RAW Distillery

Author: Lindsay & Brad Smylie

Fledgling micro-distilleries crafting a spirited scene in Alberta

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Globe and Mail by Dan Clapson

Until a few years ago, Alberta’s liquor rules made it almost impossible for small-scale craft distillers to produce spirits that would find their way into local bars.

You could sit in a bar in downtown Saskatoon and sip a gin martini made with locally made Lucky Bastard Distillers’ Gambit Gin. In Vancouver, you could perch on a stool along the glossy white bar in the Lobby Lounge of the Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver and drink a cocktail with Victoria Gin fresh off the bottling line from Vancouver island.

But not in Alberta.

At the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Brad and Lindsay Smylie own and operate Raw Distillery in the town of Canmore. After meeting more than a decade ago, Mr. Smylie discovered a love of home brewing and together they opened up their small-scale operation in December of last year.

All products are distilled with glacier water from the Rocky Mountains and include an unaged rye, a vodka, as well as one citrus-infused gin and another with tellicherry black peppercorns.

Globe and Mail photo by Todd Korol

Craft beer and spirits coming to provincial farmers market

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Rocky Mountain Outlook by Jordan Small

There are 92 liquor manufacturers in Alberta and in the Bow Valley, including Wild Life, there are six: Grizzly Paw Brewing Co., Banff Ave. Brewing Co., RAW Distillery, Park Distillery and Canmore Brewing Co.

The main ingredient behind the policy change was giving small business owners the opportunity to widen their consumer base.

“This creates new business opportunities for entrepreneurs who are truly at the heart of this policy change,” said Joe Ceci, president of the treasury board and minister of finance, in a release.

To “better serve the industry,” the Province and Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission also announced a decision to streamline the licensing process by harmonizing licence classes and creating a small manufacturers licence type.

It would create a single licence that identifies brewing facilities and licensed establishments.

“This is a win-win for Alberta’s businesses and consumers and a positive development for the broader community as we all get a chance to discover and support more locally made products,” said Alain Maisonneuve, acting president and CEO, AGLC, in a release.

Distilleries springing up all over southern Alberta

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Calgary Herald by SHELLEY BOETTCHER

Raw Distillery — Brad Smylie’s great-grandmother was a bootlegger decades ago in Ontario. Now he and his wife, Lindsay, are the owners of Raw Distillery in Canmore. They have a vodka, peppercorn gin, an unaged rye, and they’ll soon release a citrus gin and a botanical gin, as well as a peppercorn Caesar collaboration with Bow Valley BBQ’s Parkway Clamato. rawspirits.ca

Meet the Maker: Canmore distillers have moonshine in their blood

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Calgary Herald Swerve

You could say that the art of distillation runs in Brad Smylie’s blood. A hundred or so years ago, his great-grandmother was a bootlegger in a tiny mining town in northern Ontario.

In the early 1900s, it was illegal to sell alcohol in mining towns, but Smylie’s nonna could see a market for quality moonshine. She put the distillation skills she’d learned in Italy to use in her newfound home, and she became a local legend, even inspiring a book about her boozy exploits.

Smylie was born after his great-grandmother’s death, but as the owner, with his wife Lindsay, of Raw Distillery in Canmore, he’s channelling her success by making and selling—legally—spirits. To date, his products include vodka, peppercorn gin and an unaged rye finished in port barrels. A citrus gin is next to be bottled, followed by a botanical gin, as well as some collaborations, including a peppercorn gin caesar with Bow Valley BBQ’s Parkway Clamato.

“The name refers to the raw form of whatever ingredients we’re using, and also the granite that’s in the Rocky Mountains,” Lindsay says. “We want to be bold, expressive and celebrate raw ingredients.” You’ll find Raw spirits on restaurant lists and at liquor stores in Canmore and Calgary, including Crush & Cork, Co-op Wine Spirits Beer, Crowfoot Liquor, Liquor Depot, Willow Park Wines and Spirits and others.

Born and raised in Northern Ontario, Smylie moved to Calgary to work as a firefighter. He and Lindsay met through a mutual love of the outdoors, a passion that eventually led them to Canmore. Brad’s other interests included making beer. In the course of a decade spent brewing in his basement, he realized the family history was calling to him; he wanted to try his hand at distilling. Production started in January, and the first products hit the stores in early May.

Business has been booming, and the Smylies have plans for expansion and the addition of a tasting room. It’s a far cry, Brad notes, from his first experience working with a still. That came courtesy of his grandfather, Pep, his bootlegger great-grandmother’s son. Every fall for a few years in his teens, Brad was roped into stoking the fire under the still, while the elderly man and his buddies made grappa, a high-test Italian spirit.

“It was a really nerve-wracking experience, to be honest,” Brad says. “A bunch of old Italian guys who’d yell at me because they didn’t want the smoke getting too high in case someone was watching.”

On the plus side, however, the experience became early training for both of Brad’s careers: firefighter and distillery owner.

Brad’s grandfather passed away a few years ago and, not long after, the Smylies thought it would be nice to own the old family still. They haven’t been able to find it, but they’re not giving up yet. “It’s in somebody’s basement somewhere,” Lindsay says.

History in a glass

Brad Smylie’s great-grandmother used to deliver her moonshine—dubbed Recreation Rye and Cobalt Bloom—in milk jugs to “blind pigs,” another name for a speakeasy. The idea behind the name was that people would pay for a look at a blind pig (or some other unusual animal) and, along with a peek at said critter, receive an alcoholic beverage.

CTV Morning Live Segment

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May 3, 2017

Thanks CTV for taking the time to learn about us and our brand new products! It was a fun filled morning. Special thanks to Jeremy McGregor for his bartending skills and for composing the best Gin an Tonic I have had to date! the juniper syrup just sweetened the deal. We didn’t get to share live but look forward to this at future appearances. The versatility of this peppercorn gin is impressing even me!

First public tastings will be offered at Alberta Beer Festivals in Calgary this weekend, Crush and Cork in Canmore May 10 between 2-6pm, and of course the Canmore Uncorked Whisky Fest May 12. We can’t wait to see what you think! Be bold… come say hi! share and post your reviews to be entered to win 2 tickets to the Canmore Uncorked whisky fest!

Available Now | Where can you find us… what are we up to?

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Try, taste and experience our products:  (currently sampling Vodka, Peppercorn Gin, and our Unaged RYE) – we will keep you posted on our social media feeds so you don’t miss out! be sure to follow along… or post suggestions on upcoming events or places you would like to see us!

Learn about how we produce our carefully crafted spirits:

  • Scheduled tours on request – give us a shout!  We will be providing guided tours at 1460 Railway Ave Canmore, AB

Purchase our Products:  (please visit your nearest liquor store and ask if they will bring us in for you!… they usually will… then let us know and we will be ever grateful with huge shout outs!)

Canmore & Area:

Calgary & Area:

Edmonton & Area:

Lethbridge:

Progress Update

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We have found a production facility in Canmore Alberta that we will proudly call home! At this point our focus is working towards the regulatory compliance and licensing expected as a new player in this industry.

Our slogan of “Adventurous bold flavours straight from the Rocky Mountains” is the impression we are hoping to leave. “Quality Alberta ingredients, local production, glacier fresh water, and a brand that resonates with locals and tourists.”

We are forecasting our facility to be ready to start production in November this year. Assuming licensing is successful our intent is to have product in stores by Christmas so patiently waiting consumers can enjoy with their family and friends.

We will be offering a craft Vodka with an Alberta wheat base. As well as two expressions of Gin we are really excited about. We have completed our recipe development for a RAW Citrus and RAW Peppercorn Gin that are turning out to be real crowd pleasers. The response to our initial tests have been better than expected and we are ready to go to market with these products. We have crafted a product with all natural RAW ingredients that are literally bursting with grapefruit and citrus flavour.

peppercorn-on-wooden-spoonThe RAW Peppercorn Gin is whats really got us teaming with optimism. The Tellicherry peppercorns we have sourced are from “The Reluctant Trading Experiment” who sources the highest quality ingredients in small quantities from sustainable sources. The peppercorns we use in this Gin lend a unique pepper component that seems to blend harmoniously adding notes of fruit, citrus, and earth undertones that are very pleasing to the pallet. RAW Peppercorn Gin and Clamato are already becoming the go to cocktail at our house this summer.

The next focus of RAW’s recipe development program is our RAW Seasonal products. These recipes are currently under development, initial experiments have put us ahead of schedule and we are pleased with the results. We have defined the parameters of the flavours we are bringing to market. The next step is trial and error until we get it right, we are in no rush. For us to release a product to market it has to not only be something we are happy with, it has to reflect our values and be an expression of what we are trying to achieve in our distillery.

While Initial production will focus on getting our first three products to market, we are also committed to divert a portion of our production to Canadian whisky production. Whisky takes three years to mature by Canadian Law. So the sooner we start that clock the quicker we can increase our offerings to our customer base.

In the meantime, our focus will be the core RAW product lines. Assuming licensing is successful, customers who make their way to our Canmore production facility will be able to purchase our new or seasonal products not offered to retailers yet so it should make it worth the drive!

The in-house customer experience is where we see the real ‘Craft’ of distilling shining through. It is our vision that adventurous customers seeking new experiences can be led through a gin tasting of single botanical gins to develop an understanding of your individual taste preference. A ‘gin profile preference’ can be specifically tailored to that profile and personalized gins can be created based on these individual taste preferences. Or if you just want a gin that has a certain flavour highlighted, we just might be able to do that too. Watch for more news and progress updates!