Lucky Bastard Distillery – Saskatoon

Shortly before the pandemic, I left the company I had been with for about a decade for a new job, but a project that was underway needed to be finished before I left. Finishing that project meant accompanying a customer to our plant in Saskatchewan, one of the only provinces I had yet to visit! So of course before heading out there, I called up a couple of distilleries to go visit!

The first one I visited is Lucky Bastard Distillers who had been operating in the city since 2012, the first in Sask since prohibition! Their location is somewhat non-descript in the middle of the city’s industrial area, surrounded by other manufacturing businesses.

Once inside though, it feels like many other craft distillers I’ve visited in Canada, with a bit of a 1920s feel. The facility houses a banquet centre as well, so if you’re looking to book event space in Saskatoon, give them a call!

The enthusiasm and passion of the team matched what you find with many in the industry as well. I was greeted by Cary Bowman, president of Lucky Bastard, who co-founded it with friends Michael and Lacey.

The name Lucky Bastard comes from Mike winning the lottery and the woman behind him in line when he won calling him a lucky bastard! Cary was in investment banking, Mike in medicine, and together they saw an opportunity, as the craft distilling movement hadn’t really taken off in Canada yet after a few years of growth in the US.

Their goal was to create a single malt distillery, and they’ve been putting down barrels of whisky since 2012 (now over 10yrs!). For cashflow, they sold white spirits in the meantime, releasing a wheat vodka and gin. These became so popular that they quickly ran out of capacity in their original location and moved to this one in 2015.

They distill malted barley, rye and wheat for their whisky and just wheat for the white spirits. with all of their different toast/roast varieties they have about 25 different varieties, all aged as single grain. Their mashtun is 1500L and ferment to about 10% ABV over a 14day period.

“Magic Mike” is their stripping still, bought from an Idaho distillery called Grand Teton which has a Channing Tatum connection, hence the name. It comes off the still around 50% ABV.

They then use a hybrid still named Ginger from Germany bringing it up to a max of 75%.

Originally all aging was in ex-bourbon, but they’ve moved more into virgin American oak now, made in Kentucky. They were sitting at around 300 barrels of whisky in 2019, no doubt a lot more now! Because the prairies are so dry, the relatively low humidity causes a ton of water loss, meaning their proof was significantly rising over time. At the time they were in the process of building a new humidity controlled warehouse to avoid this and promote typical angels share development.

So far at the time they had only released a handful of casks via lottery, but with a goal of hitting closer to 8-10yrs, most casks are still aging. they now have a rye on their website shop available in 375ml.Once they have enough casks at age to support demand, they plan to scale back white spirits production and focus on whisky going forward.

Cary was kind enough to pull me a couple of cask samples, including their malt. It was super drying on the palate, but had a chocolate sweetness to it. It was quite young but showed a ton of promise and I’d love to see how it’s developed in the years since!

We can’t wait to try their single malt once released – maybe it’ll make an appearance in the TWS Whisky Awards sometime soon! I couldn’t buy any whisky while there, but picked up their gin and it made a fine G&T!

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