A decade of great Canadian whisky

B.C. distillers scored big at the 10th annual Canadian Whisky Awards in Victoria last night.

The BC winners at the Canadian Whisky Awards included (from left to right): Grant Stevely of Dubh Glas Distillery, Kevin Titcomb and Ken Winchester of De Vine Spirits, Terence Fitzgerald and Jason MacIsaac of Sheringham Distillery, and Leon Webb and Jacob Wiebe from Shelter Point Distillery. Charlene Rooke photo

At a gala awards ceremony celebrating 10 years, the 2020 Canadian Whisky Awards recognized famous whiskies and big achievements of the past decade, while giving kudos to small-batch innovations from artisan distilleries, including four from B.C.

Among the top category winners (and winners of multiple other gold, silver and bronze medals) were Shelter Point for in the rye category for its Single-Cask Rye; DeVine Wines & Spirits for best whisky spirit (an award for whiskies younger than three years) for Ancient Grains; and Delta’s Goodridge&Williams for its Western Grains, in the value whisky (domestic) category. In addition two silver medals each for Dubh Glas Distillery in Oliver, Odd Society Spirits in Vancouver and Sooke’s Sheringham Distillery rounded out the B.C. winners. The overall Canadian Whisky of the Year award winner was the Pike Creek 21-year-old 2019 Oloroso Cask edition.

This year at the Victoria Whisky Festival, which the Canadian Whisky Awards kicks off, distillers from DeVine and Shelter Point are also presenting masterclasses, demonstrating the growing influence of local distilleries and craft spirits on the global celebration of whisky. B.C. has previously been well-represented at the awards: last year, Shelter Point received an Award of Excellence for Innovation for its “farm-to-flask” unmated barley whisky, Montfort DL 141 (an award that, this year, went to the Bearface Oaxaca edition, from B.C.-based Mark Anthony Spirits) and DeVine won Best Whisky Spirit.

The first and only competition devoted solely to Canadian whisky continued to evolve in its 10th year by introducing new awards, including single-grain categories for corn, rye and wheat as well as malted barley whiskies, along with mixed-mashbill whiskies. To celebrate the past decade of the Canadian Whisky Awards, special 10-year achievement awards also went to Alberta Distillers as a distillery, and for whisky and whisky maker of the decade to Forty Creek founder John P. Hall and his Confederation Oak bottling.

Awards founder Davin de Kergommeaux (who is a seasonal B.C. resident) described the annual keynote speakers at the awards as providing “another perspective on Canadian whisky, other than our own.” True to form, New York Times op-ed deputy editor and whisky writer Clay Risen (he’s authored two best-selling books, on Scotch and American whisky) marked what he called the eve of the centennial of Prohibition by describing young American consumers who are, “poised, desperate even, for a Canadian invasion.” He cited high quality, reasonable prices, approachable flavour profiles and great backstories among the advantages that Canadian whisky brands have in the U.S. market. Risen was the author of a New York Times article about Canadian whisky that was instrumental in amplifying what many call the current Canadian whisky renaissance.

This year a swanky new website not only streamlined the entry process for distillers but brought profile to the 10th anniversary of the awards: check it for full results of all national winners.

—by Charlene Rooke

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