A project three years in the making, Salish Sea Spirits, which currently sells vodka and gin produced at a craft distillery in Kootenay, is looking to relocate its operations to Powell River by next year.
Judi Tyabji, one of the company’s co-founders, said she hopes to have the equipment and machinery transferred by March, and to launch the official opening in June.
“The current plan is to put together a building which will be beside the gym [at Beach Gardens resort],” said Tyabji. “We’ll continue to make the vodka and gin out of Kootenay until then.”
Salish Sea Spirits showcased a preview of its existing products in Powell River last month, and will begin casking whiskey before the March transfer. Before doing that, however, the business will host a whiskey profiling event in January to help guide its selection of an appropriate whiskey distiller.
The current line of products is honey-based, but Tyabji said additional varieties will be developed using local produce once the transfer to Powell River is complete.
“The idea is that when we bring it here, we’ll add the apple spirits line, and local gins, and play around with some flavours,” she explained. “Maybe some candied-salmon vodka.”
Tyabji said the company also plans to produce non-alcoholic beverages in collaboration with local businessperson Kyle Francis of Tla’amin Nation, who owns Raven Spirit, a company name inspired by local Indigenous culture.
Francis will also help in all other aspects of the distillery’s manufacturing process, and has trained with the company’s current master distiller in Kootenay who, Tyabji noted, is “one of the few, if not only, female distillers in BC.”
“I’m looking forward to learning more,” said Francis. “I’m very interested to see and adapt, because it’s all a learning experience.”
Francis will also serve as the business’s cultural liaison with local first nations.
“I’m looking forward to having some native raven art displayed on the website and maybe having some local artists display their art on some of the products,” he added. “There’s a lot of inspiration and opportunities to follow through.”
Tyabji’s son, Mathew Wilson, serves as the company’s vice president and director of business development. He said distilleries are expanding in communities across BC due to a demand for local products.
“Because it’s small batch, artisan, there’s a large market capacity,” said Wilson. “The people of Powell River will really get behind something that’s here, that they can connect with. Trying to connect that marine environment, and to promote that, that’s what we’re going to go with. This is really promoting what’s unique to our region.”
The company’s branding pays tribute to the area’s maritime history with the mermaids that appear on the bottle labels.
“The mermaid seemed like a good theme,” said Tyabji, “and you can see the marine charts in the label; that’s actually our area.”