From Summerland orchard to craft distillery

New black vodka from Penticton Old Order Distillery unveiled.

Naming a new vodka is not an easy job.

“If you ever tried to name a new vodka, you’d be surprised that just about everything is already taken,” said Graham Martens, who operates Old Order Distillery with his wife, Naomi Gabriel.

With their new black vodka begging for a name, Martens said inspiration came to him when driving between his family’s farm in the Jones Flat area and the distillery in downtown Penticton.

“The Black Goat is named for the goats out of Summerland on the hillside there,” said Martens, “Just  driving past there and looking at the goats.”

Black Goat is the latest addition to the line of spirits made at Old Order Distillery. While it’s grown in popularity recently, it’s still an uncommon spirit, leaving room for experimentation. One of the more popular brands, Martens said, uses a bark to make it black.

“Ours is a little different than that, in that it uses all natural plant-sourced minerals. It is actually the plant minerals that give it the colour,” said Martens, adding that despite the different ingredients, Black Goat Vodka remains a relatively neutral alcohol.

“There isn’t much difference in aroma. Some people have commented that it has something of an earthy profile to it,” said Martens. “I have taken that happily.”

The base for the vodka is 100 per cent barley from the Vanderhoof area, then malted in Armstrong, and distilled in  their custom-made 230-litre Mueller still.

“We distill it to about 95 per cent on the copper pot still there, and then we blend it back with spring water and that is the time we add our natural minerals. We blend it back to about 43 per cent.”

The reason for creating Black Goat, Martens said, was just to experiment and try new things.

“That is what we are about, we are a craft distillery and we want to do things a little bit different from everyone else,” he said. “When you are small you can experiment. We are just trying to mix things up a little bit.”

That includes experiments, he said, like adding cherries to whiskey before it goes in the barrel.

The response to Black Goat, he said, has been terrific. It is available in some local private liquor stores, and they have taken it to farmers markets in Penticton and Vancouver.

“The interest is just unbelievable. People aren’t even sampling it for flavour, they are just grabbing a bottle,” said Martens, adding that bartenders are especially interested in experimenting with it, layering it with mixers like chilled cranberry juice and lemonade (a cocktail known as The Dark Knight Rises, and served with a bat-shaped slice of pineapple.)

Martens said one of the prime uses for Black Goat is the vodka martini.

“Because it is such a unique colour, people love the martini look of it,” said Martens. “Just chill the glass and you would mix the black vodka on a little ice, with a little vermouth, shake that and put it in the martini glass.”

Old Order Distillery has been open to the public for over a year now, and Martens said their public recognition continues to grow. But the inspiration for creating a craft distillery came much earlier, when he and Naomi began researching possibilities to build on, and add value to, his father’s Summerland orchard.

Their first thought was to create a cidery, but they soon realized that would mean pulling out all the trees to replant with apples more suitable for cider.

Around the same time, the province began reducing restrictions on small distilleries, making it easier for them to operate and distribute product.

After two years of learning about distilling, and a year of construction and equipment installation, the couple  opened the doors to their new distillery and lounge on Martin Street in Penticton, next to Tugs Tap House.

Setting up in Penticton was a deliberate choice, according to the Old Order website, with the intention of preserving agricultural land. Sourcing the fruit and grains used in their distilling from B.C. farms is also a goal for Old Order. For more information visit oldorderdistilling.ca.

 

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