It may come as a surprise to many, but Saskatchewan boasted a budding micro-distilling community years before many other provinces in Canada. With liquor laws (frustratingly) varying from province to province, production minimums in Saskatchewan were, on average, significantly lower than neighbourhing provinces like Alberta and Manitoba. In recent years, adjustment of distilling regulations has allowed the practice of micro-distilling to blossom across the country. Some might even say it has exploded.
Stumbletown Distilling, which is owned by Craig Holland, is the latest Saskatchewan distillery on the scene, joining mainstays like LB Distillers and Last Mountain Distillery and the internationally-awarded Black Fox Farm and Distillery. Holland's debut product, a vodka made with an unusual local grain, purple wheat, is set to hit liquor store shelves next week.
"The wheat was developed by the Canadian Wheat Pool in the 1990s," says Holland. "The purple wheat provides a sweet, silky flavour profile which is different from any other vodka on the market, and we love the fact that it's a product developed in Saskatchewan, grown by Saskatchewan farmers and distributed by a Saskatoon company."
To the distiller's knowledge, this is the first time that this specific type of wheat has been used specifically to create a spirit.
The distiller said he became enamoured with the distilling community several years ago while touring different facilities, and after the chemical plant he was working at closed, he took the opportunity to try his hand at opening his own.
"My industrial background played a role [in moving into the distilling world], but everyone that I met in the industry from that point forward made me want to be part of it even more," he says. "It's a great industry that's filled with great people."
Following the release of Stumbletown's Purple Wheat Vodka, Holland says they have just fine-tuned their gin's botanical recipe and expects to have it available for purchase before Christmas, as well as adding a retail side to the distillery for people to purchase product on-site. In the new year, the distillery will release its Maté Amaro, a slight spin on the classic Italian liqueur that incorporates the earthy, woodsy yerba maté tea.
Stick to Stumbletown Distilling's Instagram feed for further updates on product releases and availability.