A Distiller of Firsts


Tourist attraction, restaurant, and farm in one

by Tamara Aschenbrenner, art by Curtis Comeau

Rig Distillery Bar
Rig Hand Distillery. Image, Curtis Comeau

​​As the first-ever craft distillery in the Edmonton area, and only the second in all of Alberta, Rig Hand Distillery is used to blazing trails. Not only have they opened an extensive new property to work as a farm, distillery, restaurant, and tourist attraction, but one of their whiskies was the first Canadian whisky ever selected as the official spirit of Canada’s House of Commons.

“I’m trying to create a whisky that’s more broad-spanning, that the average person would like,” says Geoff Stewart, Rig Hand owner and president. “It’s very approachable.” Winning 90% of the votes in a double-blind taste test against other remarkable spirits in Ottawa, the Rocking R golden rye whisky is made strictly from local ingredients and known for its smoothness, depth of flavour, and unmistakable touch of rugged Alberta charm.

Part of that charm is Rig Hand’s commitment to working closely with the community, like partnering with local farmers, hosting on-site tours, and helping guide new distillers in the industry. When first starting his new venture, Geoff had to travel to the United States, training first in Seattle before apprenticing in Ohio. Now, the Rig Hand team hosts their own courses to increase accessibility and encourage more of who Geoff calls “the little guys.” 

Their new 14,000-square-feet facility outside of Nisku, on the other hand, is anything but little. Officially opening in June 2023, it—much like Rig Hand’s products—is one of a kind. Built by the Rig Hand team using lumber from their own sawmill, the buildings house the distillery, shop, restaurant, and events space, while the surrounding lands include their crop fields, orchard, farm animals, walking trails, and Indigenous-led education space.

Dining at the Rig Hand Distillery. Image by Curtis Comeau.

A visit to Rig Hand is a must for anyone seeking an authentic Alberta experience. You can learn about local plant life and the famous oil derrick that inspired Rig Hand’s iconic bottles, sip innovative spirits and cocktails or pair them with a tasty dish also using incredible local ingredients, and take a tour to discover their unique distilling process and meet the impressive team. Their line also includes flavoured vodkas, gins, beer, brum (sugar beet rum!), and more.

The journey from the fertile fields of the prairies to the hallowed halls of the House of Commons is a remarkable tale of a local distillery making a global impact, and we’re thrilled to give you a taste.

 With distilleries in Alberta, New Brunswick, and Texas, Rig Hand’s reach will only grow. Look for their iconic oil derrick bottles in liquor stores, or order online.


This story first appeared in the Nov-Dec-Jan issue of our Info Edmonton magazine.  You can download a copy here.


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