Last week I went to visit a new distillery in downtown Kelowna called Urban Distilleries, and boy, was it ever a discovery! I had an appointment with owner Mike Urban for a tour and tasting at the distillery, and highly recommend a visit to try his tantalizing Spirit Bear line of gin, vodka, and soon-to-be-released rum.
My appointment was for 12:30, so I picked up my media guests from the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort at 12:20 and we made the very short 5 minute drive from the hotel to the distillery, which is located right on Bay Ave. just west of Ellis St. In truth, we could have walked – it’s really so close to the hotel.
We arrived a little early (surprise, surprise) and Mike and his father Randy were there to greet us. After an introduction to Urban Distilleries, which revealed that Mike opened the distillery earlier this year and is making a line of gin, vodka, and now also rum under the label of “Spirit Bear“, we got to poke our heads into his distillery. The equipment for making spirits is pretty remarkable – handcrafted artesian copper stills, big vats – we were really amazed.
Following our tour, we ended up back in the tasting room and were offered a taste of the Spirit Bear Vodka, Spirit Bear Okanagan Gin (this was is infused with apple and lavender for a distinctly Okanagan taste!), and a new naturally infused vodka with Cherry Hill espresso coffee. Wow! This one has a really lovely coffee taste, perfect for an after dinner digestif.
We learned that lots of local restaurants carry Urban Distilleries products – for instance, RauDZ Regional Table, Cabana Grille, Moxies, and Twisted Tomato all carry his products, among a long list of other local restaurants.
We also learned about Mike Urban’s personal connection with the preservation of the Kermode Bear, a big part of the name “Spirit Bear” for the products. Mike donates your $2 for tastings directly to this cause, as well as a portion of the proceeds from sales of his product.
It was a real discovery to visit Urban Distilleries, and find out about Mike’s journey to learn the craft of distilling. If you go, just take Ellis St. to Bay Ave and turn left – the distillery is in the big red building, at the very end (unit number 6). You won’t be disappointed!