Canadian Craft Whisky Comes of Age at the 2023 Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition

For the first time in the competition’s six-year history, a whisky wins the Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year.

Fort Beauséjour Peated Single Malt Whisky is the 2023 Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year. Photo courtesy of CASC

Fort Beauséjour Peated Single Malt Whisky from Distillerie Fils de Roy in Petit-Paquetville, on New Brunswick’s Acadian coast, achieved the highest score of any spirit entered in the Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition (CASC) this year. It is the the 2023 Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year and the first Canadian Whisky to win the award. “We’re thrilled that our eastern artisan distilleries are receiving some well-deserved praise,” CASC founder Alex Hamer said in a news release.

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On Point

B.C.’s Shelter Point Distillery becomes the first Canadian bottling by the prestigious Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

152.1, also known as “Vibrant and Vigorous,” is the first SMWS bottling from a Canadian distillery. SMWS photo

During the Victoria Whisky Festival on January 20, the Canadian chapter of Scotland’s Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) unveiled a new bottling, 152.1, also known by the name Vibrant and Vigorous. The “.1” identifies the first-ever bottling from a new-to-SMWS distillery, and the Society identifies whiskies only by number and their often-fanciful house names, because each whisky is a single cask bottled at house strength, and may be a unicorn that doesn’t align with the distillery’s house style.

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A B.C. Artisan Whisky is Named Canada’s Best

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.

Sons of Vancouver’s Palm Trees & a Tropical Breeze was named Canadian Whisky of the Year at the 2023 Canadian Whisky Awards. Supplied photo

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.

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Distiller for a day

Make your own bespoke gin at artisan distilleries around the world—and right here in B.C.

A selection of custom bottlings at Whistler’s Montis Distilling, where you can create your own gin and bespoke labelling, too. Photos courtesy of Montis Distilling

If you’re planning a trip to London, don’t just settle for a taste of London Dry gin at one of the city’s fine bars. Blend your own during a three-hour Ginstitute Experience at The Distillery on Portobello Road, during which you’ll learn about gin history and production, and go home with a bottle of your own botanical blend, all for £120 (about CAD$175). 

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Stars of the Bar

The inaugural Michelin Guide Vancouver gave eight local chefs the coveted white jacket—but also acknowledged some local bar stars.

Michelin restaurant inspectors look for high-quality ingredients, personality of the creators on the plate, plus a harmony of flavours and mastery of technique—all consistent over multiple visits. The same ingredients go into a Michelin-quality bar, as Vancouver discovered on October 27 as the Michelin Guide granted world-class honours in the city for the first time.

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Where to Drink in Barcelona

Even before The World’s 50 Best Bars 2022 were announced, places like Paradiso (#1), Sips (#3) and Two Schmucks (#7) were heaving with visitors, and not the easiest places to land a seat at the bar. Here’s our insider guide to some of the other many fine bars of Barcelona—and one unusually cocktail-rich dining experience, for good measure.

The Tres Monos pop up at Monk featured monkey-masked bartenders. Charlene Rooke photo
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A Toast to Barcelona

In a happy coincidence, the host city for The World’s 50 Best Bars 2022 is also home to The World’s Best Bar, Paradiso—and two more bars in the top 10. From the Western Canadian Academy Chair for the awards, here’s the rundown on some of this year’s other big winners. 

The team at the number one-placed Paradiso in Barcelona celebrates their win. Photo courtesy of The World’s 50 Best Bars

“If you build it, they will come” could have been the tagline for the 10th anniversary of The World’s 50 Best Bars awards ceremony, held in Barcelona on October 4. It has been a buzzy cocktail destination for the last several years—and particularly during the pandemic, when Spain remained relatively open to tourists. Building on  that strong foundation, the city has scored bragging rights for The World’s Best Bar of 2022: Paradiso. Also placing in the top 10 were the city’s beloved Two Schmucks (#7) and Sips (which had the most impressive rise from last year’s list, up 34 places this year to #3).

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A Toast to Eliza

The Naramata Inn’s basement wine and cocktail bar commemorates the town’s original hostess with the most, Eliza Robinson.

Enjoy cocktails, by-the-glass wines and bites of chef Ned Bell’s “Naramatian French” cuisine at Eliza. Jon Adrian photo

In summer, the restaurant veranda of the Naramata Inn is the place to be, with its graceful plates, shady corners and attentive service. Come fall, a cozy alternative returns: the downstairs wine bar and sunny stone patio that also features the Inn’s uber-local B.C. craft cocktails. A glass of some of the region’s most-wanted wines or a cocktail that captures seasonal flavour (like Give Peas a Chance, ah herbaceous pea-shoot-infused drink inspired by the Last Word) is enough to make the stone-floored, wine-cellar styled room feel as warm as Okanagan summer.

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Earth, wind and fire

B.C. craft baijiu brands bring the ancient Chinese spirit to modern imbibers

The fresh, crisp, slightly floral Deep Earth baijiu is ideal for newcomers to the grain spirit. Photo courtesy of Deep Earth Distillery

It can taste of soy sauce and mushrooms, damp earth or overripe fruit. It’s fermented in earthen or stone pits, and even aged in baskets coated with pigs’ blood. Its styles are categorized by words like “strong,” “sauce” and “medicine” aromas. 

But despite the challenges it might pose for western palates, baijiu (pronounced “by-joo” or “by-joe”) is the new bartender candy. Now two B.C.-made versions of the Chinese spirit—Canada’s only craft baijiu—are helping to bring an ancient spirit to the modern bar.

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