The love of a good drink has taken one Slocan Valley couple into business with the area’s first craft distillery.
Kevin and Lora Goodwin are making Valhalla Vodka at the Kootenay Country Craft Distillery operating out of their Winlaw ranch where they once grew organic strawberry crops.
“We’ve always made things from our garden and we were big into making beer and wine. This was just the next step up and we noticed no one was doing it around here,” said Lora.
Four years ago, Kevin was a construction worker noticing a downturn in his trade. Not wanting to leave his family to earn a living up north like many others, he was thrilled with his wife’s idea to start a still on the property they’ve had for 14 years. He learned the art of distilling in Seattle, Washington while Lora waded through mountains of paperwork to license their operation.
“It was a long process,” said Lora. Added Kevin, “She has gone through a painstaking amount of paper work and waded through all the red tape that’s involved in starting something like this.”
In addition to approval from the Regional District, the couple now has five licences from both federal and provincial governments assuring that their operation is above board.
“It’s a state-of-the-art facility we’ve built,” said Kevin. “I think sometimes people envision somebody out in the woods with an open fire and this sort of thing but it’s sophisticated equipment that creates a sophisticated product.”
Today, their operation is turning out small batches of about 150 to 170 bottles of crafted vodka. They use locally-sourced milled heirloom wheat from a farm east of Creston and Kootenay spring water in their 300-gallon still coming from Lethbridge, Alberta.
“Our small batches and local use of ingredients set us apart,” said Lora. “Vodka is 60 per cent water and the Kootenays have some of the best water in the world.”
They make a batch of vodka per week and are currently making their fifth batch. Vodka was the perfect spirit to get their business off the ground and into the bottle.
“Vodka is a neutral spirit and it doesn’t need to be aged,” Kevin explained. “Vodka is just ethanol and water. It is the easier spirit to make.”
Once their business is established and some of their start-up costs are recouped, they plan to branch out into other spirits. Next up is a dry London-style gin — Lora already has a recipe ready to go — and a variety of fruit brandies and a young whiskey.
“I am really looking forward to aging some whisky. In Canada whisky has to be aged a minimum of three years so the whisky lovers are going to have to wait,” Kevin said.
Smaller craft distilleries are on the rise south of the border much like the craft beer movement of the 1990s, said Kevin. He and Lora have fallen in love with the art of making spirits and are proud of Valhalla Vodka’s taste that doesn’t need a sugary mix to mask its taste.
“We drink it over the rocks. It’s definitely a sipping vodka and it has a nutty aftertaste which makes it really smooth,” said Lora. Added Kevin, “We are partial to the flavour and think it should be enjoyed one sip at a time.”
Valhalla Vodka is available at liquor stores throughout the Nelson area.
Kootenay Country Craft Distillery is located at 7263 Gustafson Road off Highway 6 about eight kilometres north of Winlaw. They welcome visitors to their tasting room Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m.
Find out more at kootenaycountry.ca