For the better part of a decade spent as a lawyer, Gurpreet Ranu went to a lot of the stereotypical sorts of get togethers that lawyers have. Stories were swapped over Scotch and other whiskeys.
And one thing Ranu recognized is that he was becoming very passionate about what was in those glasses. In fact, it led him on a pilgrimage to Scotland, and eventually to university there where he could learn the craft of distilling.
“Over 10 years of being a lawyer, you go to a lot of events, and you do a lot of drinking,” says Ranu. “I found I had a passion for single-malt whiskey. To me, it’s just the most flavourful spirit out there. It takes you on an emotional journey, The smell is associated with memory. What I love about Scotch is the initial smell isn’t necessarily what you taste. The flavour develops on the palate. That emotional journey that comes when you drink whiskey kind of sucked me in.”
On Friday, the ribbon was cut on Anohka Distillery, located a short drive on Hwy 16. west of Stony Plain. The first release is the flavourful Tempest Gin, which packs a punch of bitter and sweet, the magic mix that makes a clear liquor worthy to drink. But this is only the first step in Ranu’s plan. The surrounding farmland will be used to grow barley that will be the main ingredient in Anohka’s whiskey — which we can expect three to five years in the future. After all, whiskey takes time.
In the still room, there are a series of cylindrical copper pots, designed by Ranu himself, that were crafted in Portugal and shipped to Alberta. For the gin, botanicals are sourced from all over the world — Pakistan, India, Guatemala, Vietnam, Morocco, Greece, Poland, California, to name a few — but Ranu’s passion is that the coming whiskey will be hyper-local.
“In Scotland, they’re growing barley in these very poor soil conditions, but they’re making this amazing whiskey,” says Ranu. “We’re in Alberta, we have amazing soil conditions, a great barley-growing region, why aren’t we making whisky of that calibre? The gin is just the first step.”
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