New craft distillery planned for Mackenzie Avenue in Revelstoke

A small batch artisan craft distillery is anticipated to open in Revelstoke in the spring of 2017, producing spirits and cocktail bitters using locally sourced organic grains.

A new craft distillery has taken on the lease for the space that used to house a photo shop, then Habitat, and briefly Mane Attraction Hair Studio. Photo: Google Streetview

Infused vodka and oak-aged gin, the latest in B.C.’s growing craft distillery industry has landed in Revelstoke and new business, Monashee Spirits Craft Distillery, has scooped up a high-traffic space in Revelstoke’s downtown.

The space at 307 Mackenzie Avenue was finalized yesterday, on May 31, next door to Eagle Pass Heliskiing.

Monashee Spirits posted an image of taste testing gin made from honey online. Photo: Facebook
Monashee Spirits posted an image of taste testing gin made from honey online. Photo: Facebook

Monashee Spirits is made up of Josh McLafferty and his wife Jen, liquor hobbyists who have turned commercial. They’re not banking on a pipe dream though; McLafferty said the pair have had many years experience in crafting, including churning out hundreds of bottles of home-made wine for their wedding.

Property owner Brent Veideman said discussion with the couple took about a month. Despite interest in his lot Veideman said he was picky, conscious of the space’s long-term viability and not wanting to add to what Revelstoke already has with restaurants, outdoor and bike and ski shops.

“I was adamant in finding the best person to fit that space, which would tend to the downtown well and fit in nicely without multiplying businesses over again and making the pie smaller for other businesses,” Veideman said. “I wanted to find something unique, that’s different from everybody else, and there’s nothing else like this in town.”

Veideman hopes town will continue to stay alive and growing and said the community has fought hard to keep it that way, possibly a nod to the failed shopping centre development on the outskirts of town.

“I think the interest is definitely there and I believe that we are on the upscale, we are growing,” he said. “There is still a lot of hot interest in getting your foot in the door and getting your business off the ground. But community support is a big one. You need to have it.”

This husband and wife business team, with their two-year-old son in tow, currently live in Sicamous but are planning to move to Revelstoke where Jen works. They previously lived in Vancouver for a number of years but McLafferty said they have always visited Revelstoke.

“We spend almost every weekend there, even coming from Vancouver,” McLafferty said. “We make sure to do three to four trips in winter to do backcountry skiing and get on the hill. We’re both splitboarders and into motorcross biking.”

Finished design and starting the build for the first of two stills. This one will produce Monashee Spirit's vodkas and gins. Photo: From Facebook
Starting the build for the first of two stills. This one will produce Monashee Spirit’s vodkas and gins. Photo: From Facebook

Monashee Spirits won’t be open this year, with the process of liquor licensing and permits still to be finalized. McLafferty, who is a welder, will also be taking on the mammoth task of building the stills and equipment for the distillery.

With a tentative opening in the spring of 2017, McLafferty envisions a store with an open workshop where customers can watch the process of making liquor and sample tasters. They’re aiming to source ingredients locally, possibly with honey from Revelstoke and organic grains from Armstrong.

On move-in, they will barrel scotch and whisky for three to five years, meaning they’re hoping to be in for the long haul.

“I think every town needs a craft distillery,” McLafferty said “We all need to support local. Why buy your booze coming from hundreds of miles away when you can buy a great product down your street?”

This distillery is the second to be proposed this year.  The Mountaineer reported in January of plans for Jones Distilling to take over the Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. space on 1st Street after they move to their bigger property near the Coast Hillcrest Hotel this summer.

Emily Kemp is a freelance journalist and frequent contributor to the Revelstoke Mountaineer.