Snow falls slow and thick as we make our way into Fernie Distillers on 1st Avenue one late afternoon in November. Welcomed by the warmth of amber lights on rich wood tones and the barkeep’s greeting, we feel cozy and excited. This is my first experience at the distillery and I’ve heard great things. What a lovely thing to do on a snowy day, I think. What a lovely way to kick off the holiday season.
We choose seats at the bar and take in our surroundings. Fernie Distillers is comprised of a tasting room and adjoining lounge with the actual distillery viewable through a large window on one side of the room. A door off the bar leads to the patio, a hot-spot in the summer, now dusted in white. Exposed wood beams line the tall ceiling, strung with glowing Edison lights. The other lights in the room are dimmed, save for the warm pendants over the large bar where we sit. A red Moroccan-patterned rug covers the original hardwood floor in the lounge with a squishy couch on top. The atmosphere is a paradoxical blend of modern and eclectic-rustic. I feel like I’m in a cool big city haunt; something you might see in a design magazine. I’m content with the afternoon’s activity and I haven’t even tried a drink yet.
Our mixologist, Jordan, stands behind the bar and educates us on the liquors distilled in-house. No 9 Mine Vodka is made using a soft white wheat from Creston. It features an uncommon sweetness that makes it palatable at room temperature. He gives us a taste and it is rich in flavour and smooth with notes of vanilla and anise.
Next is Fernie Fog Liqueur. Taking a cue from the steamed milk London Fog, Fernie Fog is an Earl Grey tea-infused spirit with vanilla. Molasses-rich unrefined demerara sugar sweetens the liqueur making it savour-able straight-up.
Jordan explains that the newest offerings are close to release. Prospector Gin will launch December 8 and is a well-balanced, classic gin infused with juniper, citrus and botanicals. The house bitters will also retail by early December in four flavours: lavender, citrus, aromatic and coffee/cacao.
All the spirits pay homage to Fernie, past and present, by celebrating the community and surrounding environment, both in inspiration and branding. They are available for takeaway in 375 ml and 750 ml bottles. I am impressed with everything I try and enjoy learning the distiller, Jillian, is one of the only female distillers in Canada. She co-owns the company with her husband, Andrew, who heads up marketing and sales.
With the tasting done, it’s time to order drinks from the menu. Getting into the holiday spirit, I choose the Caribou, a hot drink with the house vodka and Fernie Fog, port, maple syrup, lemon, aromatic bitters and spices including cinnamon, clove and black pepper. Garnished with a dehydrated lemon, it is exactly what I want on this cold day as snow falls outside. I’m warmed from the inside out.
As we enjoy our drinks, we learn the distillery is partnered with Fernie Catering Co with whom they hosted their first Feast dinner event in early November. The space is available to rent for other functions and parties, too.
An interesting feature of the distillery is their Picnic Policy which allows bringing in outside food to eat while enjoying drinks. Grab take-out pizza or order curry to Fernie Distillers on one condition: don’t bring plastic cutlery. As part of their sustainability efforts, they ask guests to forgo disposables and use their utensils instead. Environmental conservation is an important company value and they have other green practices including using reusable straws and growing their own herbs. To minimize waste, the bartenders use all parts of the fruits they buy. What isn’t dehydrated for garnishes is used in infusions and bitters.
With my final sip of the Caribou, we thank our mixologist for his knowledge and delicious drinks, and head for the door. Stepping outside, it is still snowing but we feel warm. We’ve had a special experience. What a lovely thing to do on a snowy day, I think. What a lovely way to kick off the holiday season.