If you find yourself deep in the gray jungle of Canada’s tech park and drive down Silver Seven Road, you may stumble upon Ogham Craft Spirit’s distillery and tasting room. Tucked between a craft brewery and a spa, the building’s modest facade holds a true jewel.
Ogham is named after an ancient Irish alphabet and promises to create spirits that faithfully represent the country they come from. From the grain and water used to produce his signature gin and poitin, to the equipment used in the distillation process, every part of Ogham’s offering is a tribute to society.
Ogham’s founder – who wishes to remain named at this time – welcomed Apt613 in the facilities for the one-man operation for a tour and a tipple, a few days before the grand opening on September 4th. He guided us through the different parts of the distillation process and explained the chemical processes that occur in every large metal container, with a precision I – a law student whose last encounter with structural formulas dates from a time when TikTok was a hot new Ke $ ha single – could never hope to convey.
“I directly drew inspiration for the project from a distillery called Dingle on the west coast of Ireland,” says the founder. They all feed their botany from the local area, so when you are at the bar, everyone in town is super proud of the gin that comes from that distillery. You can meet the people who raised the grain, picked the botanical and raised the sheep, which are fed with the grain that comes over the still life. I love the little ecosystem they have there, so here in Canada I want to do the same. ”
While some of Ogham’s supply chains extend beyond the Ottawa Valley, the distillery is gradually finding local sources for every ingredient that goes in the mood. “A company I work with, Ottawa Valley Grain Products, I talked to them, I told them my ambitions,” says the founder. “May was something I was missing, so they called me and said, ‘We found a farmer who has corn. Can you pick it up? ‘And then I drove up there and loaded 100 kilos of corn on the back of my hatchback and that’s what’s going into the next batch when we start next week. ”
Although his dream is to create his own whiskey, he has had to put it on the back burner for a while: In Canada, a spirit must be aged in wood for at least three years to be labeled as whiskey. Eager to start distillation, he decided to focus on products with a faster turnaround. Enter Ogham Craft Spirits’ virgin products: Pot Still Gin and Poitin, a traditional Irish distilled beverage sometimes called “Irish moonshine” (although the term probably comes from the Irish word pota, meaning “pot”, the Irish word for hangover does what you want).
“This is essentially the same product that we’re going to put in wood to become the whiskey,” says the founder. “So if you visit us now and you taste what the poitin is like, then three years further down the road you will be able to understand how the whiskey got to where it is.”
“Nobody knows what a distillery looks like. No one knows how to handle it. ”
Craft spirits have experienced a significant boom over the last few years, with distilleries dubbing their stills across the country (it is traditional to name one’s still life as it is the distillery’s hardest worker – Ogham’s copper is still called Hope). From securing investments and navigating taxation to the dreaded Angel’s Share, the heavy-handed name for a loss of about 2 percent of the total amount of whiskey during each aging year, mostly due to evaporation, there are challenges at every step of the journey.
“You can go into a bank and say ‘I want to start a bakery’ and they go ‘Okay, we know, it’s going to be, let’s say $ 300,000. Because you need ovens and people, and you need footprints. ‘Nobody knows what a distillery looks like. Nobody knows how to handle it, ”says Ogham’s founder.
The COVID-19 pandemic added a number of other challenges. Ogham’s founder was set to buy his equipment from Canada and found a perfect partner in Specific Mechanical, from British Columbia, to supply the equipment in the winter of 2020. However, capacity constraints slowed production significantly and delayed delivery until May 2021. Ever optimistic, Ogham’s founder let not this setback slow him down. “The project had so much momentum at the time it was like, ‘Well, no matter what happens to COVID, we’re in full force at this point, so we hope it all works out.'”
His advice for aspiring distilleries: Start small, understand the industry, and do your research. Oh, and if you can not afford a tax lawyer, you can consider becoming one: “Most companies are not regulated in the same way as the alcohol industry. There is a whole tax infrastructure you need to navigate. ”
Despite delays, malfunctions and roadblocks, Ogham’s founder has no regrets. “I have never encountered an unhappy distillery. They are all very passionate about what they do […] It’s a lot of trial and error, a lot of practice, practice, practice. But once you understand the basics, you can drink your mistakes. Maybe it did not turn out exactly as you wanted, but with a little tonic or a little cola it’s all worth it. ”
You can buy Ogham Craft Spirits at the distillery at 767 Silver Seven Road, Unit 23 Ottawa, Ontario. If you or someone you know grows grain or botany, or if you are a local seller with something to share, contact Ogham on the distillery website or via Instagram.