We turn apples into vodka, beer into whisky, and vodka into gin. We are a family-run business located in the beautiful Okanagan and situated on a 20-acre apple orchard where we live, work, and play.
Tell us about yourself?
I started off as a paperboy, then became a dishwasher, busboy, bartender, and waiter while I worked my way through college and university to become a CA with Clarkson Gordon, who became Ernst & Young. I then started my own CA firm in North Vancouver, which I later gave to my two managers in order to start a chain of pizza restaurants in Poland and began my life as a serial entrepreneur. After taking Pan Smak public on the TSX and raising 8.2 million, I left this company to start a small software company in Yale Town, Vancouver, where we researched and developed new compression technology that allowed for groundbreaking new full-motion video to be delivered on twisted copper paired lines. This then led to my purchase and re-branding of Mahoneys Sports Bar on Robson Street, which we operated for 10 great years from 1996 to 2006. I then took five years off to dedicate to public service, and I ran and was elected MP for the riding of West Vancouver Sunshine Coast Sea to Sky Country. After leaving politics, my family moved to a 20-acre apple orchard in Kelowna, BC, where we started Forbidden Spirits Distilling Corp. in order to turn apples into vodka and beer into whisky and vodka into gin.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
I would have recommended getting into the wellness beverage segment sooner. We are just now launching a Zero Alcohol Gin called Mary’s Vr-Gin that is entering a rapidly growing segment of the beverage market.
What problem does your business solve?
We now manufacture and distribute a Zero Alcohol Gin that a small but growing segment of the population is demanding.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
Forbidden Spirits is grateful to be able to provide significant and compounding economic benefits to BC in both the agricultural sector, including apples, as well as the tourism sector with our tasting room and site tours, as well as the manufacturing sector, which includes the fermentation and distillation of spirits and lastly the focus on handcrafted products and the buy local theme.
What is your magic sauce?
We turn apples into vodka, which is globally unique as most vodka is made from wheat or potatoes. We also distill our vodka 25 times, whereas our competitors only distill their products three to six times. We also put our water through a seven-stage filtration system that includes reverse osmosis and UV ray treatment.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
We would love to have our Made in Canada brands available around the world. Our next step would be expanding distribution into Alberta, then Quebec and then Ontario before branching out to the UK, the EU and Asia.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
COVID-19 literally shut down our industry overnight, and we were lucky to have pivoted quickly to hand sanitizer, which kept us afloat for 24 months.
How can people get involved?
Please visit our website at www.ForbiddenSpirits.ca to purchase our REBEL Vodka, EVE’s Gin, or Mary’s Vr-GIN – and all orders over $125 come with free shipping anywhere in Canada.