High on rye

Sons of Vancouver pins the future on whisky

SoV’s winning whisky features tropical notes of banana, pineapple and demerara sugar. Photos courtesy of Sons of Vancouver.

In January, a B.C. craft whisky was named the country’s best for the first time in the 13-year history of the Canadian Whisky Awards. The rye-based Palm Trees & A Tropical Breeze was only the third whisky released by Sons of Vancouver. But it offers an aromatic taste of the future for this North Van distillery better known (until now) for its amaretto and other liqueurs.

“It means there are no days off for anyone who works here,” SoV co-founder James Lester says with a laugh. “The demand for our whisky is just crazy. Our [2023 release] Road Trip Across the Midwest sold out in two minutes.”

Lester is joined at the distillery by fellow distillers Jenna Diubaldo, who manages production, and Max Smith, as well as bartender Emmet Groves. “It feels more like a collective,” says Diubaldo, who studied at the SoV distilling school in 2017 and joined the team in 2021 after COVID derailed her plan to open a distillery in her Winnipeg hometown. “We try not to have titles and just do the work that needs to be done.”

The Sons of Vancouver production team, from left: Max Smith, James Lester and Jenna Diubaldo.

Now, with the help of an Indiegogo campaign, they are upping their production and looking to make 50 to 60 barrels of their aromatic style of rye whisky next year. 

That means they will likely have to reduce production of some of their other products, like the Chili Vodka and maybe even the famous amaretto. As Diubaldo says, “People love everything we make, but we just feel whisky is the way to go, and it’s our passion, too.”

“And our next plan is to win the award again next year,” Lester says.

The Sons of Vancouver tasting room at 1431 Crown Street, North Vancouver, is open weekly Wednesday to Sunday, with tiki nights on Sundays.

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