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Red Deer-area micro-distillery opens to the public, presenting art along with whiskey

Diony Distillery is located just south of Red Deer
Diony Distillery, in Red Deer County, is opening to the public on Friday and Saturday afternoons (except on Nov. 24, 25) and presenting some art gallery shows. The current exhibit is by Olds artist Brett Heidi. (Contributed photo)

Bottles of award-winning whisky are being paired with art exhibits at small Red Deer-area distillery that just opened its doors to the public, despite forming five years ago.

Diony Distillery began operations in 2018 but had to go through an extensive setup process, as well as three years of whisky aging, as mandated by law.

Company co-owner Stephane Pilon said Diony whiskey bottles only made it onto select liquor stores shelves two or three weeks ago, although a couple of the products — Campfire Whiskey and Port Cask Finish — already won gold and silver awards at international tasting competitions.

Pilon, who co-owns the micro-distillery with his wife Sophia Wong, admitted that making whiskey takes time. “It’s a long process…” But he believes there’s a big future in it.

“I think we’re at the place with whiskey where micro-breweries were 20 years ago” — and look at how craft beer has taken off, he added.

He’s excited to finally have his four products — including Prairie Trio (made of three grains,) and Roasted Malt (with barley roasted to add a coffee-like flavour), available to the public through the Liquor Hutch in Gasoline Alley and some stores in Edmonton and Calgary.

Since Central Alberta is the heart of grain country, with the cultivation of barley, rye and oat crops, Pilon believes it’s a natural place for whiskey production — just as grape-growing regions of B.C. and Ontario turn out fine Canadian wine.

The Diony micro-distillery at 303 Larch Close, just south of the city in a Red Deer County industrial park, is opening for special workshops and tasting nights, where people are walked through the whiskey-making process — and get to try a bit of product at the end.

“People think it’s mysterious so we show them the basics,” said Pilon.

Although no one should try creating whiskey at home — that’s illegal since whisky-making is a licensed, professional business — people are taking a real interest in how it’s done at Diony, he added. So far, by-appointment bookings were taken for team-building sessions, “buddy nights” and a stag. Pilon noted a crew from a local microbrewery also came by to check out how another alcoholic beverage is created.

Diony Distillery is also opening to the public regularly from 1 to 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays (except for next weekend when Pilon and Wong will have a booth at the downtown Winter Market at the Millennium Centre.)

People can drop in to the distillery to try some whiskey and also check out some Central Alberta art. The current exhibition, running until January, is vivid, impressionistic, animal and landscape paintings by Olds artist Brett Heidi.

Visitors can also see some art burnt into wooden whiskey barrels by Pilon, who uses archival reference photos to create historic images of pioneers and old train stations on barrels with pyrography wood-burning tools.

“It’s neat to make a product from scratch,” he said — be it whiskey or art.

Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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