win art contests – and I thought I was pretty good. I was also very strong in math and it’s no secret that it’s hard for pure artists to find success in today’s world, so I leaned towards math and business. PS: So, at the end of the day, Adam and I knew exactly what we wanted on paper for the bottle design and logo but we needed someone with the software expertise to make it all happen. That’s where our Director of Creativity came in. Adam has known Arkadiusz since high school and he went on to become a graphic designer, so he was a natural fit for us. Did either of you have experience with distilling craft spirits prior to opening Polonée Distillery? Was it a family tradition in Poland, Adam? AS : Not at all. I am self-taught, so to speak. I for one had no background in distilling whatsoever; I didn’;t know anything about the process. How it happened was simple: In the winter of 2012, I was buying a gift for my father for Christmas before a family dinner. We usually bring something with us, so we bought a little vodka. At the time, craft spirits were nearly impossible to find – at least at your regular liquor store. I went for one of the big brands, one in a tall-necked bottle, we’ll say that, and I couldn’t help but think that it and the others next to it on the shelf were way overpriced consider- ing what you get. I knew we could offer something better. A few days later, I was watching an old Polish movie based in the 1940s shortly after World War II and in the movie these guys would go into a war-torn bar and they would make moonshine, basically homemade vodka. I said to myself, ‘Hey, back then there wasn’t a Home Hardware or a Home Depot around the corner – how are they able to construct a machine or device to actually be able to make vodka?’ I figured if they could do it back then, why can’t I do it now? Funny enough, that was my ‘Ah ha’ moment. I recognized that there was a need for something better and I found the inspiration I needed to make that happen. What advice would you give to anyone with similar aspi- rations, Adam? AS: Like anything else in life, know the rules! Because it became an obsession of mine back in 2013, I’ve read more on the topic than you can imagine. I’ve read as many books on every aspect of the industry as I could. There is so much you need to know before you can even think of applying for a permit – and that’s how it should be. The seminars I attended really make sure that people who hold a license are top-notch. And what about the vodka itself? What’s it been like breaking into the relatively new world of craft distilling in Canada? AS: I’ve heard a lot of people claim that you can’t make a good craft vodka, but most of those people don’t know that when they’re drinking a big brand that they’re ultimately just drinking vodka made from neutral grain spirits leftover
in mash tanks from other recipes. A lot of vodkas out there that you’ll see on the provincial liquor store shelves are made from purchased ethanol; these companies are basi- cally pretending that they make vodka. That’s why you get that rubbing alcohol taste because so much of it is basically repackaged ethanol. My recipe is vodka from the start and it has a nice neutral taste that’s all its own. All the grain, all the flour in my recipe is separated before it goes in the fermenter so that I’m getting nothing but the clear, sugary liquid at that stage. (Whisky, for instance, is distilled and fermented on the grain because you want those distinct, complex flavours). Once Kannuk is fermented without any of the flour involved, the neutrality of the spirit really comes out. We distill and ferment off the grain and it makes all the difference, especially for discerning vodka drinkers. Kannuk is also cold-filtered and I really think the whole process, the whole vodka-only process, makes it Canada’s nicest vodka, which is our slogan. PS: We’re growing every week and we’re very interested in exploring the Canadian theme as time goes on. Like Adam said, there are a lot of Canadian provinces and cultures that lend themselves to the theme of reinvention and redesign in the world of craft distilling. The Polonée Distillery at 380 Vansickle Road in St. Catha- rines is open to the public for tours and tastings on Satur- days from noon to 5 pm.
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