From cornflakes to corn whisky

Ontario’s Paradigm Spirits Co. wins Whisky of the Year at the 2024 Canadian Whisky Awards

Paradigm Spirits 2022 Heritage Collection: 19 Year Single Grain Oloroso Blend Whisky is 2024 Canadian Whisky of the Year. Photo courtesy of Canadian Whisky Awards

For nearly a century, residents of London, Ontario, smelled toasty corn aromas coming from what was formerly a grain facility and then a Kellogg’s Cornflakes factory. These days, it’s the scent of whisky mashes — and victory — that’s wafting from Paradigm Spirits Co., a distilling and blending enterprise located in that space since 2020. It won Whisky of the Year on January 18 at the 2024 Canadian Whisky Awards for its 2022 Heritage Collection: 19 Year Single Grain Oloroso Blend Whisky bottling.

Paradigm’s Heritage Collection celebrates Canadian whisky stocks, “already outstanding or transformed by our master blenders,” according to the brand’s website. The winning spirit is a 19-year-old 100 per cent corn whisky (presumably sourced from an unnamed distiller), which was matured in new American oak barrels, then blended with Oloroso sherry. (A Canadian whisky regulation, sometimes referred to as the “9.09%” or the “1/11” rule, allows for a small amount of blending with components like spirit, wine or fortified wine such as sherry.) It was blended by Paradigm distiller Melissa Bernais, formerly the distiller at Ottawa’s Dunrobin Distilleries and a graduate of Niagara College’s Artisan Distilling program.

The winning bottle is available on the brand’s website for $119.42, only for shipping to Ontario addresses. Paradigm operates a 30-plate hybrid pot still on its premises, and also currently offers a column-distilled Canadian wheat and corn whisky plus gin, vodka and canned cocktails.

Its website describes the winning whisky with aromas of red fruit, vanilla, tobacco, leather and spice, plus a “rich and velvety” palate with fruit, toast, cocoa, nut and sherry on the finish. “This is remarkable whisky,” says Davin de Kergommeaux, chair of the Canadian Whisky Awards 10-judge panel and author of Canadian Whisky: The Essential Portable Expert. “Long maturation in oak imbues it with sublime complexity and elegance, while meticulous blending animates its fresh, fruity top notes.”

Kevin Titcomb of DEVINE Distillery with Heather Leary and Davin de Kergommeaux at the Canadian Whisky Awards. Jen Steele photo

While major whisky brands grabbed several top awards, some Canadian artisan distillers came out on top, winning major categories. Wheat Whisky of the Year went to LMD (Last Mountain Distillery) in Lumsden, Saskatchewan, for its Whisky Release No. 0005 Straight Wheat. Ancient Grains Young Whisky from DEVINE Distillery in Saanich, B.C., won Whisky Spirit of the Year. The Rye Whisky of the Year was Arrowwood from GrainHenge (Troubled Monk) in Red Deer, Alberta, while Duncan, B.C.’s Stillhead Distillery won Best Cask Strength Whisky and Best Single Barrel Release for its Rye Whisky with PX Cask Finish. Alternative Grain Whisky of the Year went to Last Straw Distillery in Vaughn, Ontario for its Rice Whisky. Odd Society Spirits won an Award of Excellent in Product Innovation for its Boneyard Whisky.

Among other Alberta artisan distillers winning CWA 2024 gold, silver and bronze medals were The Fort Distillery, Strathcona Spirits, Bridgeland Distillery, Diony Distillery, Birds & Bees Wine and Wild Life Distillery. In B.C., not only DEVINE but Macaloney’s Island Distillery, Mad Laboratory Distilling, Odd Society Spirits, Shelter Point Distillery, Sons of Vancouver Distillery,  The Dubh Glas Distillery and The Liberty Distillery won medals. Ontario’s Harris Beach Spirits, John Sleeman & Sons distillery and Magnotta Distillery also medalled, with Moonshine Creek in New Brunswick and Patent 5 Distillery in Winnipeg rounding out the list of winning artisan producers.

For full results of the 2024 Canadian Whisky Awards, visit

—by Charlene Rooke

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