In the spirit of things

Tyler Schramm's grad school professors in Edinburgh, Scotland spent an entire year laughing at him. There he was, fussing with potato vodka recipes in the land of rich whiskies and not for the life of them could they understand why. Young Schramm didn't give two shakes about the ribbing - in the spirit of all things entrepreneurial, he was too busy executing an unorthodox long-term business plan.

"When I was going to school there I was teased a lot by the professors for wanting to make potato vodka. Just even the thought of doing a vodka while going to school in Scotland was a ridiculous idea to them," said Schramm from his rural Pemberton Distillery. "They just couldn't understand why I wanted to do vodka instead of whiskey. It was definitely looked down upon."

To understand his reasons, Schramm's professors would have to travel to the fertile mountains north of Whistler fondly dubbed Spud Valley. Tyler and his older brother Jonathan - both accomplished bikers - were initially drawn to Pemberton for the trails and descents. When Jonathan moved onto a potato farm there in 2001, the brothers were connected to the world of spud farming and Tyler recognized a niche - farmers needed to sell their produce. The mountains around them were flush with pristine water sources. Vodka was a very natural choice.

After looping his entire family into the project and completing a one-year Masters degree in distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, Tyler sunk everything he owned (and then some) into the purchase of fermentation tanks and picturesque hand-pounded copper stills from Germany. Two years later Schramm's Vodka has won a number of World Spirit Awards and made something of a name for itself among educated palates. As it should - the final product is of a quality that shuns the likes of cranberry juice and Sprite.

"It's been a bit of an education process for us to explain to people that we haven't produced our vodka for mass consumption," continued Schramm. "For small scale vodka like this it's made to be unique."

The first breath taken after a sip of Schramm's Vodka on a gray Friday before noon rides with the lightest vanilla and pepper undertones. It's no wonder the vodka is marketed as a sipping spirit - there's a subtleness of flavor in it that demands attention. Those who prefer their hard liquor dressed in a petticoat can ask Tyler's wife and business partner Lorien for a recipe, for she's apparently concocted quite a few. The simplest is the lemon drop - vodka poured over a shaker of ice mixed with fresh lemon juice and a simple sugar reduction served in a tall stemmed glass.

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