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Alberta distillery looks to the wilderness to source botanicals for its gin

An Alberta distillery is teaming up with environmental organizations to help it source wild plants, leaves and berries for some of its gins — foraging in the wilderness for local ingredients rather than buying internationally.

'It's paying homage to where we are, where we grew up,' says co-owner of Wild Life Distillery

Keith Robinson, co-owner of Wild Life Distillery in Canmore, and Julie Walker with Full Circle Adventures forage for ingredients in the wild. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

An Alberta distillery is teaming up with environmental organizations to help it source wild plants, leaves and berries for some of its gins — foraging in the wilderness for local ingredients rather than buying internationally.

It's all in a bid to be more sustainable, says Keith Robinson, owner of Wild Life Distillery in Canmore.

"By being able to use local fresh botanicals from your forests ... you're then bringing that all together, where 100 per cent of that product is being produced from local elements,"  he said.

Julie Walker with Full Circle Adventures lends a hand to the process, offering her expertise in edible plants.

She heads out in the bush with Robinson to help Wild Life source its ingredients — including barks, berries and seeds.

Edible plants, including things like barks, berries and seeds are used in the gin-making process. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"I bring them out to do local, sustainable harvesting — building their relationship with natural ecosystems for their floral Alberta botanical gins," Walker said.

"And it's a great way to share our knowledge and resources together."

Robinson has also partnered with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and secured permission to harvest wild juniper berries on land further south, near Crowsnest Pass.

He says it all makes for a unique product that's as local as it gets.

"It's paying homage to where we are, where we grew up," Robinson said.

Keith Robinson is co-owner of Wild Life Distillery in Canmore. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

The distillery started two and a half years ago, on a small scale, and continues to grow.

"My best friend and I started distilling in a garage," Robinson said. "And one thing led to the next."

They're setting their sights next on another type of spirit.

"Down the road, three or four years from now, we will have have Alberta whiskies as well."

With files from Dan McGarvey

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