Fifteen years ago, Charles Tremewen was sitting in a bar with co-workers from the organic food manufacturing industry. He was talking about his fascination with botanicals, a fascination that had begun during his time living in the tropics and continued when he was working as a park ranger and plant interpreter for the British Columbia Parks system in Canada.
But it took a gin martini at an organic food trade show for him to realize what he really wanted to be doing. "Wouldn't it be great to own a gin distillery?" he recalls telling his co-workers. For the next decade or so, he explored the gin-making process and, then, on Feb. 14, 2013, he launched Long Table Distillery — the first craft distillery to open within the city limits of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
The distillery currently makes a range of beautifully crafted spirits, including three gins: London Dry, Cucumber and Bourbon Barrel-Aged Gin, as well as a growing list of nano-spirits including a fermented rum resting in the barrel. Watch for more gins and an amaro-style spirit in 2019. Today Long Table Distillery makes highly regarded and proudly consistent gins starting with their London Dry, Cucumber and Bourbon Barrel Aged Gin, as well as a growing list of nano-spirits including a fermented rum. Watch for more gin and an Amaro-style spirit in 2019.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with Charles about his love of gin, the story behind the distillery's name and more. Here's what he had to say.
1. I love the name. What's the story behind it?
"My wife Rita and I love the symbolism behind a long table for entertaining friends. We have a long table in our own home (as well as the one that extends the length of the Long Table Lounge). We find it very inclusive. It allows for the sharing of food, beverage and conversation – As we like to say; 'A long table is a place where kindred spirits meet'."
2. Tell me a little bit about the botanicals you're using. How did you find them?
"We use local independent foragers from BC, including one fellow from the local First Nations community named Marty in the Kootenays, and another forager on Vancouver Island."
"Locally, they provide a range of unique botanicals such as evergreen varietals, juniper and other more obscure options such as mountain ash and seaweeds. We use Canadian coriander. All of the cucumbers in the Cucumber Gin are exclusively grown in BC. Our upcoming BC Terroir Gin will have even more local ingredients. Many of the ingredients in our London Dry and Cucumber Gin have to come from international sources as they simply do not grow here. I’m referring to regionally specific plants such as Angelica, or Orris Root, necessary to meet our high-quality standards."
3. Gin is going through such a renaissance right now. Why? What is it about gin that you love, and why you think the rest of us love it, too?
"As ginsmiths, we adore gin. It's a very aromatically appealing spirit that can have many faces and allows for a certain degree of diversity. With its resiny notes and a very earthy foundation, that affects us in a positive way on a fundamental level. We're drawn to it."
"Working with a plethora of botanicals, especially the local ones for our BC terroir gin, is like a jigsaw puzzle. It's going to be very interesting to figure out. It'll have a blend of an assortment of things like evergreen needles and juniper, which brings back memories from my time as a BC Park Ranger. I think our olfactory senses are some of the strongest senses that we have. It connects us to times and places that we love."
4. Your bio says you tried making your own handcrafted spirits in university. How did that go? Any good (slightly dangerous) stories you can share?
"Let’s just say we had some very crude outcomes, haha. Our spirits were the outcome of failed homebrew beer projects and an unwillingness to discard them."
"Fortunately, we had a sympathetic chemistry teacher who allowed us to borrow distilling equipment under the premise that logically we wanted to test the science of isolating the alcohol by distilling it. So, our beer-making failures became test subjects for the next spirits experiment."
5. What did you plan to become when you were younger, before you realized you wanted to make gin and own a distillery?
"I am very mechanical but at the time I was a generalist, capable of many things. After I finished my degree in geography, I needed a career focus. I went on to complete an honours degree in marketing and communications. I can't say that gin drove my future. But, the idea of building things for oneself and creating things is part of my ‘builder’ DNA."
"For example, my first car was a Ford Model T that I refurbished from pieces I restored from other collectors. Later I built a sixteen-foot sailboat. I love building so designing and putting together a copper still and the business around it — and making it all work — was very appealing to me."
"I'm lucky to have a wife that's very supportive. Taking on a business like this is a real game-changer. We'd never done anything like this before so it was at times both terrifying and more challenging than we could ever have expected."
"But here we are, six years later and growing. We have done something right."
6. Last but not least, what's your favourite way to enjoy gin?
"I made gin because I love gin! I am one for a beautifully rendered martini. Light on the vermouth (if at all) with a lemon twist. To quote Noël Coward, 'A perfect martini should be made by filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy'."