Rebekah Crowley, owner/distiller, walks us through the steps to create their signature spirits.
By Catherine Dunwoody
As one of the numerous Metro-Vancouver-based craft distilleries participating in the BC Distilled Festival, Roots and Wings Distillery is the first of its kind in the Fraser Valley. I chatted with Rebekah Crowley about the process of making their small batch artisan spirits. Proud of their farm-to-table approach and ingredients grown right on their farm, Crowley and partner Head Distiller Rob Rindt have created over forty unique and flavorful spirits in their six years in business.
“Every Saturday we start a new batch, be it vodka or whiskey base, they all begin the same way,” says Crowley. “We take the potatoes (for vodka) and corn or rye and corn (for whiskey) and add it into our 500-gallon mash still. Then we heat it with a mix of water and enzymes until it reaches 90 degrees C.”
What’s next? “We proceed with the cool down and pitch in the second enzyme and yeast,” Crowley says. “The fermentation takes approximately three days in the mash ferment still, and once it stops bubbling, we proceed to the distillation of the alcohol.”
Sounding a little like a witch’s bubbly brew so far, I’m intrigued. “It takes about 8 hours to distill all of the alcohol out of the mash; this stripping run is where we do the cuts of the heads and the tails,” she says.
Pardon? I didn’t think my witch analogy was literal, now all I can think of is eye of newt, toe of frog and toil and trouble. But what real definition of “cuts of the heads and tails” is this: ‘heads’ are considered the first part of the collected alcohol which can be used in blending, often with a fruity character. The ‘tails’ are the
last portion of alcohol that is produced from the still, containing heavier alcohols, and unwanted by-products.
“At this point in the process you can still taste the grain or potato in the first run,” Crowley explains. “From here we put it through a 20-plate copper column still. During this process it cleans up the taste of the spirit. So, if it is a whiskey that we are running through we bypass the column as we want to keep in the flavour of the grain after it has been aged. For a vodka-based product we put the spirit through these columns repeatedly until we have the result we are looking for.”
“If we are making gin we will infuse the spirit with the botanicals, then run it through the gin still where we have packed the gin basket full of complimentary botanicals to add to the flavour.” And to make whiskey? “With the whiskey base we will put it into a barrel for aging.”
Once those processes are complete, they filter, bottle and label at the distillery. Be sure and try their Johnny Handsome whiskey, Jackknife gin and Apotheosis Absinthe.
Visit the Roots and Wings Distillery showroom for a tasting and to purchase, or better yet buy tickets to visit their booth and meet the many BC craft distillers May 13th at BC Distilled Festival taking place once again at the Croatian Cultural Centre in Vancouver.
BC Distilled is the province’s premier artisan distillery festival, which started in 2014, and has grown to be the largest spirits event in Canada exclusively for local distilleries. Taste the wares of distillers based in Burnaby, Surrey, North Vancouver, Vancouver, and more.
There are many ways to get to by transit. Visit TransLink’s Trip Planner to find your way.
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