After leaving Manitoba and his role as head distiller at one of Canada’s largest whisky brands in 2015, Nick Kebalo had no plans to continue producing spirits, and he certainly wasn’t planning on becoming an entrepreneur starting up Grande Prairie’s first craft distillery.
Plans can change, however, and they did for Nick when he was approached at his kids’ sporting event by a couple of other sports dads with an idea to start a distillery. The encouragement he received from this conversation convinced Nick to return to his craft and utilize his vast training and untapped talent.
With a network of business experience behind him in partners Kevin Szakacs, Matt Scheck, Dennis Warren, and Eric Miller, Nick led the charge to establish Latitude 55 Distillery.
“We wanted to help put Grande Prairie on the map by doing something different and cool in the community,” Nick said.
The Latitude 55 team grew with the addition of Regan Berg and Jeff Warren. This small, hard-working team produces approximately 70,000 litres of alcohol each year. With the primary focus on provincial sales, they have built strong customer relationships and currently supply spirits to over 150 stores across Alberta.
COVID-19 presented challenges in the company’s growth plans and a small pivot in the product roadmap, company vision, and online identity proved necessary. Building brand awareness on social media and launching an e-commerce website to increase virtual connectivity across Canada was the obvious next step. The roadmap and vision were clear: a core belief in a landscape where spirit and local craft come together for everyone. Delivering local quality in both a uniquely premium line of spirits as well as a reliable and conventional brand of spirits, products such as Northern Hare Gin and the award-winning Kakwa Rum continue to share growing shelf space with the Good Company staple in homes and liquor stores across Alberta and the rest of Canada.
Latitude 55 salutes Alberta and the Canadian North in both taste and artistic expression. Those familiar with Yellowknife artist Robbie Craig will recognize his work on the Kakwa Rum and Northern Hare Gin bottles.
Coming up on three years in the community, Latitude 55 attributes their success to master craftsmanship, experience, and dedication to great tasting spirits. There is so much new ground to discover in the craft industry; educating consumers on how to mix our spirits with such things as tonic, bitters, and syrups to create amazing cocktail is only the beginning! 2022 will be an especially exciting year for Latitude 55 as they build on their premium spirit portfolio and welcome their very first batch of aged whisky, which just so happens to be Nick’s master talent!