Whisky Magazine Issue 115
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Our man journeys through the Rockies to reach this distillery
Deep in the snowcapped Rocky Mountains, traffic is light, and for long stretches I am alone on this glorious fall day in the majesty of the Rockies. The Crow's Nest Pass is a long steep climb, but the Lincoln purrs, indifferent to precipitous drops to my right, signs prohibiting winter passage without tire chains, and occasional avalanche shelters. There's an easier route to the Black Velvet Distillery in Lethbridge.
Simply fly into Calgary and drive two hours south. But I've spent the weekend touring Okanagan wineries, so for ten hours my Monday takes me east on Highway 3 to Lethbridge, right through the heart of picture postcard Canada.
Jagged mountains abruptly give way to rolling hills as I descend into Alberta's Foothills. Once home to scrub grasses and vast herds of bison this landscape is now festooned with massive wind turbines, defying previous notions of the Old West. Meandering across southern Alberta, the Oldman River has scoured huge snaking gullies into this flat prairie. This means Lethbridge is close. I pass a high-level railway bridge and right away I spot Fort Whoop-up. This is a recreation of the infamous whisky fort where fur traders plundered the local Blackfoot population. Gone are the sure-footed horses that once picked their way over this rocky terrain, lugging five-gallon cans of alcohol. Unscrupulous traders used that alcohol to make what they called “whisky” to trade with the trusting Blackfoot in exchange for buffalo hides.