Fernie Distillers

Small-batch spirits pair PERFECTLY with powder in Fernie, BC

The 2018 debut of Fernie Distillers makes an already cool ski town even more fun.

Sometimes the wizard is a woman: Fernie Distillers’ head distiller Jillian Rutherford and her custom-crafted copper still.  © Ski Travel Guru

Sometimes the wizard is a woman: Fernie Distillers’ head distiller Jillian Rutherford and her custom-crafted copper still. © Ski Travel Guru

Fernie Distillers joins the great line-up of food, drink, arts and culture in the historic heart of downtown Fernie, BC.  Dave Heath | Courtesy Kootenay Rockies Tourism

Fernie Distillers joins the great line-up of food, drink, arts and culture in the historic heart of downtown Fernie, BC. Dave Heath | Courtesy Kootenay Rockies Tourism

Making the ski town life work sometimes means stirring up your own job. Not to mention your own drink. Enter Fernie Distillers, which debuted on July 1, 2018, transforming a building standing since 1909 into downtown Fernie’s coolest new spot.

Distiller Jillian Rutherford – the rare woman making craft spirits – and husband Andrew Hayden spent 20 years playing in Fernie while living and working in Calgary. “We were trying to figure out how we could justify actually moving here” Rutherford explains. “We couldn’t just show up and look for jobs. We had to create something.”

Rutherford (a geologist and geophysicist by trade) and Hayden (with experience in alcohol sales for big brands) saw their opportunity in British Columbia’s 2013 and 2015 legislative changes that made craft distilling an economically viable small business. The rules: Use only agricultural products from BC. Make everything from scratch, with no commercially-produced neutral grain spirits. Ferment and distill on site. Stay small – under 50,000 liters per year. Rutherford’s engineering background and process skills proved to be a strong asset. “I knew I could figure it out,” she says.

Fernie Distillers bought its building from the adjacent Royal Canadian Legion branch. On the surface, the Legion’s former special events hall seemed to be nothing more than a drab cinderblock structure from 1970s—until the distillery’s renovations revealed interior beams and fixtures of a building dating to 1909.  Kyle Hamilton | birr | Courtesy Fernie Distillers

Fernie Distillers bought its building from the adjacent Royal Canadian Legion branch. On the surface, the Legion’s former special events hall seemed to be nothing more than a drab cinderblock structure from 1970s—until the distillery’s renovations revealed interior beams and fixtures of a building dating to 1909. Kyle Hamilton | birr | Courtesy Fernie Distillers

Jillian Rutherford and Andrew Hayden dreamed of moving from Calgary to Fernie—and wanted to foster and support the community’s economic diversity in the process. While launching the distillery, they worked extensively with skilled tradespeople, artisans and other small businesses in Fernie. Going forward, watch for one-of-a-kind dinners with local chefs, featuring pairings of food and spirits.  Kyle Hamilton | birr | Courtesy Fernie Distillers

Jillian Rutherford and Andrew Hayden dreamed of moving from Calgary to Fernie—and wanted to foster and support the community’s economic diversity in the process. While launching the distillery, they worked extensively with skilled tradespeople, artisans and other small businesses in Fernie. Going forward, watch for one-of-a-kind dinners with local chefs, featuring pairings of food and spirits. Kyle Hamilton | birr | Courtesy Fernie Distillers

Rutherford and Hayden invested about two-and-a-half years from the birth of their vision to Fernie Distillers’ opening day. Today the stylishly rustic-hip spot functions as production facility, tasting room, cocktail lounge and event space, with a traditional distilling process that takes about three weeks from grain to glass, in small batches of 200 bottles or less.

No. 9 Mine vodka starts with organic white wheat from Creston, BC. Fernie Fog liqueur is infused with Earl Grey tea. The newest release, Prospector gin, is a classic London Dry. Any of it pairs well with apres-ski after an outstanding Fernie Alpine ski day – or after winter fat-biking (another Fernie specialty). Taste Fernie Distillers’ spirits by themselves or in artful craft cocktails at 531 1st Avenue, Fernie BC. Open from noon – 10 pm daily except Tuesdays. www.ferniedistillers.com

Skiing at  Fernie Alpine Resort . Definitely among Ski Travel Guru’s all-time faves.  Dave Heath | Courtesy Destination British Columbia

Skiing at Fernie Alpine Resort. Definitely among Ski Travel Guru’s all-time faves. Dave Heath | Courtesy Destination British Columbia

Apres-ski at Fernie Distillers. So good!  Kyle Hamilton | birr | Courtesy Fernie Distillers

Apres-ski at Fernie Distillers. So good! Kyle Hamilton | birr | Courtesy Fernie Distillers

Gin for the win! Fernie Distillers’ lounge features a menu of craft cocktails that rotates regularly. While you’re there sipping and savoring, ask about the disco ball!  Kyle Hamilton | birr | Courtesy Fernie Distillers

Gin for the win! Fernie Distillers’ lounge features a menu of craft cocktails that rotates regularly. While you’re there sipping and savoring, ask about the disco ball! Kyle Hamilton | birr | Courtesy Fernie Distillers