Honey the key in unruly spirits

The Wayward Distillation House is something of a dream come true for owners Dave and Andrea Brimacombe.

Dave Brimacombe checks the still at the Wayward Distillation House.

An artisan craft distillery opened in Courtenay just before Christmas last year.

The Wayward Distillation House is something of a dream come true for owners Dave and Andrea Brimacombe, who were able to open their doors when the Craft Distillery Agreement came into effect in 2013. Starting the business wasn’t financially viable under previous legislation.

“The province — I will give credit where credit is due,” said Dave, who is retired from the military. “The liquor industry is cumbersome and over-regulated. But they really did something right when they created the Craft Distillery Agreement.”

The policy requires producers to use only B.C. ingredients, and to ferment, distill, bottle, blend and distribute liquor themselves.

“Now, we are able to function not being a multi-million dollar establishment,” Dave said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

The fermenting and distilling process takes place in a warehouse that can been seen through a window in the reception area. In the middle is a 250-litre still that stands 12 feet tall.

“Still a work in progress, but the ground work has been laid,” Andrea said, noting the number of distilleries popping up on various parts of the Island.

Wayward spirits include Unruly vodka and gin, which can be found at a number of local watering holes, liquor stores and at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Dave said. “If we stop selling for five minutes we might have enough alcohol to launch our other products, but we just can’t keep up with demand.”

While most spirits are grain-based, the key ingredient in Wayward liquor is honey.

“Other people use honey as a sweetener but we’re the only ones (in Canada) using it as a fermentable,” Dave said.

The couple purchases honey from an apiary near Dawson Creek because local operations don’t produce enough to supply the required amounts in a single-source format.

“We use 2 1/2 pounds of honey per bottle,” Dave said. “Our first order was over 6,000 pounds. We’re on line for 20,000 pounds this year, and even more next year. It would have a negative impact on the local honey market if we were to move that much honey from consumers.”

Aside from honey, the gin also incorporates a blend of juniper, coriander, lavender, citrus peel, cedar and sarsaparilla root.

The ‘Unruly’ label symbolizes a challenge to the traditional world of mead and vodka. The Wayward moniker refers to the couple’s vagabond lifestyle when they moved every three years, and how it took upwards of three years to find a location for their distillery, after other potential sites had fallen through.

It’s located at 2931 Moray Ave. in Courtenay, open from noon to 6 p.m. daily. The outside of the building offers electric car charging stations.

The distillery takes part in the BC Distilled Festival April 18 in Vancouver and in EAT Vancouver in May.

Call 871-0424 or visit www.waywarddistillationhouse.com for more information.

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