It’s a bright, hot April day in Vancouver and I’m speaking to Gordon Glanz, the owner of Odd Society Spirits about his 3-year-old distillery.
Glanz is originally from Edmonton, Alberta, and that’s where he developed his interest in distilled spirits.
“For some unknown reason we used to distill our water at home”, he says with a chuckle. “I’d use my moms water distiller to make spirits from wine that I made. It was pretty awful, but my brothers and I found it fun.”
What did you do before you started Distilling?
“For 10 years I worked in in Quebec translating things between French, English and German. That introduced me to technical writing.
Then for 20 years, I worked as a technical writer making manuals for computer software, mostly in Vancouver but also in Boston and other cities.”
What really planted the seed for making alcohol, was right after High School, I lived in Mosel Germany for a year and worked on a vineyard that had alembic stills to make kirsch (Fruit brandy) and tresterschnaps (German grappa). They even made a yeast schnapps, which I’d never seen before.”
“One day I walked in and the Distiller had fallen asleep in front of the still, and that looked like the best thing in the world. I thought, someday I wanna do that.”
Is that where making Odd Society Cassis came from?
“Actually, the cassis was total serendipity.
Where we live in East Van, our close neighbor is a French chef. He told me, ‘If you have a distillery, you must make cassis.’ His family has made cassis for generations. He came to the distillery and showed us his family recipe. We’d never have thought to make it, and it fell into our laps.”
There’s no shortage of Canadian Gin, and (soon) new styles of Canadian Whiskies. But there’s a shortage of properly made Canadian liqueurs and Amaro. Odd Society has entered the market at the right time with Bittersweet Vermouth. Tell us about that.
“The Vermouth was born of necessity. Originally, anything served in our Distillery lounge had to be produced on site. We needed vermouth, which meant we had to learn to make it without knowing anything about how to make it.
Now, I’m absolutely bonkers about vermouth. I think it’s amazing, neglected and super complex. Even the cheap stuff has up to 40 herbs in it. I have so much respect for the category and there’s room to have craft vermouths that are different and interesting.
A friend gave me a book from the 20th century with recipes and I started adding local botanicals. I was headed in the direction of a dark red Italian style vermouth, but stopped at the rose Bittersweet and said, ‘the next one will be red’…”
The stills that you bought came from Switzerland?
“Yes. Funny story, when the old distiller came to Canada to help teach us how to use them, it turned out he couldn’t speak any English, so my ability to translate German came in really handy. We became friends and he gave me stacks of his old liqueur recipes, such as his coffee liqueur.
Someday, I’m going to really explore them in our releases.”
Odd Society releases are perfectly aligned with where craft cocktail culture is headed. Where did you first start to engage with craft cocktails?
“When we built, we knew we’d have a lounge. The bartenders we’ve hired along the way introduced me to craft cocktails and the culture. We’ve had Matt Cooke and others. It’s been through Kylie Monsta that we’ve found our Brand Ambassador.
We met Monsta, at The Union, and we really liked her and thought she has a great presence.”
What are the big releases for 2016?
“We have three.
She learned about aphrodisiacs used by South American tribes. We decided to do a bitter liqueur using unique barks from Peru, mixed with local ingredients, We make no claims, but these barks have really interesting flavors.
The amaro will be called, Mia Amata (‘my beloved‘, in Italian)
Secondly, we are going to have a tiny release of our Single Malt Whisky.
Third, for summer we are releasing our Salal Gin. We are taking a big group and heading to Salt Spring Island to pick the salal berries and infuse the gin right on site. It’s our version of Sloe Gin.”
Have you contemplated creating a spirit that’s inspired by Edmonton, or the Prairies?
“That’s really interesting. My original idea was to produce whisky from the barley grown on my family’s farm near Millet, Alberta. It can’t work right now because of the rules for craft distillers. I would love to make a single malt whisky with grain grown just south of Edmonton.”
We thank our supporters. It’s an exciting time. The rules regarding distilling changed in BC, in 2013, now we have over 50 distilleries – Alberta is starting too.
This is the start of the Golden Age for Distillers in Canada.”
This is an extended version of the interview that first appeared in Vue Weekly, you can check that out HERE