Sparked by a desire to feed her creative spirit and tap into a niche market, Shelly Heppner is gearing up to open a distillery and tasting room in Parksville.
Bespoke Spirits House will be located at 425 E. Stanford Ave., near Mount Arrowsmith Brewing Company, and will offer locals and tourists the opportunity to sample craft spirits.
“I’ll start with vodka… and then from there I’d be producing gin and then on to liqueurs and whiskeys,” Heppner said. “With my licensing that I’ll be getting I will be able to serve samples to begin with on site and then I will look at applying for a lounge licence.”
A retail space at the distillery will also offer bottle sales.
Heppner, who comes from a corporate retail background, has spent the last four years researching the distilling process, working at two different distilleries with on-site training and attended the American Distillers Institute conference in Portland last year. She said she is the first female distiller on Vancouver Island and the second in the province.
“It’s a really small community of women that will actually operate a still,” she said. “I’m referring to myself as a still mistress instead of a still master.”
Heppner is now in the financing phase of her business endeavour and is entertaining the possibility of private investment.
“I’m in the process of securing (financing) and then also looking at possibly some private investment so that would be only one or two people that I’d be interested in having that opportunity,” Heppner said. “After I get my approval from funding, then I’m going to be ordering equipment, getting it set up then doing my production, recipe development and from there I’ll have products. I’m hoping by the end of summer into the fall I’m going to have that product.”
Developing spirits has allowed Heppner to experiment with her artsy side—something she said she’s always had but has only really got to explore outside of work.
“I finally got to the point where I really needed to honour that authenticity of being an artist so this is just one more avenue of a creation and I think creating spirits is just another canvas to express my creativity in a slightly different form,” she said.