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RAW Distillery

RAW Distillery

Published by Leonardo Calcagno

Who are you and your current job?

Lindsay Smylie, co-founder, and CEO of RAW Distillery in Canmore, AB. 

Brad Smylie, co-founder, and Distiller of RAW Distillery in Canmore, AB.

What was the inspiration behind your Distillery? 

Our passion for distilling was the guiding reason. Spirits are the new frontier of the Craft gold rush in Alberta. We see ourselves as one of a handful of early pioneers in this robust and dynamic industry.  

We are seeking to become a beacon for those with a love for quality spirits, who value variety, taste, and distinctiveness and who are energized by the constant exploration and discovery of new tastes.  

The success of our start-up is as much a story of passion as an entrepreneurial spirit. The fact we are able to continue to be passionate about distilling through start-up is a testament to why we started this brand.

Can you give us a tour of your Distillery scene? 

The Canmore distillery scene is picking up this year for sure. Events like Canmore uncorked featuring our locally produced spirits gives us a venue to showcase these products on the world stage. 

We chose to launch in Canmore for a few reasons. Number 1 on that list has been the support for locally sourced products. Alberta, in general, is embracing a renaissance in the production of craft spirits and the excitement has never been higher. In less than 3 short years, since the end of prohibition on Alberta craft producers, the craft movement has really exploded. 

What’s most exciting to me is seeing brand loyalty in this province fizzle and die. Every time a craft distillery opens shop our industry exposure grows. And with it acceptance collectively from consumers who want to try new flavor profiles. Every time a consumer gives us a chance the industry is better for it. And that’s something we can be proud of.

We want you to try other spirits as well, not just those created by RAW. Because spirits should be an experience, not just a purchase. We want you to visit us in Canmore where you can discover so many more tastes, where we can meet face to face and become friends. Alberta grows the best grain in the world and it consistently sets the bar for top ranking spirits! Drink Alberta made, Drink local!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a Distillery?

This is a relatively new industry with lots of growth ahead… Start early, plan for delays, make sure you love it because it will be all consuming for a very long time! It’s a highly regulated industry with requirements that are not always logical or fair. You will hear “NO” many times from all levels of government … just focus on what ‘can’ be done, don’t let people get you focused on what you can’t do or you won’t make it.  

On the production side, I would say start with a brand in mind. Work with an Artisan producer to get a recipe scaled to commercial size and a brand on the shelves before committing to equipment. The supply management system in Alberta is less than friendly to newcomers. It was set up for the big players and will quickly squeeze you out. 

We are humbled to be entering this industry and watch it thrive. If you’re thinking of starting something give us a call. I would be happy to help you through the process.