Four’s the charm: Results of the 2021 Canadian Artisan Spirits Competition

For the fourth year in a row, a B.C. craft spirit has won the Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition: raise a toast to Vancouver Island’s Ampersand Distilling, makers of Nocino!

Ampersand Distilling Company’s Nocino! is the Canadian Artisan Spirit of the year for 2021. Supplied photo

The Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year is the Nocino! from Ampersand Distilling Company on Vancouver Island. Founded by the Schacht clan, Ampersand operates from a Duncan-area farm, using stills that were designed and built by father and son Stephen and Jeremy; Jessica Schact is instrumental in product development; and Ramona Froehle-Schact manages the farm and more—a true family affair.

Ampersand makes Nocino, a traditional Italian walnut liqueur, annually from green walnuts harvested locally in the Cowichan Valley. The nuts are steeped in craft spirit, which is then spiced and sweetened with local honey. As solo sipper or bittersweet cocktail modifier, it was described by Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition (CASC) judges as “very complex and exceptionally balanced … with a deeply roasted flavour and a pleasing note of bitterness,” plus flavours of orange peel, nutmeg, coffee and caramelized sugar.

This is the first time a liqueur has won the competition: past winners have included Kazuki Gin and Akvavit from Sheringham Distillery in Sooke and Ethos Gin from Monashee Spirits in Revelstoke.

The Woods Spirit Co. scored Best in Class for Amaro or Vermouth with their Pacific North-West Amaro. Supplied photo

Other B.C. Best in Class winners include The Woods Spirit Co. in North Vancouver, for Pacific North-West Amaro (Amaro or Vermouth category); Wynndel Craft Distilleries in Creston, for Apple Brandy (Brandy or Eau de Vie category); Arbutus Distillery in Nanaimo, for Espresso Vodka (Flavoured or Infused Vodka category); Dubh Glas Distillery in Oliver, for Noteworthy Gin Navy Strength (tie, Gin category); The Liberty Distillery in Vancouver, for Endeavour Old Tom Gin (Aged Gin category); and Merridale Cidery & Distillery in Cobble Hill, for Cowichan Spiced Rhumb (Alternative Rum category).

Odd Society Spirits’ Commodore Single Malt Whisky won Best in Class in the Single Malt category. Supplied photo

In addition, Best in Class honours for all whisky categories were a clean sweep for B.C. distilleries this year: Shelter Point Distillery in Campbell River, for its Double Barrel Batch 5 finished in local blackberry-wine casks (Single Grain category); Odd Society Spirits in Vancouver, for its Commodore Single Malt Whisky (Single Malt category); and DEVINE Distillery in the Saanich Peninsula region of greater Victoria, for Ancient Grains (Young Whisky category, in which it’s a three-peat category winner).

Alex Hamer, ADC’s Vancouver-based founder, says, “It’s great to see that even in the face of considerable pandemic-related business interruptions, our distillers continue to produce high quality spirits of every kind.”

View the complete results at This fall, watch for the same organization that runs CASC to hold the first annual Artisan Distillers Canada Conference & Trade Show, on October 19–20, 2021, at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

—by Charlene Rooke

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