By Kim Foreman-Rhindress
We’ve all heard of the farm-to-table movement, but did you know there’s also a farm-to-flask movement?
Tyler Dyck, CEO of Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery, has a passion for farm-to-flask. “People are becoming more invested in what they put into their bodies,” he says. “They aren’t just asking how products are made, they want to know where grains and fruit are grown. We can answer their questions with 100 per cent certainty.”
With a fourth-generation Okanagan family at the distillery helm, the journey for Okanagan Spirits began in 2004 with a mandate to use only 100 per cent locally grown fruits and grains.
“There were thousands of pounds of fruit being wasted in the Okanagan at that time. That would never occur in traditional distilling regions in Europe,” Dyck reminisces. “In the beginning, we hardly had to buy fruit because farmers were grateful to have someone come and take surplus fruit off their hands.” Their long-term relationships with local farmers save old-growth fruit trees that would normally be culled in favour of higher-yielding varietals. These old trees provide richer and more complex flavours, especially for fruit brandies.
Spirits and Terroir
“Everyone in the wine industry talks about the importance of terroir,” Dyck explains. “The same is true for spirits, to a more amplified degree. We use six times the agricultural volume to make 750 ml of spirit compared to what winemakers use. To us, terroir is everything.”
Experience Farm-to-Flask in the Okanagan
“We don’t sell alcohol,” says Dyck. “We sell an experience. We want you to leave our tasting room with a desire to know more about where your food and drink comes from.”
Okanagan Spirits’ product line now includes more than 30 internationally awarded spirits ranging from whiskies to gins, vodkas, fruit liqueurs and brandies, aquavit and even Taboo Genuine Absinthe.
You can begin your own farm-to-flask experience at one of their two beautifully appointed tasting rooms/distilleries in downtown Vernon or Kelowna (okanaganspirits.com).
When COVID-19 hit, it provided a legacy moment and an opportunity for Okanagan Spirits to give back to their communities. “In March 2020 we destroyed thousands of litres of whisky to meet the province’s critical need for hand sanitizer to keep frontline medical heroes safe in the fight against the coronavirus. This was when hand sanitizer was almost impossible to find,” Dyck says. “To date, we have made and donated over 40,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and we are still going strong.
“We had just won Distillery of the Year at the World Spirits Awards in Austria and within days we were turning our beautiful world-class distillate into hand sanitizer. We just gave it away because we knew it was the right thing to do.”