To be a founder, you need to have a certain level of intensity, over the top commitment. Kashmir Birk of Lucid Spirits Distilling Co. fits that bill and then some. When you ask him to tell the origin story of his distillery, he paints a picture of adversity that few would willingly experience.
“For years, I had the idea to start it,” he says. “It was something that kept gnawing at me. Then, I realized: I have to do this. And when I do something, I’m all in.”
“All in” for Kashmir meant quitting his job, selling practically everything he owned, and starting up Lucid without partners or investors in 2015. In a sense, he feels he “didn’t have a choice” other than making it work.
“When I get my head around something, this is what I do. I put my head down until it’s accomplished.”
That tenacity was first tested by discovering his facility was considered “high explosive”. Clearly, that presents challenges for producing substances as highly flammable as spirits.
“I was in this facility, and I had to figure out how to open a distillery in it. It took a year and a half to build, and I did everything myself. I sacrificed a lot. Relationships didn’t happen.” He laughs. “I guess my life is a bit shorter now.”
Was it worth it? Absolutely.
“Things are really good. Everything is pushing forward. I’ve built the place to be lean and we’re always adapting like crazy, especially under COVID.”
There is, of course, a deep satisfaction in producing products as exceptional as Lucid’s. Kashmir says that his first big win on the road to establishing his company was “being able to create the vodka and it be as immaculate as it is.”
That vodka—Northern Vodka—became the template for what Lucid does: hand-crafted spirits with purity of flavour and clarity of origin. Kashmir and his team only use BC-grown agricultural products to make their base alcohols. That drives a clear difference between Lucid and your average liquor store spirit.
“When you start with a super clean base alcohol, everything you do afterwards makes the ingredients shine. ‘Fresh and local’ makes a difference. When you’re not using something that had to sit on an airplane for twenty hours, you taste it.”
Kashmir says that of all the challenges he faced building Lucid, finding good suppliers ranked high in terms of difficulty.
“In a business like this, you need to source so many things. Everything from glass to labels to fruit to grains and so on. You get one piece of specialized equipment from a company and that company has no idea how to get the next piece of specialized equipment that you need.”
In that occasionally chaotic process of partnership-building, Kashmir says he was fortunate to find a label manufacturer in Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC). “The quality of the labels is obviously really good, which is necessary when you’re selling a premium product. But I really appreciate how adaptable and helpful GLBC is, especially when things don’t go as planned —which they often do running a distillery.”
Having weathered a difficult start-up period followed by a global pandemic, the Lucid team is grateful for where they are. They’re producing increasingly recognized premium spirits and expanding distribution. In fact, their biggest problem until recently has been keeping up with production.
“We’re here for the long haul. We’ve had calculated, methodical growth, and now we’re at the point where we’ve hired more people and are expanding into more liquor stores, restaurants, and hospitality businesses.”
Having known Kashmir and the Lucid team for years now, we have no doubt that this growth will continue—and we’ll continue to love being part of it.