Business Spotlight: Eau Claire Distillery
Eau Claire Distillery: Making a Masterpiece with No Compromises
The Eau Claire Distillery pays tribute to everything that makes Alberta wonderful.
The distillery and its in-progress gardens sit on a historic site where MacLeod #1, #2, #3, #4 drilled for oil from the late 1920s until being decommissioned in 2018. For David Farran, founder and president, this connection to Alberta is just the beginning of the distillery's story.
"There are a few reasons behind the name," Farran says. "Firstly, Turner Valley was the operating area of the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Company during the early days of Alberta, and made a significant impact on the economy and town during that time. Secondly, "Eau Claire" means clear water in French. Since the Alberta foothills is graced with clear water from the Rocky Mountains, we're lucky to be able to distill from this source; what else would you want to distill Single Malt Whisky from?!"
He continues, "Alberta is home to highly sought-after malted barley that is often shipped worldwide for spirits production. Before Eau Claire, it seemed extraordinary that Alberta didn't have a craft distillery producing local, handcrafted spirits. This passion, in combination with my hobby of farming with draft horses and deep interest in traditional horse-farming practices, culminated into Eau Claire's farm-to-glass philosophy. In fact, Eau Claire Distillery is a certified farm distillery, where grain is produced using 100-year-old horse farming methods – a first in North America."
The craft scene in Alberta is booming, but Eau Claire is distinct in its approach. Farran explains, "As Alberta's first craft distillery, there have been many learning experiences and challenges that have taught us valuable lessons along the way. Overall, it has been rewarding to showcase exactly how lucky we are to have world-class agricultural roots right here in Alberta.
Owning a distillery is a people-centric business — it's so important to make sure that staff, customers and suppliers are all aligned on ethics, goals and business practices." These business practices are continually honed as Farran and his team learn more and more about the challenges and rewards of running the unique distillery.
"No new business is a straight path, and we've learned every day something new about how to better ourselves," he admits. "This mindset and process is derived directly from our belief in quality and continuous improvement as a distillery, as a brand, and as a team. One thing that we wouldn't change is our collective devotion to quality and our true artisanal spirit. Our dedication to quality lies in distilling great spirits that create a sense of community and loyalty."
To date, Eau Claire's most popular product is its Parlour Gin, which has been recognized by World Gin Awards, SIP Awards, and the New York International Spirits Competition, among others.
"However," Farran smiles, "Our most notable product is our Single Malt Whisky, which has proven to be exceptionally popular, although only available in short supply. This November will be the third release, and will be released first for presale to our Cask Club members."
His personal favourite is the Prickly Pear EquineOx because it's the first time that anyone has ever distilled prickly pear cactus. "This unique flavour is spectacular in a huge range of cocktails, making the everyday drink seem like a mixology masterpiece," says Farran.
Turner Valley is the ideal location for the distillery due to its proximity to a Calgary, only 30 minutes south of Calgary's city limits. Farran thanks the city's can-do spirit, youth and vitality — along with the many opportunities to give back, for making Eau Claire Distillery one of the best reasons to take a short day trip.
"Calgary's attitude has a unique pioneering spirit that continues to inspire what we do at Eau Claire Distillery. We really believe in supporting the community around us. As a result, we regularly contribute through sponsorships, tastings, and donations for various charity and non-profit events such as Wood's Homes, Kids Cancer Care, Easter Seals of Alberta, Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation Youth Council, Drags Benny and more. We further support the community through collaborations and partnerships with local businesses."
The distillery has had a great start, and there are many more exciting things ahead.
"Eau Claire is very excited to begin plans for our distillery gardens, where we will plant botanicals and a barley crop to produce malt barley for use in our processes, and continue with some of our unique horse farming," Farran informs. "In late 2018, we planted a forest garden on our west boundary, featuring saskatoon berries, apples, juniper and many other fruits and botanicals that we use in our production. Now, our east boundary will be remediated with a small parking lot and refurbishment of the lawn area behind the 1930 vintage house and garden. We hope visitors will be able to enjoy the property, as we slowly evolve our plans for our project!"
He concludes, "Innovation is key in this business. The economy certainly keeps us on our toes and, as a result, we have to continue to innovate. Our product development must always be ahead of the curve. It's exciting to see how quickly the craft distilling industry has come so far in just a few years; we're excited to see how innovation will shape Alberta's quickly growing craft distillery sector. For Eau Claire, be sure to look forward to new and exciting products as we push the envelope in the spirits industry."