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Is opening a distillery much more difficult than opening a brewery?

Yes. Opening a distillery not only costs more than opening a brewery, you’ll have to adhere to more codes, which means more inspections. And because of the higher proof of spirits, opposed to beer, everything in and about your building will be held to a higher standard of safety, which translates to more time and capital. Not to mention you’re going to be paying way more taxes on spirits than you would for beer.

Can I start distilling at home?

No. It’s 100% illegal. It is illegal to distill at home and that will not likely change in the near future. Mainly for two main reasons. Firstly, safety. Unlike beer and wine, it’s possible to make poison if you don’t know what you’re doing. Methyl alcohol poisoning kills people every year in North America. Not to mention you’ll have high proof alcohol in vapor form in a pressurized vessel (AKA a bomb), again, not very safe if you don’t know what you’re doing. Secondly, taxes. If the CRA find that you have been distilling illegally it could ruin your chances of getting approved to produce spirits legally.

The CRA investigates anyone that applies for a license to distill. If they find any public evidence that you have been operating a still illegally, kiss your chances of getting that license good bye. They keep track of purchases of home distilling equipment online.

I can proudly say that I am a distilling virgin for another month until I start apprenticing under the supervision of a Distiller with 7 years of experience.

How will you learn how to distill good spirits?

I started brewing homemade beer when I was 19 (28 years ago) Making beer is the first step in making spirits. I have spent over 100 hours researching distilling techniques. I have some helpful small batch distillers holding my hand and educating me in the art of distilling. They have a total of 14 years’ experience. I have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes without making the mistakes myself. I will be visiting the guys from The Last Straw Distillery in January to distill some whisky and learn the ropes first hand. I hope to bring some whisky home for a sampling.

What type of spirits will O’Kenny Produce?

We will start with the popular favourites; Whisky, Vodka, Rum, Moonshine and Gin but we will expand our line up to include YOUR other favourites. We can make mixed spirits in cans, Tequila, coffee liqueurs and more. We will need continuous feedback and suggestions from YOU; You as our patrons need to tell us what YOU want us to create. The Last Straw Distillery will be incubating O’Kenny Craft Spirits. This means they will be assisting us as we start our first products and we will stay in contact as we both produce new products. This partnership will help us both research and learn to produce anything you see on the LCBO shelves but with the customizations requested by YOU.

When will you start producing spirits?

As soon as we receive all our required licences from the CRA, AGCO, and LCBO we will begin producing spirits in our Renfrew County Distillery. The timeline varies substantially, so this may not happen until late 2019.

In January 2019 I will travel to the Last Straw Distillery in Vaughn to produce a barrel of single malt Whiskey to my exact specifications, however this cannot be sold legally as Whisky until January 2022.

When will you start selling your spirits?

As soon as we get the required licenses approved from the CRA, AGCO and LCBO we will begin selling our spirits from our distillery storefront. This could be late 2019. We will definitely have a party to celebrate our first still run. Expect a Vodka Party with all drinks Vodka being served.

If there is enough demand we may be permitted to open our aging single malt and sell it as Moonshine. This Moonshine will be legally called Canadian Whisky when it has spent its 1096th day (3 years) in a barrel. Our unique processes will attempt to achieve the taste of a 3 year old whisky in less than a year. If our patrons demand it we can produce a very limited edition of some liquid we could call Dark Moonshine for our Grand Opening. It would be a definite learning experience to see if our patrons can tell the difference between our Dark Moonshine aged less than a year and a someone’s 3 year old whisky.

Where will you be locating your Distillery?

Our First location will be located in Pembroke because it is the best location for me to get free help from my friends and family. We are looking into about 20 high traffic locations in both the City of Pembroke and Laurentian Valley and we will be making our choice soon. We will be applying for a license to have multiple distillation locations so that we can service all of Renfrew County which is the largest County in Ontario. Our Plan is to keep track of where are patrons live and open the next location where ever we have the most customers.

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