My first taste of Schramm Organic Vodka forever changed my expectation of what vodka should taste like.
It rolled across my tongue like clear, clean melted snow flowing from the mountains. It exploded onto my taste buds in flavourful bursts of citrous and spice. Schramm Organic Vodka tastes like it’s made from real ingredients by a real person, because it is. Schramm Organic Vodka is made from local, organic potatoes and it’s made by Tyler Schramm.
Tyler Schramm’s journey to becoming a master distiller began in the Pemberton Valley as he surveyed a potato field recently purchased by his brother Jonathan.
The Pemberton Valley lies beneath the Coast Mountains and boasts a unique combination of rich soil and clear mountain water that make it one of the premier potato growing regions of the world.
Tyler and his brother, Jonathan dreamed of a more worthy destiny for their exalted Pemberton spuds than just french fries. That’s when they hit on the idea of potato vodka.
Says Tyler, "initially we thought it was quite a good idea but we got looking at licensing and at that point it was impossible to get a license for a small distillery in BC." That was in the summer of 2002.
So Tyler shelved the vodka distillery idea and went to Whistler to work in construction for a few years. Then, in 2005, the BC government finally moved to overhaul its prohibiton-era licensing governing distilleries. "I decided it was time to head out and I was ready to pursue." He left for Scotland in 2006.
Tyler landed at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, a public research university known for strong ties to business and industry. "They have quite an extensive brewing and distilling program there. I decided to do the master’s degree which is a combination of brewing and distilling."
After spending a year developing his potato vodka recipe, Tyler was ready to return to BC and put his plan in motion. He and his wife Lorien spent 8 months developing a business plan for Pemberton Distillery. Then he, Lorien and his brothers embarked on constructing the distillery- from the ground up. "My two brothers and I basically built the entire distillery ourselves- over the winter."
Very soon after construction was finished, Tyler began distilling vodka in a hand-operated copper pot still. "At the university they have what they call a pilot distillery and that’s where I developed the potato vodka recipe. I was able to do a lot of batches on a small scale to figure out how to get the product I wanted."
"We’re essentially brewing a potato beer and then you’re distilling that." He ended up sourcing his potatoes from Across the Creek Organics in the Pemberton Valley.
Initially the idea was strictly to do potato vodka, but says Tyler, "pretty quickly we decided to do vodka and whiskey and now our product line has diversified quite a bit. We’ve started producing a gin and we have an absinthe coming out." Tyler makes all Pemberton Distillery spirits from natural recipes without genetically modified or synthetic additives.
Like all small business owners and artisans Tyler is a busy guy who wears many hats. He not only hosts regular tastings at the distillery, he also drives the truck to Vancouver to do his deliveries and pick up supplies, and markets his wares at various festivals around the region. Through it all though, distilling remains his primary focus.
"Our process is extremely hands-on. We’re fairly small scale even as far as micro-distilleries go. It is quite labour intensive and it’s also quite time intensive just waiting for a product to be done- distillation isn’t the quickest process. It takes 8-10 hours to do a distillation."
Tyler’s devotion to his craft is evident in the pure taste of his vodka.
"My favourite is to drink it on the rocks and sometimes I’ll put a slice of orange with it but that’s pretty much it. I like it simple and straightforward." Indeed, Schramm traditionally-crafted, organic vodka is so naturally flavourful that simple and straightforward is all you need.
More information on tours and tastings at Pemberton Distillery
To purchase: Schramm Organic Vodka in BC
- BC Liquor Stores
- Nester's Liquor Store (Whistler)
- Legacy Liquor (Vancouver)
- Bowen Island
- Pemberton Hotel Liquor Store
- Cascadia Liquor Store (Quadra)
- Rim Rock Cafe
- Alta Bistro
- Fairmont Chateau Whistler
- Bear Foot Bistro
- Clive's Classic Lounge (Victoria)