Skål! Calgary’s Confluence Distillery Launches Vinland Aquavit

By Camie Leard

April 16, 2019

City Palate, guide to the good life in Calgary - drink this: 2019-04-16 Confluence Distillery Bottles

Tapping Local Talent: Confluence works with local artists for its packaging, including this delicate dillflower illustration by tattoo artist Jessica Doyle

Stepping into Confluence Distillery’s  tasting room is a little like stepping into grandma’s rec room – complete with floral wallpaper and shuffleboard. But it doesn’t take long to see that the cozy space is the handiwork of much younger, much cooler crowd – no offense, Nan.

Opened in December 2018, Confluence is the creation of Ross Alger and partner Pheelan Mah. If the name rings a bell, Alger is the grandson of former Calgary mayor Ross Alger, most notable for being the mayor that won the bid to bring the 1988 Winter Olympics to Calgary and building the first leg of Calgary’s LRT. His portrait hangs in the corner, keeping an eye on things.

Tonight, the young Alger and his team are debuting their brand new Vinland aquavit. Front-house Manager and Bartender John Fairholm, fresh off a second-place finish at the Park Distillery  cocktail competition at Trolly 5, is quick to sing the praises of the new release. Shaking a hilariously-named cocktail, Slicked-back Eyebrows, Fairholm explains that Confluence’s version of the Scandinavian spirit is made with locally-sourced wheat and herbs – sometimes hand-picked by the confluence team themselves.

Vinland adds a unique twist to the traditional Aquavit, which most commonly features a distillate of caraway and/or dill seeds, by adding fennel and garlic bringing next-level complexity and, at 50 per cent alcohol, a pretty good punch. The botanical label is gorgeous, designed by by local tattoo artist Jessica Doyle and is right at home with the rest of Confluence’s current offerings including Manchester Dry Gin, Headwater Vodka and a few other offerings. Alger says the team is working with Legend7 Brewery on a collaborative spirit that opens up opportunities to serve beer in their tasting room as well.

City Palate, guide to the good life in Calgary - drink this: 2019-04-16 Confluence Distillery staff

Pride and Joy: The Confluence team debuted their Vinland Aquavit on April 2016, 2019. Left to right: John Farholm, Jamie Hilland, Ross Alger and Pheelan Mah.

City Palate, guide to the good life in Calgary - drink this: 2019-04-16 Confluence Distillery

The Tasting Room: The cozy space up front is perfect for after-work libations.

Curious? Visit Confluence’s tasting room at 507 36 Avenue Southeast. Confluence’s products can also be found on the shelves at Co-op and Sobey’s Liquor Stores as well as boutique stores and, soon, Liquor Depot.

Fun Facts on Vinland Aquavit

  • Aquavit means “water of life”
  • Vinland is made with red wheat, grown at a family farm near Innisfail
  • Distilling wheat instead of rye gives the spirit more viscosity and velvety mouthfeel
  • Vinland is what the Vikings called North America
  • Aquavit cocktails include Finger Guns and Slicked-back Eyebrows – Confluence’s menu is hilarious and is alone worth the trip.

Rumour Has It…

Confluence is the second craft distillery to open in Calgary – Burwood was the first, having opened in October, 2018. Confluence’s Growth Manager, Jamie Hilland, says there are five more on the way before the end of 2019 including two rum distilleries. We’ll keep our ears open for more announcements.

Photos by Camie Leard