Fifty-year-old Gordon Glanz uprooted his wife and one of his daughters from Vancouver in 2009 to learn the art and science of distillation in Scotland.
“I’ve always had an interest in making booze,” said Glanz, who formerly worked as a translator and technical writer. “In high school I made wine and then I used my mom’s water distiller to make really awful stuff that I gave to my friends. And then right after high school I went to Germany for a year and I lived with a winemaker and his family. They had a still so that’s where I had my first longer introduction to distillation.”
Glanz, his wife Miriam Karp and Joshua Beach, an Ontarian Glanz met at the Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, opened a small-batch craft distillery called Odd Society on Powell Street near the foot of Commercial Drive Thursday in what is shaping up to be brewery and distillery district with Storm, Parallel 49, Coal Harbour and Powell Street breweries.
Glanz ventured to Edinburgh with the intention of returning to Vancouver to establish a micro distillery.
“There was so much happening in the States and there was nothing happening here,” the distiller and founder of Odd Society said.
Karp, Odd Society’s general manager who previously owned an online accommodation rental business, said they knew liquor laws were loosening up.
Earlier this year, the provincial government approved tasting rooms for craft brewers and distillers. Karp noted Odd Society could open in B.C. because the government doesn’t require a minimum level of production. Craft distillers’ output is capped at 50,000 litres per year and they’re required to use agricultural products only from B.C.
Odd Society is selling East Van Vodka in private liquor stores and to restaurants. The business will sell Crème de Cassis as soon as its labels arrive. They’ll sell Mongrel moonshine while its whiskey ages three years to be officially called whiskey and they’ll also produce gin.
“Bartenders are normally so bored by vodka in cocktails and they find having a vodka with a little bit of character really a refreshing treat,” said Beach, Odd Society’s production manager and distiller.
Local company Cause+Affect branded the business and collaborated with Vancouver artist Shwa Keirstead who designed the mustachiod owl featured on the label for East Van Vodka, which is smooth enough for sipping,
Odd Society can’t be a craft distillery and sell its products to government liquor stores because craft liquor businesses get a big tax break, Glanz said.
“The government would add another $15 to $20 tax to the bottle, so we couldn’t sell it for $36, we’d have to sell it for $51.”
They’ve told the provincial government that along with brewers, they’d like to sell their spirits at farmer’s markets and offer tasters.
They see a bright future near the port.
Karp likened the area to then “sketchy” Main and King Edward where they bought a house 20 years ago.
“We liked the feel of the area and we saw it change dramatically over the years and I think that’s the same feel here,” she said.
This story has been edited since it was first posted.