Coldstream Clear just opened its new storefront and distillery in Stewiacke, pouring out its flavourful vodka and rum by the landmark Mastodon Ridge.
"The key was making it convenient for people to get our product," says Riley Giffen, who started the business with his parents.
The distillery's original location, which opened in 2015, was "about 10 minutes outside of town." Some of the packaging and aging still takes place there, but it's no longer a retail spot. Giffen says people are responding positively to Coldstream making the move: "It did give us some more space to set up production as well."
Giffen's idea to start a distillery was planted while he was taking an organic chemistry course at Dalhousie. During one of these classes, students were distilling citrus oil from the zest of an orange peel.
"It was just a routine lab that most organic chem students take," says Giffen. He "just kind of clued in as we were doing it that that's the same principle of how you make alcohol.
"The next semester, I did a project where I really dove into it and built my own still, and figured out how to do it for real."
After making product to share with friends and family, Giffen decided to turn it into a business. His parents got on board for a couple reasons. Giffen's father Robert has been running a bottled water business since 2005.
"He has this one-in-a-million spring on their property," says Giffen of his family's land in the community of Coldstream. The quality of the water is unheard of, he adds. "That was a really good stepping stone for everything, because the water is still so key in all of our products. It's a true differentiator." Robert is also the flavour connoisseur of the company. "I gotta give him credit for some of the really hit flavours that we've done," says Giffen.
Although the unflavoured vodka is Coldstream's best-selling product, the different tastes to choose from are drool-worthy. There's salted caramel, coconut, cinnamon, and—for a whole other kind of pick-me-up—coffee. There are also a couple seasonal flavours, including candy cane.
The flavour gets blended in after the distillation process, because "you wouldn't really get that vibrant flavour if you added it before the distillation," explains Giffen. "The big key has been natural flavourings."
At less than hour's drive, the trip to Stewiacke isn't too tedious a trek, but there are more convenient locations for Haligonians. Select Coldstream spirits are available at Bishop's Cellar and Cristall Wine Merchants (soon to be WestSide Beer Wine Spirits), among others. You can choose from the full spread of Coldstream products at the Halifax Seaport Market. In October, Coldstream will launch its premium vodka package at NSLC.