Capital K Distillery in Winnipeg is Manitoba’s first grain-to-bottle craft distillery. Founded and owned by Jason Kang, Capital K is also Manitoba’s first family-owned and operated micro distillery. With such distinction comes tremendous pressure for Kang to deliver exceptional products – but deliver he does.
Capital K Distillery has a short but interesting history. It started in 2015 when Kang secured a space in a Winnipeg industrial park. He began distilling the following year, with his Tall Grass Vodka hitting the shelves in fall of 2016 and Tall Grass Gin in January 2017.
Kang single-handedly manages all stages of production, from the sourcing of only local grains and fruits, to bottling, corking, and applying Tall Grass labels by hand. Capital K Distillery truly is a hands-on, one-man operation. Judging by Kang’s dedication to the craft and his attention to detail, one might assume he has been involved in distilling for quite some time. Wrong. His previous careers include commercial diver, convenience store clerk, and engineering student, among others. His background in homebrewing is what started him on the road to distilling, and eventually to opening up Capital K.
That road hasn’t been easy, though. When it comes to beer and liquor, Manitoba is the most controlled province in Canada (even more so than any U.S. state). In January 2016, the government of Manitoba introduced Supporting Manitoba Craft Brewing Strategy, a $5 million economic incentive loan program intended to develop and stimulate the production of craft beer and spirits in the province. Kang had been relying on the $250,000 low-interest loan to get Capital K up and running. But in December of 2016, the newly elected Progressive Conservative government reviewed, and then eventually canceled, the Supporting Manitoba Craft Brewing Strategy. It left Kang, and many other Manitoba craft brewers and distillers, mired in uncertainty.
While such a setback may have caused others to call it quits, Kang pressed on. His perseverance has paid off and the proof is in the pudding – or, in this case, the bottles. As of press time, Capital K Distillery is producing its two flagship spirits, Tall Grass Vodka and Tall Grass Gin. Both are made of 100% non-GMO, Manitoba grains, and Kang feels strongly about extracting and finding all the necessary flavor from only the grains.
While there are plans to begin making diffused vodkas using only natural ingredients, Kang vows to not create any type of “flavored” vodka that would require added sugars or artificial ingredients. Tall Grass Vodka is luxuriously smooth with a flavor profile similar to whiskey but without the barrel flavor. This is a direct result of the 95% wheat and 5% rye recipe being filtered through a 20-plate still, thereby purifying the spirit twenty times, which is far beyond the industry standard. In addition to the increased purification, the custom distilling process moves much more slowly. According to Kang, the slower process stretches the liquid, which allows him to extract the methanol, or “bad alcohol”, as he describes it. The finished product is 40% alcohol and, due to the low methanol levels, Kang claims it does not result in hangovers. How’s that for a selling point?
Tall Grass Gin is produced using the same custom-engineered purification process and 20-plate distilling column as the vodka. In fact, the gin is made from the vodka. After the spirit has been diluted to 50%, Kang adds a proprietary ten-ingredient botanical component. It soaks for 24 hours, is distilled one last time, diluted to 45% alcohol, and then bottled by hand. The finished product is wonderfully soft and aromatic. With hints of the requisite juniper, along with other flavors like orange peel and cardamom, the exquisite quality of Tall Grass Gin makes it appealing to casual gin cocktail enthusiasts as well as gin aficionados.
If you go
Capital K Distillery welcomes tours and tastings at any time, though advance reservations for groups of six or more are recommended. The unassuming space, in an industrial area of Winnipeg, could be easily missed and it is not at all representative of the bold and extraordinary products crafted within. Be sure to take part in a distillery tour by Kang himself and witness his genuine passion for his craft.