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When an Alberta spirit was named “World Whisky of the Year” in Jim Murray’s prestigious Whisky Bible, connoisseurs took notice. Although Alberta has roots in the prohibition era, a new crop of local distillers is tapping into the province’s history to serve world-class ingredients in unique farm-to-table experiences.

Eau Claire Distillery brings local history to life with Prohibition-era experience

Scotch fan and Alberta local David Farran was inspired to start Eau Claire Distillery after learning Alberta barley is featured in 80 per cent of the whiskies produced in Scotland. “Well, if that's the case, why are we not making single malt whisky here in Alberta?” he wondered.

Now in its ninth year of production and with several award-winning whiskies under its belt, the distillery welcomes visitors to experience the unique history of whisky runners during the prohibition era in Alberta’s Sheep River Valley.


A lot of our story is about prohibition and the sort of hidden story it has behind the scenes... We really wanted this to be a destination for people to come down and experience our brands and our products.

David Farran, founder of Eau Claire Distillery

Thanks in part to Travel Alberta’s investment, the distillery was able to build a covered, heated patio space to elevate the visitor experience and extend it year-round. With the added capacity, the site accommodates 250 guests, opening it up as a venue for weddings, business meetings, and even music events.

“Travel Alberta has helped us by both bringing visitors down and helping us promote our business, and also understanding kind of how we can make it attractive to visitors,” says David. “It's been really a wonderful partnership.”

David is clear about the effect tourism has had on the local economy. “Just the mere fact that somebody is coming down to visit us — they stop at the gas station, and they go to the convenience store, have a coffee — having a tourism destination creates employment and gives the town a little bit of vibrancy that it wouldn't have otherwise.”

Rig Hand Distillery practices good relations with Indigenous neighbours and community members

Monique Collins is a member of the Peepeekisis First Nation and the Indigenous consultant at Rig Hand Distillery in Nisku, Alberta. She describes her role as a combination of community builder and storyteller. “We really want people to come here to build a community,” says Monique. “We can showcase Canada off to the rest of the world and show how great our culture is and how deep it runs.”

Rig Hand owner and founder, Geoff Stewart, explains the unique partnership: “The distillery has 5 per cent Indigenous ownership and we have Indigenous staff as well, so we decided to adopt an Indigenous reconciliation program.” In addition to walking tours of the land, the team works with local partners to offer Indigenous-based products, donating half the proceeds to benefit the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Monique and her family have built a teepee on the Rig Hand site, where Monique runs classes, ceremonies, and drumming sessions. “This is where we really want people to have a place to come, to sit, tell stories. And that's really what building a culture is about.”


This is a place to come and create community and reconnect with community. And that's what we've built.

Geoff Stewart, founder of Rig Hand Distillery

Family histories and farm-fresh ingredients combine in Burwood Distillery’s heritage building

A formative memory for Bosnian brothers Marko and Ivan Cilic was the community coming together once a year to distill whatever they had. “We would bring the still on the horse wagon, park in the yards, and the whole community would come and celebrate and do the process day and night,” Marko recalls.

In Canada, the brothers met Dr. Jordan Ramey and teamed up to establish Burwood Distillery, making unique spirits using honey sourced from family beehives and barley malted from local farmers. Jordan refers to their efforts as trying to tell the story of Alberta in a bottle.

The team chose their location in Calgary’s historic Currie Barracks with an intention to interact with the public and other local businesses in a meaningful way. That’s where the story took an unexpected twist.

Jordan remembers looking through old family albums and recognizing photos of his grandfather on a horse. “It turns out he was part of the reserves here, stationed out of Calgary, and there's a picture of him on horseback in his full military gear in 1938, two years after this building was built.”


We felt this personal connection to the space and we said, we've got to do it. We've got to buy the building. This is the home we need.

Dr. Jordan Ramey, co-founder of Burwood Distillery

With assistance from Travel Alberta, the Burwood team has invested in restoring and enhancing the iconic building, making it more efficient to heat and cool. “Sustainability is really important for us because we all know that the world is changing around us and we need to change with it. And this building, not only does it save us money by having a lower carbon footprint and increased sustainability practices, but it's good for us and the environment as well.”

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