For Trevor Semchuck and Spencer Schey, their hopes of opening a distillery in Fernie may be soon coming to fruition. The two Fernie-based men have been working on a strategy to open a small-batch distillery for over a year. They are hoping to open Lost Boys Distillery and begin production in early 2017.
Although they technically define their business as a “small-batch” distillery, they will be also using many craft distillery techniques, including sourcing as many local goods as possible.
“Fernie is such a unique place and there are all sorts of seasonal activities here and we just see a way to make seasonal spirits to kind of complement what people love doing here,” Semchuck told The Free Press. “We are really going to focus on collecting everything by hand and just trying to optimize on when they are best to be used.”
According to Semchuck and Schey, they are hoping to collect and use as many natural products as they can, including berries, flowers and grains. They want to be as hands-on in the production process as they can be.
“We’ve sourced grains from farmers in Alberta. Basically we have the opportunity to go and collect grain as it is being combined from the field and we take it from there all the way to the bottle,” said Semchuck. “We have the opportunity to go to different fields, check the quality and check the protein content, the water content, the starch content that is going to work well with our recipes and then we take it the whole way through.”
The strategy of Lost Boys Distillery is to include the community in the process, and both Semchuck and Schey are open to hearing any concerns from the community about opening a distillery in Fernie.
“Something that is really key to the whole Lost Boys Distillery is that we want this to be Fernie’s distillery – not a distillery in Fernie. We want everybody in Fernie to a part of what we are doing. People are going to have concerns; that is great. I want them to bring those concerns to us so we can talk about it and find a way to make everybody happy,” said Semchuck.
According to Schey, there has been interest from the community, including local restaurants. “I’ve been talking to some people and people have been very positive about it and very excited about it, for sure. There is a spot for it in Fernie,” he said.
The Lost Boys Distillery is a homage to Lost Boys Pass, but also means more than that to the owners.
“The neat thing about doing small batch distilling is because we are using seasonal products, there is going to be variation from year to year. So in essence, our product is going to wander a little bit and wandering is parallel to being lost,” said Semchuck, adding that all investors have a thirst for adventure, and “don’t mind putting ourselves in places where we won’t really know where we are.”
Semchuck and Schey, along with two other partners in the business, wanted to start this style of business as a way to create a legacy in Fernie.
“It came from maybe wanting to make a good living here and trying to contend with working towards something and building a legacy as opposed to working for somebody else,” said Schey.
Semchuck and Schey have been obtaining hands-on education in distilling through different avenues. In March, Semchuck ventured to Colorado for a course in craft distilling while Schey has been pursuing a pseudo-apprenticeship with Park Distilling, based in Banff, Alta. They have been working on creating recipes that will work with the seasonal ingredients they plan to incorporate into their products.
“We want to focus on making a quality product that can be enjoyed on its own, on ice or in a mixed cocktail. We don’t want to be just one thing. We’ve got lots of ideas to do a lot of different products,” said Semchuck. “Ultimately that comes down to developing it with our team and the diverse set of palates that are in Fernie.”