Hansen Distillery is usually closed on Sundays, but an exclusive bottling party made the place come alive on March 31. The tasting lounge reminded me of a bar scene from a western movie, with its handmade wooden bar and rustic Ford car which casually rests on the roof overlooking the entrance.
Upon looking around, patrons get a sense of owners Kris and Shayna Sustrik’s vision of making the place a “homey (and) welcoming” spot where “you feel like you’re going to your friend’s house” while being in the middle of a cocktail bar.
After some friendly chatter with Natalie Harper, Hansen Distillery’s public relations director, she led me through a small tunnel which separates the cocktail bar from the distillery. Beyond the mysterious tunnel, the K-97 radio team was already preparing to package 973 bottles of Bark at the Moonshine; a special edition apple moonshine that celebrates the classic rock radio station’s 40th birthday. A portion of the proceeds from the bottle sales will be donated to the Little Miracles Trust Fund, which is K-97’s choice charity. Hansen Distillery contributed $2,000 to the charity through their Bark at the Moonshine sales last year, and hopes to reach the same target in 2019.
Their generous efforts were made possible with the help of K-97 and Stingray media crew, who walked in with the determination to succeed. Each person was responsible for a different task: some poured the moonshine using special equipment, some labelled the bottles, some sealed bottles with corks, while others marked the batch number. Although the process was repetitive, it never failed to pique my interest and keep the focus of those in the assembly line.
The team was seriously efficient, but that didn’t stop them from cracking inside jokes and bantering. After they finished bottling big milestone bottles like number 973, they cheered to celebrate their team efforts. Maybe the excitement of signing bottles which will help carry the legendary moonshine recipe brought meaning to the team.
After all, we were standing in a distillery that could have never existed if the Hansen family didn’t have the tenacity to survive several historic periods. Their legacy began when Carl and Amanda Hansen started crafting homemade moonshine during the Great Depression. Shayna said that they would make moonshine for “personal consumption … they would (also) horse trade it in the ‘30s to get a little extra (money).” They began sharing the special beverage with friends and family after the Great Depression.
Kris said he learned the intricacies of the distilling process from the Hansen family “about 10 years ago.” The legacy lives on through tasting tours, local events, a cocktail lounge, and a unique selection of quality spirits.
When I asked Andrew Elliott, an assistant distiller, what it’s like to work with the Hansen family, he said: “I could be stressed during the day and (when) I walk in through (the door), it all just peels away.”
After a warm buzz of conversations and laughter, the crew posed for photos and tasted the new creation with curiosity. The sweet and spicy liquor reminded me of caramel-apple ice cream on a hot summer day.
Overall, being able to see the behind-the-scenes process of an exclusive bottling party while meeting Edmonton’s creative crew truly makes one appreciate the city’s unique opportunities. Maybe it was because spring was waiting in the air, or maybe the bottling crew and the cute dog in-residence really did warm my heart during the event. Drop by the local distillery for a tasting tour and see what it’s like for yourself!
Photography by Adelya Nugmanova.