Turner Valley, Alberta, 99 years ago was an intoxicating place to be, I’m learning from the founder of Alberta’s first craft distillery. I’m not using that adjective—intoxicating—to be playful. There is booze to be discussed here, but even more beyond that, David Farran explains to me as we begin a tour of his Eau Claire Distillery.
The town was electrified with the discovery of oil in 1914—one of the most important finds to the early of Alberta’s oil history. The onset of the war in 1916 ushered in foreign oil workers to town when local boys went to fight for Mother England, David tells me.
And on July 1, 1916, Prohibition began in Alberta. You might not have known it in Turner Valley though. David gestures out the front door of the distillery toward what was known as Whisky Row, where the local Speakeasies operated. Then he thumbs out the back way and tells me Whisky Ridge is where folks hid their stills to brew illegal spirits.
It’s in this rich bit of Alberta history (in a former brothel and movie theatre, specifically) that David and his co-founders planted Eau Claire Distillery. It’s Alberta’s first independent craft distiller, where they pride themselves on turning a local bounty into small batches of handcrafted spirits. David took me on a tour of the Turner Valley operation recently, giving me a peek into the world of distilling and a thirst for the single-malt whisky that won’t be ready for another five years still.