- $48 (and various prices) in Alberta
There's something quaint about a bottle proudly stamped with the designation "Est. 2013." In the field of North American craft distilling as in life generally, youth carries the cachet of cool. In one respect, Eau Claire Distillery is younger still (pun almost unavoidable). It opened commercially in summer 2014. Billed as "Alberta's original craft distillery," the proudly local venture makes its home in a converted 1920s-era movie theatre in the hamlet of Turner Valley, half an hour's drive southwest of Calgary on the Cowboy Trail. That's where president David Farran, an entrepreneur who, among other things, created Canada's largest chain of small-animal veterinary clinics, experienced the magic of his first motion picture, Bambi. Farran was also vice-president at Calgary's Big Rock Brewery, his first foray into the modern world of craft beverages.
A French name for an Alberta distillery? Why not? Eau Claire refers to the glacial Rocky Mountain "clear water" used at the distillery, which also sources its grain and potatoes from nearby farms.
With plans to release wood-matured rye whisky in 2017, the distillery has entered the game with fine Three Point Vodka ($45) and this lovely, rounded gin, made in a classic London-dry style. It's like a one-two-three punch, leading off with heady juniper, then with pronounced, sweet fruity characters and, finally, the unexpected left hook of earthy grain. If there can be such a thing as cowboy gin, this dusty trail of a spirit is it. Very well balanced. Available direct from the distillery, eauclairedistillery.ca, or, at various prices, from Alberta liquor stores in Calgary, Strathmore, Red Deer, Jasper, Okotoks, Black Diamond, Cochrane, Millarville, Edmonton, Canmore and Banff. (The distillery's tasting room is set to open soon.)