Saskatoon’s small yet mighty distillery has a wonderful tagline, which is “Created by Nature — Transformed by BlackFox".
As the creators of the world’s best cask gin (which they won in 2017) their spirits are crafted in a traditional manner, while pushing the boundaries of creativity with different grains and flavours. Few distillers combine the passion for agriculture with the skill of distilling.
Impressively, they proudly grow 90% of ingredients on the farm. All spirits have been fermented and distilled by us, resulting in the absolute highest quality.
We spoke with co-owner Barb Stefanyshyn-Cote to learn more about this remarkable company.
How long has Black Fox been in business for?
Since August 28th, 2015.
What's the most rewarding part of operating a small, local business?
Being able to be creative and reap the positive response from guests when we get it right.
What are some of the challenges you've faced?
It ranges from bureaucracy to Mother Nature, unreliable internet to international tariffs.
How have you overcome them?
One at a time.
Describe your business in six words:
Genuine, Authentic, Responsible, Creative, Educated, Fun
Why is Sakatchewan such a great place for you to operate your business?
Saskatchewan produces some of the best grain in the world - our philosophy is if we are working with the best ingredients, why not produce some of the best spirits in the world? Our non-traditional farm allows us to create award winning spirits and beautiful flowers that we are able to share directly with our customers.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
It will be far more work than you ever imagined, but worth every moment of it.
What trends to you predict for your industry over the next few years?
Gin is a growing trend with many people enjoying the numerous craft creations available to them. Transparency in the industry, with authentic spirits made in small batches becoming sought out as customers look for quality spirits made from quality ingredients. Very good whiskey.
In a crowded marketplace, how do you set yourself apart?
We strive to be genuine in all areas of our business, and our guests can sense this. We aim to share our passion for agriculture and connect the people with the ingredients and the land on which they are grown. We are very proud to grow 90% of what goes into our bottles rather than use pre-made spirits brought in from elsewhere.
What inspired you to start this business?
We are grain farmers first and foremost, but we wanted to do something that was closer to our customers. Something where we could see the results of when people consumed our creations.
After winning the best cask gin, how has that changed your business?
It helped us see that we are on the right path and able to create exceptional spirits.
What type of work atmosphere do you strive to create for your team members?
We strive for an environment that is supportive, inclusive and family oriented.
Where did the name originate from?
We are all familiar with the red fox so common on the prairies; a black fox is a member of the same family but a rare colour variation. A number of years ago, we were fortunate to have a black fox spend the summer in and around our farmyard at Leask. He would sleep nearby and scamper off when we headed out in the morning. One time we watched him play with another red fox in the field. A common sighting but with a twist. Our new farm is built on the same concept, something so familiar on the prairies, yet entirely unique. Something natural yet transformed by a black fox.
What is your environmental commitment?
At Black Fox we combine traditional methods of farming with modern technology to utilize the land as efficiently as possible. The way we treat our valuable resources has a direct impact on our ability to feed ourselves in the future. As good farmers we know and respect this.
We are not organic; rather utilize the best agronomic practices from all production systems available to us to become as efficient and sustainable as possible. We are very cognizant of each step that we make in production and weigh its impact on the ecosystem and people involved. We utilize a mulch system when planting, incorporate minimum tillage practices, use cover crops and crop rotation strategies.
The entire farm uses state of the art drip irrigation systems to minimize water usage and we have implemented a bio filtration system for runoff water through a series of marsh ponds before it eventually enters the South Saskatchewan river.
In planning our distillery, it was important to us to conserve as much water as possible and reduce our waste output. We use geo-thermal cooling systems, reuse nearly 95% of our water, spread our spent grains and fruit back onto our orchards and flower fields as compost fertilizer and even our organic cleaning solutions are reused to improve our soils. We strive to work with the land to reach its greatest potential and leave it better than we found it for future generations.
Visit them online.