Paul Doroshenko was 13 the first time he helped distill a batch of vodka.
“I was fascinated with it in school, just the whole idea that you could ferment something and it would turn into alcohol,” he told the Richmond News.
Distilling is a family trade for Doroshenko, who is now a defence lawyer with offices in Richmond specializing in drunk driving laws.
“There’s a long history of (distilling) in my family,” he said. “My great-grandfather’s gravestone…is a piece of copper pipe that was left over from still manufacturing that my grandfather had engraved with his name.”
Many generations ago, prohibition chased Doroshenko’s mother’s family out of the United States, taking their knowledge of alcohol production with them to Canada. His father’s side of the family, who were Ukrainian farmers living in Saskatchewan, also upheld a tradition of making vodka.
“It’s in my blood. It’s there, it’s just waiting for the opportunity,” Doroshenko said.
That opportunity came when a unit opened up in the same building as his firm, Acumen Law Corporation’s, Richmond offices at Elmbridge and Cedarbridge ways.
After renting the unit, he tossed around multiple ideas of what to do with the space but now has an application before council to open his dream distillery.
“I thought…I’m going to follow through on my dream. I’m going to build a distillery,” he said.
“It’s a good location…the building is far enough away from any other residential building that it’s not a concern, but we also have, like, five hotels within a five minute walk, and I see tourists wandering around and there’s nothing to do… it’s actually a little bit desolate there.”
Doroshenko hopes his distillery, with a small tasting room for visitors, will bring a little more spirit to the otherwise quiet area.
“There’s nothing cooler than visiting a distillery,” he said. “If (tourists) can come and visit a distillery and have a taste of a gin and a vodka that’s made in a craft distillery, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity.”
While Doroshenko’s passion is vodka, he said his business partner is a big fan of gin.
“We bought the most beautiful gin still you could possibly imagine. It is a hand-hammered copper still…from western Spain,” he said. “Those people used to make suits of armour in the family, then they moved on to hand-hammered copper and the thing is just stunning.”
Doroshenko added that some distilleries choose to make gin – which is a neutral-alcohol infused with juniper berries and other botanicals – in their vodka still. However, as more of a vodka purist, he feels this can affect the flavours of the vodka down the line.
“I’ve traveled around to all these craft distilleries and anybody that uses a gin basket (for infusing), I try their vodka and I can always taste the juniper,” he said.
To keep these flavours separate in his distillery, Doroshenko said he and his partner have also purchased a top-of-the-line vodka still as well.
“We went ahead and bought the most advanced vodka still system you could possibly find,” he said.
“It recycles the water that it uses for cooling for all the washing, it is super high-efficiency and it is all manufactured in Hungary...the one sample of vodka I’ve had from it is the most impressive vodka I’ve ever had.”
Down the road, they hope to distill whisky too.
Even though Doroshenko decided on opening this distillery a year and a half ago, he says it’s been a long process. This past Monday, his application had its first reading at a council meeting, where it got some positive feedback.
Coun. Kelly Greene, for example, thought a distillery would complement other businesses in town.
“We’ve got wineries in Richmond, we’ve got breweries in Richmond and now we’re going to have a distillery, and I think that’s a really interesting business and I look forward to having their contribution in Richmond,” she said.
Coun. Harold Steves added that Doroshenko’s plan reminds him of Richmond’s rich history with distilleries.
“We probably were the distillery capital of Western Canada during prohibition era. We had a major distillery at Moncton and Railway, they were legal actually, it was just illegal to take it across the border,” he said.
“So we’re going to have this distillery back, I find that rather interesting. And, on a small scale, it’s not a bad idea.”
As for what the distillery will be called, Doroshenko said he’s got one name in mind: Deep Blue Distilleries.
“I was flying on the float plane from Victoria to Richmond…and I was looking at the waters of the Georgia Straight mixing with the emerald waters of the Fraser,” he said.
“I feel this long life connection to the Fraser River, and I looked at the mix of the emerald Fraser with the gorgeous blue water and I just thought ‘deep blue, look at that deep blue,’ so we called it Deep Blue.”
Doroshenko doesn’t have a timeline for when the distillery will open, but his application will be considered again at a public hearing next month.
“I just can’t wait to start producing spirits and have something connected to Richmond, with Richmond’s name on it,” he said.