New Calgary Distillery Start-Up Jumping Over Hurdles
RAW Distillery is an emerging artisan spirits producer hoping to ride the wave of consumer interest in craft spirits. “Marketing spirits in today’s marketplace has to go beyond brand loyalty”. Says CEO and Distiller Lindsay Smylie, a local Calgarian who goes on to say “it’s about a tasting experience”. Lindsay, an executive consultant specializing in health care, was introduced to the spirits industry through her love of the craft beer scene. “If someone told me 4 years ago that gin was to become my full time passion. I would have laughed them right out of my office.”
Together with her husband Brad Smylie, a local fire fighter and beer brewer their dream is set to become a reality this fall. “There was a time not long ago that a start-up just couldn’t compete in this space, well that was also true of beer in the 90’s!”. Brad adds “people are looking for spirits that aren’t made in industrial sized ethanol refineries, our intention is to provide a local option, with local ingredient at a competitive price.” And adds “and we’re having fun doing it”.
RAW distillery was intending on converting an old brewery into a distillery in Canmore and be in production this fall. This brewery originally operated under the name Mountain Brewing Company in the 90’s and mainly produced lagers. “Our operations are projected to add 6-8 full time jobs in Alberta.” says Lindsay “The Canmore site was dusty and old, but it had character, this Reno just made sense to us.
We both identify with the Rocky Mountains and the culture. Extreme sports and mountain living are how we met and you’ll see that reflected in our branding.” Lindsay adds “RAW is more than a brand to us, it’s the emotion we are hoping to invoke when we introduce people to our craft.”
It was this location that has thrown these two entrepreneurs their first true roadblock. “With all the barriers to entry this Industry is known for, we knew starting up a business in this economic climate would not be an easy task. I guess we never anticipated negotiating the site with its owner was going to be a barrier to us” Say’s Lindsay speaking to the recent decision of RAW to relocate in Calgary. “Negotiations weren’t moving forward so we were faced with the hard decision to relocate”.
With change comes opportunity, “fortunately for us there is a lot of empty space in Calgary for lease with oil prices being what they are, it makes our start up more viable than it would have been in the boom.”.