Fernie Distillers has launched their first limited release seasonal product called 5th & Park Damson Gin made with plums that were picked to keep wild bears safe.

Given a choice of any beverage, most black bears and grizzlies would probably not stuff their snouts into a vat of gin. But in Fernie, British Columbia, a company has distilled a drink with Ursidae in mind. Three-year-old Fernie Distillers has created the 5th & Park Damson Gin so named for the damson plums that are used in the distillation process and picked within walking distance of the company’s downtown location. By removing the local fruit, rather than using something imported, the distillery helps minimize bear attractants within Fernie.

Fernie Distllers owners Jillian Rutherford and Andrew Hayden.

Jillian Rutherford owns the company with her husband Andrew Hayden and is one of the few female distillers in the country. She says, “Having a fruit tree in bear country is a big responsibility.  Supporting local programs such as the Fernie Apple Capture and WildsafeBC initiatives are important to us and we are fortunate to be able to create a quality product too.” In 2007 almost 500 bears were killed in British Columbia due to conflicts with humans, many of which came about when the bears wandered into urban areas after smelling food such as fruit on trees.

The limited release Damson Gin is the fledgling company’s fourth product after their No. 9 Mine Vodka, Fernie Fog Liqueur and Prospector Gin. The name 5th & Park Damson Gin was named for the Fernie gardens where the plums were picked and continues the tradition of local influences on product names. “There is a story behind all of our products,” Rutherford says. “and we enjoy sharing with anybody who has an interest in local history and culture.”

Fernie Distillers is the first distiller in Fernie and produces small batch craft spirits that celebrate the historical spirit of the small East Kootenay town.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Gin

  1. Although it’s England’s national spirit, gin was first enjoyed in Holland during the 17th Century when soldiers drank Jenever to boost morale.
  2. There are more classic cocktails made with gin than with any other spirit. This is because gin isn’t meant to be consumed on its own, unlike tequila, bourbon or rye.
  3. Until the middle of the 20th century, a martini was always made with gin and vermouth . Then Smirnoff released its “Vodka leaves you breathless,” campaign that saw people start ordering “vodka martinis.”
  4. People in the Philippines consume the most gin on earth.
  5. All gin uses juniper as its main ingredient but after that a distiller is only limited by his or her imagination. Cucumber, rose, lavender, pepper and yes, Damson plums, have all been used in its creation.