Vodka-lovers across the province can now get their taste of the Spud Valley, as the Pemberton Distillery has begun producing its libations and making them available in stores and restaurants.
Tyler Schramm, the founder of Pemberton Distillery Inc., runs a 4,000-square-foot facility at 1954 Venture Place in the Pemberton Industrial Park. There he and three or four co-workers use the fruit of the valley to produce vodka they hope will compete with top-line spirits such as Grey Goose, Belvedere and Chopin.
"It is an ultra-premium vodka," Schramm said in an interview. "We're definitely producing for the premium market, it's a high quality vodka that you can drink neat. I think people haven't really realized that."
The vodka isn't yet widely available in liquor stores but Schramm said his product - Schramm Vodka - is listed with B.C.'s Liquor Distribution Branch and that it's up to the discretion of managers at government-run stores whether they want to stock it.
As it stands, customers can go into those stores and ask them to order it while private liquor stores can sell it right away. If you're looking for the vodka elsewhere you can go to the RimRock Lounge and Araxi - Schramm said both are looking to serve his vodka.
"There's not that many private stories in British Columbia and there's quite a few government stores," he said. "It would definitely make a difference for us to have it in government stores."
The vodka production starts with employees at the Pemberton Distillery picking up around 800 kilograms of potatoes from Across the Creek Organic Farm each week then grinding them into a pulp. The spuds are then loaded into a steam-heated tank and cooked.
The pulp is then cooled and put into a fermentation tank where, mixed with yeast, it spends the next five days fermenting and turning into a strong beer.
"They call it potato champagne but it's a strong beer," Schramm said.
The resulting product is then loaded into a copper pot still and then twice led through a distilling process that turns it into vodka. The process actually distills the liquid 32 times, as Schramm tells it.
"We have a modified pot still," he said. "Technically it's actually 32 times distilled. I know that some people pick up on the amount of times the vodka's distilled. We run it two separate times through the actual pot still."
Pemberton Distillery, however, won't just stop with vodka. It also has plans to produce single-malt whisky using a malt mill, whose production is planned for a start in November. Whisky drinkers shouldn't get too excited though, as it'll take some time before it can be served.
"We expect five years to be around when it becomes good," Schramm said.
The distillery initially planned to have its grand opening during the Slow Food Cycle, but the forest fires have cancelled that event this year and so it's had to be moved to a later date - likely sometime in September.
Schramm hopes to have tours through his facility, particularly through an on-site retail and tasting room at the distillery. That, too, he hopes to premiere in September.