Minhas family to open new ‘world-class’ distillery in Regina
Moni Minhas is building a multi-million dollar distillery in Regina, set to open early next year. He said it will be the largest facility of its kind in Saskatchewan.
On TV’s Dragons’ Den, investment ideas live or die by Manjit Minhas’s approval. The craft-brewing baroness decides whether or not to throw her millions at Canadian startups in desperate need of capital.
But when it comes to business, her own father doesn’t much care what she thinks.
“I did not discuss any of these ideas,” said Moni Minhas. “I told her once it was done – mostly because I’m so sure of myself.”
Moni is building a multi-million dollar distillery in Regina, set to open early next year. He said it will be the largest facility of its kind in Saskatchewan, churning out tens of thousands of cases of craft wine, gin, whiskey and vodka.
It’s still just a construction zone in the heart of an industrial park. But Moni hopes it will draw tourists with a taste for made-in-Saskatchewan spirits.
“This will have great ambiance — it will not look like a factory at all,” he said. “They will be able to see what ingredients go in there, how it’s produced and how it’s enjoyed.”
Moni has “retired” from his work running two oil companies. He’s still based in Calgary, but said he has a special connection to Saskatchewan, where both of his kids spent time studying or starting their careers. He also has a cousin who once played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“Every time I have come here, to Saskatchewan, I find the people here really friendly, really nice, and I really feel indebted,” he said. “And what better to give back than with long-term manufacturing jobs?”
He said his distillery will need a winemaker, mechanics and food scientists, as well as tasting guides for his visitors. But he’s not just looking for Saskatchewan workers – he wants to ferment Saskatchewan crops.
“Why would you ever go anywhere outside of Saskatchewan to buy a grain, whether it’s wheat or barley?” he asked.
That takes care of whisky and vodka, but Saskatchewan isn’t known for ideal grape-growing conditions. No matter, says Moni. He’ll use something else.
“What is so special about grapes that another fruit does not have?” he said. “A grape is not necessary to make wine … this is why the craft movement is so great, it’s innovation, thinking outside the box.”
He said his process is much slower, and more labour intensive, than big-brand mass production. He’s buying Dutch-made equipment so “cutting edge” that visitors “will not believe it’s a distillation unit.” Moni will ferment by the batch, then send samples to an in-house lab for quality control.
“The role of the lab is to calculate alcohol content, to calculate specific gravity, pH balance… mineral content,” he said. “There are a bunch of things you calculate to make sure that the product is coming out the way you want.”
Visitors will be able to follow the production process, and sample the result on site. But Moni isn’t just aiming for the local market. He said he’s already in talks to export his product to Alberta, Montana, and even California, giving Saskatchewan a foothold in the international wine and spirit market.
Moni might not ask his daughter for advice, but she’s still willing to give her assessment of his new venture. She said she thinks it will be a “world-class facility.
“It will be using Saskatchewan grain, Saskatchewan fruit, Saskatchewan people to produce it,” Manjit said. “A local product, a world-class product that will be sold in Saskatchewan, but also exported to America.”
Still, her father doesn’t much care. “It’s his own money,” Manjit admits. And he doesn’t need an investment guru.
“It goes the other way around,” she said. “He’s been my mentor… I guess liquor runs in Minhas blood.”