A couple of years ago, Nathan Flim was working in the agricultural sector. He’d earned a chemistry degree from The King’s University, and was looking for ways to apply his knowledge.
Then, he saw a magazine article about a few chemists who had pooled their smarts in order to make better spirits — better liquor through chemistry.
So, Flim decided that’s where he’d use his knowledge, as well — and The Fort Distillery was born.
(This is the part where the obvious Breaking Bad references come in. Yes, “Heisenberg” Flim has heard them all before.)
“Working in agriculture, I saw Alberta grain being shipped abroad, then made into a product, then imported back into Alberta,” he says. “And, I thought, what a waste. With this distillery, we can take ingredients from five minutes up the road, and make something right here.”
The Fort Distillery, and its adjoining tasting room, can be found right off of Highway 15 in Fort Saskatchewan. Flim and distiller Julia Le have created a lineup of rather unique spirits. There’s a prairie gold vodka and a citrus gin, flavoured with hand-peeled grapefruit and lemon that Flim says is easy-drinking, as the juniper isn’t as pronounced. A whiskey aged in bourbon and new oak casks will be ready next year.
But Flim believes that the boom in Alberta craft distilleries will soon create a glut of spirits. “There isn’t a huge market for a $50 bottle of vodka or gin,” he says.
So, he thinks it’s important to make spirits that are unique. That’s why Fort has created an espresso vodka and its Two Bean Brew coffee liqueur, with beans roasted in Fort Saskatchewan by Café Bench. (Wait a sec, it was Walter’s short-lived assistant, Gale Boetticher, who was obsessed about chemistry and coffee, and things didn’t go so well for him …)
The Fort has also created mini, single-serve bottles of pre-mixed cocktails, from an amber gin Old Fashioned to a bright pink Cosmo.
“The ready-made mixed drink market is growing,” he says. But, a lot of that market is for fruity alcoholic lemonades or glorified highballs. He thinks that, by packaging alcohol-forward, high-end cocktails, there’s a niche market.
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He’s already spoken to a major hotel chain about stocking the cocktail bottles in minibars. He’s said he’s received interest from airlines, who envision the bottles as drink-cart options — that is, when we all decide it’s OK to fly again.