The Shuswap’s becoming well known for the quality of its wines, craft beer production is gaining prominence and soon spirits may be added to the list of unique beverages produced here.
Gareth Jones, proprietor of Jones Distillery, is currently working towards his dream of producing unique, high-quality gin, vodka and whiskey in the heart of Salmon Arm.
An immigrant from the United Kingdom, Jones grew up with a father who tinkered with brewing, and the idea for running a distillery percolated through his mind, but “life got away from him.” After stints in the British army and in the food service industry, Jones moved to Canada with his wife and his two young children. It seemed like the perfect chance to turn his visions into reality.
After taking a master distilling course in Kelowna, Jones has moved full steam ahead into the venture. He is envisioning producing the spirits at the distillery which is proposed for a section of the old Honda dealership building at 650 Trans-Canada Highway. Like a winery, this would include a tasting room, product sales and eventually a bar with food service.
(A re-zoning application to allow for the development of his facility took place Monday, Nov. 9 after the Observer’s press deadline for this week.)
While these elements are all in the works, Jones is clear on his main focus.
“It’s all about making the best bloody product out there,” he says. “And it’s been amazing the response from people when they hear about it. Everyone’s been very positive. It’s been fantastic, absolutely brilliant.”
Jones is eager to make connections in the community, so much so that he decided to invite the community to name his products. After conducting an online survey, his vodka is to be named Mr. Jones, while the whiskey is to be named Ida’s Keep, in reference to Salmon Arm’s iconic mountain backdrop. Patrons eager for this product will have to wait, however, as whiskey takes a minimum of three years to age in barrels.
Vodka and gin are much faster to produce and can be distilled in roughly two weeks. Jones intends to use local products, to make it evocative of the area, sourcing his grain locally and hoping to eventually help his clients customize their products by adding local botanicals as flavour notes.
“As with wines and beers, people are looking for something more than a cookie cutter product. That’s where craft wineries and breweries have gained huge traction. I’m looking to spread that into the spirit market.”
Jones plans to offer pre-sales on his products, which will also satisfy his desire to replicate a tradition in many British distilleries. This is where a relative or friend will purchase a barrel of whiskey to celebrate the birth of a baby and will let the spirit age in the barrel until the child is of legal age, at which point they will drink some on their birthday and on special occasions thereafter.
“I plan to do a barrel for each of my children and hope to be sharing the drink with them when they turn 21,” he says.