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Hansen Distillery Tour

On January 26, 2017, I attended the VIP Launch Event for the Hansen Distillery, a brand new Craft Distiller situated here in Edmonton. The small distillery is located in Edmonton’s West End (17412 111 Ave NW), and the launch included a small tour of the distillery as well as an evening of cocktails made from Hansen’s craft spirit.

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Head Distiller Kris Sustrik

The Hansen Distillery has an unlikely history that began in the midst of the Great Depression when Carl and Amanda Hansen began to make moonshine in Southern Alberta. As I learned at the VIP event, this wasn’t about running ‘shine across the border to make tons of money off Prohibition, this was about keeping their farm and feeding a growing family by providing a little hooch for local socials and dances. Apparently Amanda made the moonshine, and Carl made it available to the local community.

When World War II ended, the Depression was over as well, and Carl and Amanda left moonshining behind to go back to farming full-time. Of course they continued to distill the odd batch here and there for family occasions, and the recipe Amanda created was handed down to her children, and then to her grand children, and finally all the way to great-grandchildren, Kris and Shayna Sustrik. Kris and Shyna have decided to relaunch that family tradition and together they built the new Hansen Distillery.

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Hansen’s First Barrel of Canadian Rye Whisky

One of the very cool things everyone was allowed to do at the launch event was to sign the very first barrel of Canadian Rye Whisky that the Distillery had barreled. Although it may not be obvious at first glance, upon examination you will see that Kris has chosen to use brand new oak barrels aging the Canadian Whisky he is producing rather than re-used American oak barrels. The 100 % Canadian rye whisky won’t be ready (by Canadian law) for at least 3 years.

Fortunately you do not have to wait that long to enjoy fruits of Kris and Shayna’s efforts. The Sustrik’s are currently distilling 100% locally Alberta-grown, un-aged white rye for their Border Crossing Rye Spirit  and triticale ( a hybrid of wheat and rye) for their End of the Line Moonshine and Barn Owl Vodka brands. At the launch signature cocktails had been made for each of the spirits and we were all allowed to taste each spirit neat and then sample the cocktails (which were all delicious).

After the event everyone was allowed to take home a bottle of their favourite spirit. I chose the Border Crossing Rye Spirit, and decided to share my thoughts regarding the rye spirit with a review here on my website.

Here is a link to that review which includes the recipe for its signature cocktail, The Green Card:

Review: Hansen Border Crossing Rye Spirit

“… The nose is very interesting with scents of mushy banana and plantain rising alongside zesty citrus notes and fresh spicy rye grain. Grilled zucchini and pineapple are hinted at as well …”

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After the launch event Kris invited me to come back to the distillery a few weeks later to help him run a batch of vodka though its first of two distillation cycles though the still. I saw first hand how the still operated and the controlled process which Kris used to make sure the still operated at the correct temperature during the distillation run and that those distillation cuts were taken at just the right time.

Boiler Pots for Fermentation

After we finished he then allowed me to sample a very special ‘whisky in progress’, a 100 % rye whisky being aged in an experimental re-used Okanogan wine barrel. The rye spirit had only aged for about 60 days, but it was already showing outstanding promise. Sampled neat it tasted great, and when I mixed a little with ginger-ale and ice, I wished I could have stayed longer and had another. (Alas I had to drive home and one mixed drink was enough.)

The Magic of Oak Turns the Rye Spirit into Whisky!

I left the Hansen Distillery with a very favourable impression and I cannot thank Kris and Shayna Sustrik enough for their hospitality. Hopefully I will be writing about their Barn Owl Vodka and End of the Line Moonshine in the coming months as well.

 

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