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Distilling a taste of Alberta

CANMORE – The hallmark of a good gin is the way the botanicals inside the recipe interact and create a unique flavor palette.
Wildlife Gin
A new completely Alberta created gin using florals and botanics gathered at Nature Conservancy sites is shown off at Wildlife Distillery in Canmore on Tuesday (Aug. 7).

CANMORE – The hallmark of a good gin is the way the botanicals inside the recipe interact and create a unique flavor palette. 

To that end, Canmore-based Wild Life Distillery is gearing up to prepare its second annual batch of Alberta Botanical Gin, a regional gin distilled only from botanicals found naturally in Alberta.

The young distillery has already claimed hardware from international competitions, winning an Alberta Beverage Awards ‘Judges Selection’ last summer for its gin. This year, they claimed two International SIP awards, a double gold for gin, and a gold for vodka. But preparing a followup to award-winning gin is not without its challenges. 

“The first difficulty with Alberta is our short growing season. Ideally, we could do this gin year-round, but with the harsh winters we have here, foraging for the various leafy greens we use in the gin is not a possibility,” said co-owner Matthew Widmer. 

“But taking advantage of what summertime brings, with all the fresh ingredients we do have when they’re here, we can come up with a fantastic gin.”

In order to access lands for foraging, Wild Life Distillery partnered up with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). The ingredients for the Alberta Botanical Gin are to be hand picked on NCC land and, because every growing season is different in the wild, they don’t know how the gin will turn out until it’s been distilled. 

“One thing with this product is, until we make this year’s batch, we won’t know what the style is. We’ll take all the similar recipe components that we’re looking for, but depending on the day we go to forage, what that sage tastes like, what that yarrow tastes like, how we build a recipe, it’s hard to say until I have that product in my hand,” said Widmer.  

“This gin is a way for us to stay ultra-regional,” said Widmer. “Ninety-nine per cent of gins in the world use ingredients sourced from across the globe – so for us to be able to honestly offer our local consumers something that contains only ingredients grown within Alberta is pretty sweet.”

Widmer described last year’s gin as a, “light botanical, floral gin that was best enjoyed neat, or on ice.” According to Widmer, local botanicals “bring a little more green, a little more herbaceous style to this gin in particular. 

“We don’t try and hide or get away from that. We kind of take advantage of it and produce a style unique to the province.”

The award winning gin and vodka is just a warmup act for the brewery, however, with the eventual goal being to also produce a whiskey. They’ve recently acquired the barrels their first batch wil be produced in, and are eager to get started brewing the aged brown spirit. 

Last year’s version of the gin produced a batch of about 350 bottles and was gone within two months. They aim to have batch number two hitting shelves around Sept. 15 with each bottle retailing for $58.