RAMA – Dobrowody Distillery, based out of Rama, was awarded double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition held on June 24 in San Francisco for their small batch vodka.
"When we started, we thought we were onto something, being that we use some of the best water in the world," said Tyler Nieckar, who owns Dobrowody Distillery along with Evan Matsalla. Both who grew up in the Rama area.
The water that Nieckar speaks of comes from the Canora municipal water supply.
"Canora was judged to have the best-tasting municipal water in Canada at the 13th annual international water tasting competition held in 2003 in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, U.S.," read a Wikipedia article on the town of Canora.
"Third best in the world at that time," said Neickar.
"We decided, 'Well, if we think it's a special vodka, we should send it away'," said Nieckar," adding, "we sent it away to our first spirits competition which is one of the five large spirit competitions of the world – the San Fransisco World Spirits Competition."
Nieckar said that all 40 judges of the competition believed it was a top shelf vodka and awarded them the double gold.
"There are only two vodka distilleries in the country that were awarded that double gold honour," said Nieckar.
Nieckar said he was confident in the product but was still surprised at the outcome.
"We know we have a good product, but you know how it is – you're almost over-confident in your product," said Nieckar, adding, "it was still definitely a surprise because you're going up against any other product in the province – whether it be top end brands that are made here like Provincial Vodka or Last Mountain Distillery vodka or Lucky Bastard...you're also going up against world class spirits like Grey Goose and Belvedere."
"To come out with that top honour and be one of two in Canada to win that award – and then one of 16 in the world this year – yeah, it was pretty surprising," said Nieckar.
Neickar said a lot of research went into the award-winning product and took several years of testing different processes in order to achieve the result of the current product.
"We use a few different processes used by different distilleries from around the world with our own twist on it – and that's where we came up with something special," said Nieckar.
"We kind of kept testing and testing for a matter of a few years until we came up with a product – about a year of working through our filtration process to get it to the point that we wanted," said Nieckar, adding, "we've been at this testing it and getting the product perfected and getting the process perfected for four years."
Nieckar said the exposure from the competition has garnered the interest of press and distributors.
"On a global basis there's been some exposure, but not a whole lot because we haven't devoted any resources to pushing it out globally – but we have got recognition from an article written in Forbes which is a large American magazine," said Nieckar, adding, "we've been contacted by about six or seven international distributors to take our product on and distribute it for us."
Nieckar said that the distillery is feeling the effects of international notoriety in the province.
"In Saskatchewan here, we've definitely got more recognition and it's been great for our brand because – you know there's so many vodkas on the market it's hard to know which one to choose, but when you see some credibility linked to a vodka such as our own – you know at the very least it gets people to try it," said Nieckar.
Nieckar touched on the history of the building that the distillery is located in.
"It's the old school in Rama," said Nieckar, adding, "in the late 90s or early 2000s it was purchased by the Co-op from the town."
"The Co-op had a gas station in there for years and then they shut it down about six years ago, and that's when we bought it and we started renovating ourselves," said Nieckar.
"We actually distill out of the same elementary school that myself and Evan first went to," said Nieckar, "the still sits in the same spot as my desk was when I was in grade one and two."
For more information Dobrowody vodka, visit their website at DobrowodyDistillery.ca.