A B.C. spirit comes out on top for the fifth consecutive year in the Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition: cheers to DEVINE Distillery’s Ancient Grains, also the Best in Class Young Whisky.
The grains may be ancient, but a globally unique, made-in-B.C. whisky is making modern history: Ancient Grains from DEVINE Distillery in Saanich is the Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year 2022.
The top-scoring spirit across every category of the national competition, Ancient Grains is also the Best in Class Young Whisky for the third time (so classified because it matures for less than three years, which is the minimum requirement for labelling as “Canadian Whisky”). The whisky was originally created by master distiller Ken Winchester in 2017, using B.C.-grown heritage barley, einkorn, emmer, spelt and kamut, and matured in smaller quarter-casks.
Full disclosure: I’ve been the lead judge since the inception of the Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition (CASC), but like the other 11 judges I blind-tasted the spirits last fall (and only see results once they’re embargoed for the media, a few hours before they’re public.) I described Ancient Grains as having “huge fruit and cedar on the nose [and] salty caramel, tangerine, tarragon and lemongrass on the palate, with white pepper on the finish. [A] rich, almost oily texture carries lingering tastes. A flavour bomb of a young whisky!”
There were a stellar nine Best in Class winners in total from B.C., including Bright Light Alt-Gin from Sheringham Distillery in Sooke, which won the new Zero-Proof Spirits category (and is a previous Artisan Spirit of the Year winner, for its Akvavit and Kazuki Gin). Our province’s closest competition is Quebec, where distilleries won six Best in Class awards this year.
Other big B.C. winners include Shelter Point Distillery in Campbell River, which swept the Single Grain and Single Malt Whisky categories, for its unmalted-barley Shelter Point Montfort and wine-cask-finished Double Barrel 6.
Also celebrating repeat Best in Class wins: Vancouver’s Odd Society (for its Bittersweet Vermouth, in the Amaro or Vermouth category), Penticton’s Maple Leaf Spirits (for its Lady of the Cask, in the Brandy category) and North Vancouver’s Sons of Vancouver (for its Blue Curaçao in the Liqueur category).
Rounding out the national Best in Class spirits from our province: Revelstoke’s Monashee Spirits (which won the Artisan Spirit of the Year in 2019 for Ethos Gin) won the Alternative Rum category for its honey-based Revy Rum. And Duncan’s Ampersand Distilling Company (last year‘s overall winner for it’s Nocino!) won the Contemporary Gin category with its popular Ampersand Gin.
Finally, Odd Society Spirits took the Branding award for its Monarch Five Stage Whisky, which takes whisky lovers on a five-year journey over five bottles, as the same spirit matures. The packaging is beautiful, but have confidence in the juice inside: Odd Society has won Best in Class for its whiskies in past years, as well.
The 2022 CASC awards drew entries from nearly 80 Canadian artisan distilleries in 23 categories. Artisan Distillers Canada founder Alex Hamer also runs the BC Distilled show (this year on April 9) and will hold the first Artisan Distillers Canada Conference & Trade Show in October 2022, both in Vancouver.
For complete results, visit artisandistillers.ca/2022-results.
—by Charlene Rooke