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Friday, November 25, 2016

Two Cowboys: Park Distillery Lifting Festive Spirits in Banff, Alberta, Canada


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Where in the world can you drink the water from six glaciers?

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High in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, there is a place that many have on their bucket list. It makes the list for spectacularly close wildlife encounters, and breathtaking snow capped Rocky Mountain scenery. Banff and Lake Louise is this portal to heavenly skiing, hiking and only breathing. It is a place for all seasons that offers spectacular dining, luxury accommodations and foto-finish opportunities around every corner of Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.

There is another reason to add Banff National Park to your list. We thank Park Distillery for that. In 2013, the Alberta Government changed the rules to make room for "craft distilleries". Like craft breweries, these producers distill unique one-of-a-kind small batch elixirs, which they share with discerning local clientele. They produce the early and easy money makers like Gin, Vodka and Rye. Whisky takes time to mature and is scheduled for later.


You are also unlikely to find any of these spirits on the shelves of your local liquor store. Alberta's craft spirits are proving so popular that the production from the current six operational distilleries is often only available from them directly. Supply is limited. It is not for sale outside Alberta, Canada. To get your hands on a bottle, you have to get it yourself at your favourite distillery or tap one of the Alberta's Spirit Ambassadors (The people that snag a bottle and take it for family and friends in far off countries, like New Zealand.)

With local knowledge and relying on long-standing associations and friendships, you may be able to score a snort of the latest flavour Gin or Rye. If you are in excellent standing with the Master Distiller, you may get your name onto the secretive "Whisky list". Being on this list merely offers a chance to bid at a future auction for something to be released three to five years from now. Even this is no guarantee of success for getting a bottle of the first editions of Alberta's Craft Whisky.

Park Distillery took it one step further by placing their Still in the middle of Banff Town, on Main Street, in a large three-floor world-class restaurant. It is the location in the National Park for hand-crafted spirits, inventive cocktails, paired with mouthwatering Alberta produce from a top-shelf menu.

When I pushed Matt Hendriks, Master Distiller of Park Distillery on the reason for his success, he affirmed modestly. "It is in the water. Six glaciers, fresh, straight-up, no twist and pure as the air you breathe water is used to distill Alberta's finest barley and botanicals."

I think he is too modest. After 13 years as a prize-winning cocktail bartender, Matt knows his Gin from his Vodka and his Lime from his Lemon. He is also a pathological learner. With half a chance to embark on his next adventure, he took to distilling like a duck takes to water. Frankly, he is the kind of guy with the energy and drive that will make a success of anything that peeks his interest. It has been one great and successful journey since for the young entrepreneur, and we hope it will continue for quite a while longer.

In his words. "If I get my whisky right, I will still have a chance to drink my thirty-year-old, when I am sixty-five."

We congratulate him on his success and hope to have an opportunity to share it with him for a long time. In the meantime, we have another excuse to travel to downtown Banff.


Hendrik van Wyk
Tipsy Cowboy

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