For the first time in its 13-year history, the 2023 Canadian Whisky Awards have named a B.C. craft bottling the best whisky in Canada.
At the Canadian Whisky Awards on January 19, Palm Trees & A Tropical Breeze from the North Vancouver-based Sons of Vancouver won top Canadian Whisky of the Year honours. It was also named Canadian Whisky of the Year, Artisan Producers; Barrel Finished Whisky of the Year; and All-Rye Whisky of the Year.
With a banana and pineapple-rich tropical nose, it was described by the blind-tasting panel of nine judges as resembling “spicy, flaming marshmallows.”
Less than 300 bottles of the Cruzan rum-cask-finished whisky (which is between three to four years old) were released last year, at a bold bottling strength of 53.5% alcohol. A few bottles are still to be found on private liquor-store shelves (and at a top craft bars, like Clive’s Classic Lounge in Victoria).
It’s the third whisky released by the distillery (with a fourth coming soon), which founder James Lester describes as nurturing a house style of “aromatic rye.”
“A lot people think single malt is the pinnacle [of whisky making], but we like rye,” says Distillery partner Jenna Diubaldo. All three distillery principles, including partner Max Smith, take part in whisky tasting, blending—and coming up with the fanciful names. “It’s fun to let the whisky do the talking,” says Diubaldo of names that echo notes or style of what’s in the bottle.
She calls the win “humbling” and says, “I hope that it turns people’s focus a little bit more to regional craft producers.”
Davin de Kergommeaux, chair of the judging panel and founder of the awards, concurred, saying in a press release: “In addition to their strong core range of whiskies, distilleries are producing small batches and limited releases, offering an amazing variety of regional profiles.”
Other big B.C. winners included DEVINE Distillery in Saanich, which won an Award of Excellence for Innovation, Whisky Spirit of the Year for its Ancient Grains Young Whisky as well as gold, silver and bronze medals for Glen Saanich and Ancient Grains bottlings.
The Liberty Distillery on Vancouver’s Granville Island won Alternative Grain Whisky of the Year for its unmalted barley TRUST Single Grain Whiskey, plus a silver medal for its bourbon-style TRUST Southern Whiskey.
Stillhead Distillery in Duncan and The Dubh Glas Distillery near Oliver both won gold medals, with Stillhead also receiving a silver. Victoria’s Macaloney Brewers & Distillers, Odd Society from East Vancouver and Shelter Point Distillery in Campbell River won silver medals.
Mad Laboratory Distilling in Vancouver win bronze for its Single Malt Whisky, with Stillhead, Dubh Glas, Liberty, Odd Society, Shelter Point as well as Tumbleweed Spirits in Osoyoos winning multiple bronze medals.
Davin de Kergommeaux announced at the Canadian Whisky Awards that Alex Hamer, the founder of BC Distilled and the Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition, was his new partner in producing the Canadian Whisky Awards going forward.
Find complete results at https://canadianwhiskyawards.com and more details about artisan distillery winners at https://artisandistillers.ca/news/2023/1/17/sons-of-vancouver-scores-top-prize-at-canadian-whisky-awards
—by Charlene Rooke