How long have been a Vancouverite? 22 years
I am a distiller and the founder of Odd Society Spirits in East Vancouver. I studied distillation at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, which is where I met my business partner and fellow distiller Joshua Beach, who was also doing the MSc Brewing and Distilling program. Distillation is an amazing field because it combines science with creativity. Every step of the process presents a myriad of choices. For example, to make a whisky, what grain will you use, how fine will you grind the malt, what will the mashing temperature be, what yeast will you use, how long will you ferment, etc. There are accepted practices but each step in the process is open to variation and your choices will influence the final outcome in the glass. The process is daunting and exciting at the same time.
What are the most exciting developments in the Greater Vancouver area around spirits, brewing and mixology?
It’s a great time to be making spirits. Recent changes in legislation will allow distilleries to flourish in a way that was never possible before. For example, craft distilleries can sell direct to bars and restaurants, we can sell cocktails by the glass, and we will soon be able to have tastings and sell at farmers’ markets. These opportunities mean that we can connect with the public in new ways. People want to support local. They want to know where the ingredients are grown and how they are processed. They want to connect with the people making the products they are buying. Until now, Vancouverites were not able to see vodka or whisky being made. The craft brewing industry is enjoying an incredible surge in popularity. For example, there are currently five breweries within walking distance of the distillery and two more being built. It’s also amazing to me how these businesses cooperate and help each other because the small breweries are not competing with each other, they are competing and winning market share from old multinational brands in the field. Distilleries and small batch spirits are a few years behind but I believe our industry will play out in similar ways and small distilleries need to be supportive of one another.
For someone who is looking to grow their contacts in this industry on a local basis, what are some good ways to do so?
It’s amazing how important contacts and relationships are. We are working hard to build a reputation for quality and innovation. We are also working hard to nurture our contacts because every business relies on its supporters. We participate in a lot of local activiites including silent auctions and charity events that help connect us with the community. We are a member of the Craft Distillers Guild of British Columbia. There are also new events and festivals on the horizon like the BC Distilled festival in May that will present and showcase all the small distilleries in BC. It will be a great way to show the public how far craft spirits have come in this province.
If someone is visiting Vancouver and looking to score the perfect cocktail, what three places would you recommend?
First off, I would hope they visit our tasting room and lounge. We’ve hired an incredibly creative and talented bartender named Matt Cooke. Vancouver hosts an array of bars that serve quality cocktails. I’d recommend that visitors check out venues that not only serve amazing cocktails but also highlight local BC spirits like Chambar, Grain Tasting Bar, Uva Wine Bar, Upstairs at Campagnolo, Forage, Acorn, The Parker, and Edible Canada, just to name a few. The appreciation for cocktails and local spirits keeps growing all the time and we are happy to be a part of it.
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