Before they even opened their doors to the public, Penticton’s newest craft distillery was gaining recognition.
“We just came back from the B.C. Distilled Festival in Vancouver and our vodka was voted fourth of 23 distilleries,” said Graham Martens who operates Old Order Distilling with his wife, Naomi Gabriel.
Graham and Naomi admit they are new to distilling, which he said is part of the reason they are starting out with vodka and gin. They got the idea, according to Graham, when they began researching possibilities for his father’s orchard.
“We started looking at cider mills, then we realized we would have to pull out all the trees, and replant with proper cider trees,” said Graham, who started learning about the craft distillery movement while he was researching cider.
“And then the laws started changing,” said Naomi. As part of the provincial government’s overhaul of liquor regulations, restrictions on small distilleries were reduced, making it easier for them to operate and distribute product.
Now, after two years of learning about distilling, and a year of construction and equipment installation, including a custom-made 230-litre Mueller still, the couple have opened the doors to their new distillery and lounge on Martin Street, next to Tugs Tap House.
“We just started distilling in October after taking just under a year to do the construction, said Graham. “We went the extra step and got a lounge endorsement with our distillery, so that allowed us to make cocktails.”
“We didn’t think that everyone would just want to come in and try straight up vodka,” said Naomi, explaining that they hope to attract more visitors by offering cocktails made with local ingredients and their vodka and gin.
“The gin is the interesting one, because you can really put your own spin on it. The botanicals are where you can differentiate yourself,” said Graham, adding that they plan to gather inspiration from the Saturday Farmers’ Market.
“Naomi and I, we really want to do an Okanagan gin, something that has all the botanicals from here,” said Graham. “You could use rose hips, sumac, sage, all those sorts of native plant species. Of course, we do have juniper (the base ingredient for gin) here as well.
“There is going to be a lot of experimentation going on.”
Old Order Distilling is already offering a range of cocktails to visitors, ranging from a gin and tonic to a raspberry vodka fizz and Caesars.
One thing they won’t be able to serve in the lounge are any martinis. No fancy Gibsons with their little pearl onions, no James Bond specials — vodka martini, shaken, not stirred.
“We can’t use vermouth,” said Graham, noting that their licence only allows them to use liquors they distill themselves. “Eventually we want to do little tiny batches so we can fill the bar a bit.”