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Yk artist Robbie Craig flows in new direction with Kakwa Falls drink label art


Yellowknife artist Robbie Craig's art has been featured in prints, clothing, jewelry and even face masks, but now a new collaboration has flowed his work into a beverage label, south of the NWT border.

Earlier in the summer, Craig created a painting of Kakwa Falls, the tallest waterfall in Alberta. The 30-metre high waterfall is about 140 kilometres southeast of Grande Prairie and flows just east of the border with British Columbia. Craig was asked to do the painting of the stunning watery feature following a conversation with the owners of craft distillery Latitude 55 in Grande Prairie.

“They're a gin distillery but they've recently started making rum. And they wanted me to make the label for the rum,” Craig said.

Yellowknife artist Robbie Craig shows a print of his Kakwa Falls painting that was featured on the label of a new rum product from 55 Latitude Distillery in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Blair McBride/NNSL photo

“They also asked me to create some extra points of interest on the label (like) if I could hide a bear and a wolf in it too. I think it's kind of a fun idea.”

Craig added aurora imagery to the painting, a familiar sight in the Kakwa region even though it lies almost 1,000 km south of Yellowknife.

Latitude 55 bought the 18 x 24-inch painting from Craig and then shot high-resolution photographs of it, which formed the label for the bottle.

The distillery got in touch with Craig through the Grant Berg Gallery in Grande Prairie, where Craig's work is part of the collection.

“We thought it would be an exceptional opportunity for him to design the label and create the story for our clients and the community,” said Latitude 55 owner Dennis Warren.

“When we first started making our spirits we didn't want to be only Grande Prairie-oriented. We wanted to be recognized as an Albertan and a Canadian product. We thought it would be fitting to have such an iconic place like Kakwa represent the rum. And we wanted (Craig) to represent the local falls.”

The dark brown spirit is molasses-based and was aged in whiskey bourbon barrels for a little more than a year.

“You get hints of oak smells and it tastes smooth. It's not an overly sweet rum and it doesn't take your breath away,” said Warren.

The distillery started selling the Kakwa Rum on July 16 at $39 per bottle in an initial run of 500 cases, with plans to produce another 500 cases in the near future.

Robbie Craig, left, and his wife Nicole Craig clink glasses as they drink some of the Kakwa Rum that features his paining of the tallest waterfall in Alberta. image courtesy of Nicole Craig

“We're going to market it in Alberta first. We've only been open for a year and a half. We have to be careful and strategic with how we market our products,” said Warren.

Over the past month, the drink and the label have proven popular among customers.

“Everybody that has seen it has had nothing but smiles and appreciation for it. It's almost disappointing to me to throw away the bottle after I drank it because of the label. It makes me want to keep the bottles,” Warren said.

Even though Craig admits that he doesn't often drink spirits, he said it's “neat” to see other people celebrating the drink represented by his art.

Robbie Craig points to the little wolf and bear images he hid in his painting of Kakwa Falls. Blair McBride/NNSL photo

The work marks a new direction for Craig's art and he calls the label a “10-year dream come true.”

“It's humbling and flattering experience. I'm quite honoured to be involved with them on this project.”