Mike & Lee Stanfield
Mike, Lee and their two daughters live in the inner city neighborhood of Beltline in Calgary. Never afraid to throw caution to the wind they have lived in 4 Canadian provinces (NS, Ont., BC & Alberta) for greater than 10 years each and have traveled to more than 40 countries. They scratch their itches. Starr Distilling and Summer Love Vodka is such as itch. This sounds admirable but don’t look at our bank balances.
Do more of what you Love
Mike dreamt up Summer Love as an anecdote for the anxiety riddled and impersonal nature of corporate life. A little depressed, anxious and embarrassed at the poor role model he’d become for his daughters - He quit his job on July 1st of 2014 – and started his journey to get more out of life. You’ve got to start with what you love – Canadian summer and being outdoors, swimming, epic road trips, the smell of warm pine sap on the breeze – and reconnecting with friends and family. Fresh picked fruit – farmer’s markets with fabulous local produce. It just seems wrong that we produce such wonderful fruit – yet so many of our foods and beverages are artificially flavoured and so disappointing.
How we began
Would it surprise you to know Mike’s earliest memories are of family road trippin’ in a 1972 VW van (orange) to apple orchards and wild blueberry patches. Lee, too, is a hippie at heart.
Mike started experimenting with infusions as a hobby at first – as he says to maintain his sanity in a house full of girls. The infusions were outstanding - As the Mason jar lab grew our dinner parties turned into taste testing events – with great feedback and lots of jesting that we should start selling. That was all pretty light-hearted but really started to gain momentum while surfing in Tofino one Christmas. Alberta had just changed regulations – opening up new avenues to genuinely consider.
Mike bought a classic German made copper still and started looking at property to lease near our home in the Beltline. Fast forward a few months and the banker’s laughing laid waste to that plan – we’d have to find another way to market. We had our recipes fine-tuned from the Mason jar lab, knew how to do it, maybe we could find a distilling partner. Mike called every distillery in Canada but nothing came to fruition – usually because we were not taken seriously or made such small amounts it wouldn’t be feasible. Eventually we found a willing distiller in Wisconsin to make our products. Today we buy all our fruit in BC and ship it to Wisconsin to become Summer Love. That may change down the road, but we’re grateful to have found a start.
Where’s our journey headed?
I couldn’t have predicted our journey so far should I have been asked while surfing in Tofino. That’s probably true as we move ahead – but our goals are unchanged; to produce fantastic natural fruit vodkas free of chemicals and preservatives. Second to use vodka as a source of good – improving the lives of everyone we interact with one delicious cocktail at a time. There must be a better way to raise and inspire children, build stronger more nurturing communities, fund important initiatives and leave the planet better than we found it.