popular already.
“It’s palatable and mixable, but with that rye flavour profile,” says Grant. “It’s not a whisky because it’s not aged, and it’s not a vodka, because it tastes of rye.”
Grant also plans to make fruit spirits from Okanagan apples, pears, peaches and raspberries.
“I’ve done a pear eau de vie already. That will probably be released in January. I’m excited to release that one,” he says.
He’s also looking at making seasonal liqueurs and bitters, even if they’re just for the sleek, charred-oak-barrel-themed 50-seat tasting lounge, where 80 per cent of the products they serve must be made on site.
“We don’t have a full bar licence, we have a lounge licence,” Grant says. “It limits us, but it forces us to be more creative and make our syrups and liqueurs in house.”
Does B.C. need another distillery? Probably not. But does it need Resurrection Spirits? You bet.
Resurrection Spirits, 1672 Franklin St., Vancouver. Tasting lounge is open Thursday-Saturday, 6-10 p.m.; as of Dec. 2, it will also be open Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
—by Joanne Sasvari