Your intrepid liquor reporter was visiting one of his favourite drinking establishments last week, when an opportunity to sample the local hooch was presented.
As you might imagine, gentle reader, this was the sort of establishment that the beer snobs tend to gather, which made it a target-rich environment for a new local distillery to pour samples of their wares.
The booze baron in question was none other than the Raw Distillery, one of two new distilleries in the town of Canmore.
Owned by a husband & wife team, RAW Distillery opened their doors in Canmore last December, in the same strip mall as Canmore Brewing, much to the delight of the local boozing public.
Indeed, the town of Canmore is becoming a craft beer and spirits mecca, boasting two breweries and two distilleries. Grizzly Paw Brewing was the pioneer, opening their doors in 1996, and expanding to a new larger facility in 2011.
Grizzly Paw Brewing was pretty much the only booze producer in Canmore for 20 years, until about 9 months ago, when Canmore Brewing, Wild Life Distillery, and RAW Distillery all opened in quick succession.
Your humble narrator is never one to pass up the opportunity to whet his whistle, so when the co-founder and lead distiller from RAW Distillery thrust a wee dram into my hand as I entered the pub, I enthusiastically sampled the goods.
As is usually the case with a new distillery, the offerings are limited to Gin and Vodka, largely because Whisky takes a few years to age in oak barrels before it is bottled for distribution.
RAW Distillery does indeed have stocks of both Whisky and Rum aging in oak, with the first batch of Rum expected to be available next year, while the Whisky is planned to barrel-age until 2020 before bottling.
Interestingly, RAW Distillery uses different grains for their different Gin lines, resulting in unique flavours for each.
The RAW Peppercorn Gin is made from locally grown Alberta Rye grains, and flavoured with a secret blend of botanicals and Tellicherry peppercorns, which make for an extremely flavourful Gin.
For those not familiar with the Tellicherry peppercorn, it is grown in the jungles of India, and harvested late in the season to allow the berries to develop a full and rich flavour.
Tellicherry peppercorns are essentially the cream of the crop, representing the largest and most fragrant peppercorns from the harvest.
Experienced chefs will recognize this Gin immediately, as the Tellicherry peppercorn is widely considered the finest peppercorn variety in the world, with the Malabar coast of India basically being the peppercorn equivalent of Bordeaux in the wine world.
The RAW Peppercorn Gin is made for fancy cocktails, with the peppery flavour splashing your taste buds and taking them for a wild ride.
If your Gin preferences are a little more staid and stuffy, the RAW Botanical Gin may be more your speed. Made from locally grown Alberta wheat, then infused with the family secret botanical recipe.
The RAW Botanical Gin will be right at home in the traditional Gin & Tonic, or with a splash of Vermouth in a martini.
The RAW Vodka uses the same locally grown wheat grain as the RAW Botanical Gin, combined with the purest glacial waters that our mountain parks are so blessed with.
Too many mass-market vodkas will use the cheapest starch source they can find, with sugar beets or corn being a few of most common. Unfortunately, these cheap ingredients tend to lack flavours or aroma, making them almost uniformly dull and uninspired.
Luckily, the RAW Vodka is made from world-class Alberta wheat, which imparts a nice floral aroma on the nose, and quite a flavourful finish, no doubt helped by the small-batch distillation process and personalized attention from the lead distiller.
Your intrepid liquor reporter was so smitten with the first sample, that I returned to the sampling table several times, much to the amusement of my drinking companions. Fortunately, the co-founder and lead distiller patiently answered all my questions, and graciously kept pouring samples of the different spirits.
You can find RAW Distillery products in well-stocked booze merchants near you, or pop into the distillery for a guided tour the next time you are visting Canmore. RAW Distillery is located right beside Canmore Brewing, so go next door for a frosty pint after the distillery tour!