Coldstream Clear Distillery – Celebrating five years of Family Values, Clear Vision & Brand Innovation

Coldstream Clear is clearly making an impact in Atlantic Canadas vibrant distillery industry.  

Delicious, mouth-watering flavours invite consumers of the popular Coldstream Clear brand to share in the foundersvision of sipping a favourite drink while enjoying the company of friends. 

Co-founder Riley Giffen’s interest in creating distilled spirits was sparked in an organic chemistry classroom in his second year of Dalhousie Universitys Chemical Engineering program. As he was distilling essential oils from the zest of an orange peel, he made the connection that the same principles are used to make spirits and he was all in. 

With passion and an entrepreneurial spirit, he built his own still and approached his parents with his dream of creating a brand and starting a business. His interest was contagious, and it wasnt long before the whole Giffen family joined in the adventure.  Mom, Elaine, Dad, Robert, and siblings Olivia and Liam quickly brought Rileys dream to reality.   

Spotlight on Business had the pleasure of connecting with Olivia Giffen to learn how the distillery became such a success story.  

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Olivia shared that the family had all been pursuing other careers but came together to embrace Riley’s vision to handcraft world-class quality beverages.  Each member of the family has their own niche in the business, with very little overlap. Elaine takes care of the accounting logistics, Robert manages production of all spirits, Liam manages ready-to-drink production, and Riley and Olivia are responsible for business development, marketing, and liaising with the liquor boards. This structure has allowed them to be very agile. Olivia explains, “We make a lot happen with less which has allowed us to become leaders in the market even amongst very large and powerful brands.” And with Olivia, Riley and Liam all being under the age of 27, they find it easy to understand and vibe with their ready- to-drink beverage target market.

Unique to this brand is that the Giffen family grew up on a property that boasts a high-quality spring that is the perfect source of water for distilling. In fact, Robert and Elaine owned and operated a local bottled water business for ten years prior to the opening of the distillery.

One might assume that the brand is named after the spring, however the name Coldstream Clear was actually named after the street the family lives on, Coldstream Road. During the infancy of the business, they would label Coldstream Clear on mason jars for identification.  Giffen shares, “The name had a nice ring to it and is special to us. It is universal and will prepare us well for wherever we take the brand in the future.”

Doors to the distillery officially opened September 2015. The original location was on Coldstream Road, on the Giffen family property. They quickly developed a following. Fast forward a year later, and the family opened their well-known location in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia in the Mastodon Ridge visitor centre and amusement area. This location has provided perfect access for their customers to visit the distillery and purchase their products, as it is a popular through way.

“The community in Stewiacke has been incredible,” Giffen raved. “We are so fortunate to have such a friendly and knowledgeable team who create the customer experience that people deserve. It is of utmost importance that we bring people to the team that are excited to share our mutual passion for the brand.”

Coldstream currently employs fifteen full-time and fifteen part-time staff with more joining the team all the time. The Giffen family appreciate and value their employees who truly stand behind the brand.

As with any new business, there are challenges in launching a brand. Everything is new and without a large team and substantial financial backing, getting through the first stages of growth is key. We learned a lot during that stage and although we have grown tremendously since then we are always still learning.

Coldstream has also faced challenges due to the current challenging economic times. The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged Coldstream to find new and innovative ways to operate.  Thankfully, they have managed to weather these tough times and are a champion of versatility.  As other businesses closed, Coldstream continued to operate. The distillery remained open with many precautionary measures in place.  We focused on sustaining business by growing the home delivery side with somedays up to 5 delivery drivers on the road. Coldstream Clear products continued to be in great demand, as Nova Scotians/Maritimers found themselves spending more time at home with the family and friends in their bubbles. The company also flexed with the times and started producing sanitizer to fill a pandemic-created demand in the Nova Scotia market.

This tumultuous time has also allowed the Giffen’s to focus on expanding in Stewiacke and renovating their new location in Antigonish. An exciting new endeavour, the location in Antigonish looks to be a great fit. Giffen said that the Antigonish NSLC is one where Coldstream products are well loved. Very much like Stewiacke, the Town of Antigonish has been super welcoming and everyone is excited for the distillery’s projected fall 2020 opening.

Due to Coldstream’s overwhelming gratitude for the way they have been wholeheartedly embraced by the towns of Stewiacke and Antigonish, the Giffen’s are always more than happy to give back to the communities in which they operate. They donate to teams, charities and events, and most recently raised $20,000 for social justice and anti-racism efforts in Nova Scotia.

In talking with Giffen, we learned that what makes Coldstream stand apart from their competitors is their commitment to innovation and being a relevant force in the distilling industry. They were the first company in Nova Scotia to launch ready-to-drink vodka soda beverages, which have now exploded in the marketplace. Coldstream’s popular lime vodka soda was introduced in August of 2017 in bottles and in the spring of 2018, they introduced canned beverages at the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC). “Cans are what people are reaching for more and more, and we had our finger on the pulse of convenience and new desired flavours,” explains Giffen.

Coldstream produces a variety of products including vodka and rum, liqueurs spirits along with a selection on ready to drink canned beverages.

Coldstream’s premium vodka is made from 100 % Canadian grains and pure artesian spring water sourced from the Giffen’s home in rural Nova Scotia. Coldstream rums are aged in single malt whiskey barrels for a smooth authentic taste. Of note, and not without coincidence, is that their relative Simon Giffen was Halifax’s first distiller. In 1749 he moved from Northern Ireland to Nova Scotia and soon become well known for producing top quality spirits. Distilling runs in the Giffen blood.

The Coldstream Clear Liqueur selections include tastes such as salted caramel, classic coffee, homemade apple pie, crazy for coconut and cinnamon hot shots. We also have seasonal products such as Candy Cane and Eggnog rum Cream. The newest flavor Coldstream has launched is their coffee rum cream, which has been a hit so far. Any flavour is sure to delight.

Lime vodka soda, cranberry vodka soda, lemon iced tea, lemonade, lemon gin soda and peach iced tea are all available in Coldstream’s ready-to-drink cans.   All of their beverages have zero artificial colours or sweeteners and are naturally gluten free.  An added plus is they also contain about 50% of the sugar of a typical cooler, making this a truly better for you product, which is definitely a bonus for consumers who want to partake in beverages that allow them to party the night away without the guilt. Coldstream’s newest canned product that just launched in Nova Scotia, ‘Coldstream Twister’ a delicious combo of mango, pineapple, and cherry!

Product and quality control are especially important and that is why all of Coldstream Clear’s canning is done in house to ensure you get the perfect beverage every time.  Griffen shared that currently the company is able to produce 72 cans a minute, but after their expansion of the Truro facility, they will have added an impressive 15,000 square feet and will be able to produce over 250 cans a minute.  Proof that the company recognizes that in order to keep expanding, production has to increase to meet the demand now and in the future.

The Giffen family acknowledges and appreciates the support they have had from fellow distillers in Atlantic Canada. Olivia gives a shout out to Ironworks Distillery as the pioneer in the industry and the family keeps that support in mind by paying it forward to new distilleries on the scene. The Giffen’s also relish the experience of being able to go to festivals where so many people can have the opportunity to see how vibrant the spirits industry is in Atlantic Canada.

Currently Coldstream products are available in liquor stores in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, but the sky is the limit. The company has exciting plans to expand to many other liquor boards in 2021.

Clear, crisp, clean, choose Coldstream Clear. Their handcrafted products are sure to exceed your expectations.

For more information about Coldstream products or to inquire about their local delivery service, visit coldstreamclear.com or call 902-639-9030.

by Christi Rideout