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Fill 'em up: Controversial vodka jugs return after short hiatus

T-Rex Distillery says it won't stop producing it's value-sized four-litre vodka jugs after an outpouring of support from the community in regards to negative comments an Alberta minister made about the product. (David Ewasuk/CTV News Edmonton) T-Rex Distillery says it won't stop producing it's value-sized four-litre vodka jugs after an outpouring of support from the community in regards to negative comments an Alberta minister made about the product. (David Ewasuk/CTV News Edmonton)
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A local distillery says it's restarted production of its four-litre vodka jugs after it says it was unfairly targeted by the Alberta government.

The jugs were recently the subject of disparaging comments by Alberta Service Minister Dale Nally, who called the pricing of the value-size vodka "not very responsible."

"When we heard about the comments from the minister, it was some sort of shock," said T-Rex Distillery CEO Yvonne Irnich. "We were, I felt, unfairly targeted."

The offending jugs were a private-label product made for Super Value Liquor at the price the store requested.

The jugs normally sell for $60 but were being offered for $49.95 by the liquor store as a promotion.

They were reviewed by Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) and followed federal packaging and labelling laws.

"What it’s not in compliance with is the spirit of Albertans," Nally told reporters Monday.

"We believe in responsible pricing, and that's where I think it goes afoul."

Irnich said she felt "backstabbed" by the comments, and her shock quickly turned to anger.

"I do everything by the book, I have a good relationship with AGLC," she said. "We check everything over and over before we launch any products … so being accused like this, I felt [was] so unfair."

The jugs have been for sale for around a year, and Irnich said she had never received a single complaint until Nally's comments.

"The minister made it look like we were doing something illegal, which we (aren't). We have checked everything with the regulations, everything is absolutely fine."

The publicity around the jugs led to a rush of negative emails and calls, Irnich said, and on Tuesday the distillery announced it would stop producing the product.

By Thursday, Irnich said an overwhelming outpouring of support for the distillery led them to rethink that decision.

"It almost brought tears to my eyes," she added. "People I don't know, people from all over the country almost, stood up, wrote to the minister's office for us."

"After that much support we received, and the great feedback from Albertans, I think we will bring it back."

Nally's remarks were made during the introduction of a bill that would give him the power to set liquor prices.

Despite his issue with the jugs' pricing, Nally said the next day he will not be imposing floor pricing for alcohol on the shelves.

"Alberta’s government supports a free and open market while prioritizing social responsibility and the health and safety of Albertans who engage in gaming, alcohol, and cannabis consumption. Alberta’s distilleries are known to produce world class products and we want to maintain that reputation," Nally's press secretary Nicky Gocuan said in a statement Friday. 

With files from Lisa Johnson of The Canadian Press

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