Housed in a reimagined motorcycle garage, Odd Society is a certified craft distillery and can’t-miss experience in East Vancouver’s port district. The neighbourhood distillery is well known and beloved locally for the quality of its products and genius for experimentation with unique ingredients. Their growing portfolio of distilled products ranges from whisky, vodka, and gin to an alcoholic ginger beer and a killer Crème de Cassis said to be “indistinguishable from French imports” but made from local B.C. black currants.
Miriam Karp, general manager, presides over Odd Society’s busy tasting room and focuses on servicing their restaurant and retailer accounts across B.C., Alberta and Quebec. “Trends in spirits are increasingly driven by the consumer, and consumers are passionate about local,” she acknowledges. “In B.C., it’s long been the case that to have a successful bar or restaurant, you needed to have BC wines and craft beers on your menu. That hadn’t included craft distilleries, but that’s changing. Right now, a lot of bars are adding more local spirits options in response to consumer demand.”
At Odd’s Society’s tasting bar, it is increasingly common to have new customers of all ages and backgrounds wander in looking for a guided spirits experience, some of them for the first time ever. “I think people are very adventurous,” says Karp. “We have people coming in all the time with very little experience, and it’s great to see. It’s all about the experience – that’s nothing new, but it’s increasingly important at the bar.”
In Karp’s view, premiumization is here to stay; however, as bar sales represent a crucial profit centre for operators, the experience and story behind premium craft products is the key to both differentiation and fair margin. “We offer field trips for bar staff and operators to give them that deep dive into our products – how they’re made and how to educate their customers in turn. Our whiskiesare becoming very popular with restaurants, particularly our rye whisky, Prospector. Despite it being a premium product, it’s growing in demand and popularity.”
While already deeply committed to sourcing local ingredients for their products, Odd Society’s team has dug a little deeper into the idea of “local”, exploring unique collaborations within their neighbourhood. “We’re surrounded by at least a dozen breweries of various sizes – many within walking distance – representing an enormous product array,” says Karp. “The brewing community here is fabulous and really help each other. Our distiller, Joel McNichol, used to work as a brewer, so when we’d finished with a whisky or gin barrel, we’d offer it to a brewery. Later, we’d offer the brewery’s beer that came from that barrel at our tasting bar.”
These relationships have blossomed over time, ultimately evolving into limited-edition collaborations like Odd Society’s Storm Black Plague Stout Rye Whisky crafted with Storm Brewing and P49 Old Boy Single Malt Whisky with Parallel 49. The fruits of new collaborations with local partners are slowly aging to perfection in their barrels, waiting to add to the Odd Society product portfolio and narrative. “Neighbours and communities and businesses need to support each other,” Karp emphasizes. “We’ve all learned, I think, that we can’t survive on our own.”