Rodney Goodchild (left) prepares to sample a rye whisky Peter von Hahn has taken from a barrel at Okanagan Spirits in Vernon.

Steady pace as distillery meets demand

Whisky lovers have Okanagan Spirits bursting at the seams.

Whisky lovers have Okanagan Spirits bursting at the seams.

It was just a year ago that the distillery opened a 16,000-square-foot facility on 24th Street, but the building is already virtually at capacity as consumer demand grows.

“We have this big building and we’re out of space,” said Rodney Goodchild, director of marketing and operations.

“Business is through the roof. We’re doing numbers twice what they were.”

Copper stills have been upgraded to keep up with production, and in one corner, a new venture is unfolding — corn or American whisky.

“The first batch, I didn’t cook it long enough. It’s been a learning curve,” said Chris Burke, distiller.

It’s anticipated the corn whisky will hit the market early in 2017.

“Knowing our consumers, we know there will be a market,” said Goodchild.

Along with the American whisky, a batch of single-malt will be released this October and the latest offering of rye will be out before Christmas.

About 100 barrels of all whisky types will be produced this year.

“The demand has always been there but we’ve never had the volume,” said Goodchild.

“People are clambering hand over fist to get into our store so there is a huge opportunity.”

There is also strong interest in the fruit brandies, liqueurs, grappa, aquavit, gin, vodka and absinthe, and the distillery is now open seven days a week.

But to keep up with demand, that will require an investment in more equipment and perhaps a dedicated barrel aging room.

The key to the business, though, says senior distiller Peter von Hahn, is providing a quality product and anticipating consumer trends.

“We have to get ahead of what they are looking for,” he said.

The next step may be a smoky-flavoured product from local peat.

“We will make a whisky that fights you out and in,” jokes von Hahn.

Goodchild insists the owners of the distillery, the Dyck family, are looking to the future and enthusiastic about the growing opportunities, even if it means building space is rather limited.

“It’s a good position to be in,” said Goodchild.

 

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