Yesterday was a good day. Our friends at Odd Society Spirits celebrated the bottling of their very first batch of their very first product – East Van Vodka – and we were lucky enough to be among the first to taste it.
After over a year of debating names, designing labels, logos and website, writing stories, getting permits, withstanding inspections, installing the stills, building the tasting lounge and experimenting with various distilling techniques and ingredients, the moment of truth had arrived.
We gathered with Gordon and Miriam, the Odd Society Founders, in their almost complete tasting bar. Above the bar stood a massive phantasmagorical rendition of the glistening stills we could see through the floor-to-ceiling windows to our left. Painted by local East Van artist, Shwa Keirstead, the piece imagines the copper pot and column stills as a mish-mash of various beasts and spirits. Tentacles, feathers, scales, disembodied eyeballs, wispy spirits, fish and fowl make it look like the stills are the result of a fiendish experiment by Dr. Moreau. Definitely Odd.
Gordon, the distiller, poured the vodka from one of the one thousand bottles of batch #1, noted in his handwriting at the base of the label we designed, also featuring artwork by Shwa, this time of a mustachioed owl sporting a pipe and naval uniform going by the name ‘Cornelius’.
We brought the glasses to our noses. It smelled floral and a bit sweet. There was none of the raw, burning alcohol sensation you normally get with vodka.
We sipped. And it was good. Unlike any vodka we’ve ever had, East Van Vodka tasted smooth and buttery. Made from 100% malted barley, it comes from real substance. Gordon joked that it should be called single malt vodka.
Naturally, we have a considerable bias here, let alone a vested interest in this being good, but none of us had ever encountered a vodka that you could sip like this before.
East Van Vodka’s quality is assuring because it’s just the first of many spirits to come from the Odd Society, including Wallflower Gin, a yet-to-be-named whiskey that will be ready in two years and 11 months (it went into oak barrels a month ago), a Creme de Cassis and the Mongrel, an unaged spirit that we can’t legally call whiskey because it won’t spend anytime aging in a barrel, but contains all the locally-grown malted barley and rye that will remind you of it. It may also remind you of moonshine.
Working in our digital age, it’s rare for people in our line of work to see real physical products that you can experience like this come to reality. We have been working with Odd Society’s brand for quite some time now and are immensely proud to now hold something tangible in our hands and feel what was once just an idea now glide across our tongues and down our throats. It feels good.
Odd Society’s tasting room and distillery on Powell Street – designed by us, built by them – is coming along steadily and will be a beautiful atmosphere to taste and learn about Odd Society’s family of spirits with new licensing laws in place to make these types of rooms more conducive to lingering and learning.
Odd Society expects to open their doors to the public in late October, but look for (and ask for) East Van Vodka at local bars and liquor stores until then.