B.C. distilleries are answering the call during Covid-19 by providing delicious artisan spirits as well as hand sanitizer to our communities
In these surreal times, it’s been extremely heartening to see an overwhelming number of BC distilleries find innovative ways to help the most vulnerable in their surrounding communities. News of distilleries producing and distributing sanitizer to the those on the front lines of this pandemic broke last week with a growing number of producers (including some breweries and wineries) quickly following suit. Over the weekend, the B.C. government further validated these efforts by granting temporary permission to all distillers to produce and distribute alternative products as long as they meet certain federal regulatory requirements; primarily that they contain a sufficient amount of alcohol to kill the virus.
Surely, it’s a role many distilleries never envisioned they would fill, but, in this new reality, it’s inspiring to see how communities are able to come together in trying times, with other local businesses generously donating bottles and essential ingredients to the cause.
While many distillers have shifted their production to focus on producing hand sanitizer for the time being being, many are still selling their products online. Here we’ve compiled an evolving list of B.C. distilleries that are helping keep your spirits up during these trying times with delivery services and online bottle shops.
We likely won’t be gathering on a crowded patio any time soon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the return of spring. And this issue of The Alchemist has got plenty of seasonal sips and stories to enjoy wherever you are.
A week ago, Peter Hunt had just returned to Victoria from a trip to New York when he decided to go shopping. But customers concerned about COVID-19 had gotten there before him.
“I was in the stores and there was no hand sanitizer around,” says the president of Victoria Distillers. “Then I was chatting with my wife, who works in the public service, and my aunts and uncles, who are paramedics, and they were having trouble finding hand sanitizer, too. Trying to find it was stressing them out.
It happened slowly, then all at once. Was it just a week ago we were still joking about bumping elbows instead of shaking hands? Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has rolled over absolutely every aspect of our lives, and that includes our vibrant culinary culture.
Across British Columbia, people in the hospitality industry have taken proactive action against the virus, not waiting for government to tell them to change the way they do business.
How the esteemed bartending contest is shaking up the cocktail world
Diageo World Class is more than just the biggest, most prestigious cocktail competition on the planet. It is also a major source of education for bartenders.
“We’re really trying to play our part in driving the industry forward, focusing on educating and giving bartenders the tools they need to achieve their goals, at home and around the globe,” says Michael Armistead, who oversees the Diageo World Class Canada Bartending Competition as National On-premise, Reserve and Sponsorship Manager.
“This is just what we do,” says Trevor Kallies, president of the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Bartender Association and the creative force behind one of Vancouver’s most dynamic cocktail events. “This” isn’t just making great drinks, although it’s that, too. Mostly, though, it’s coming together to help those who need it most.
As an independent bottler, Andrew Laing is “bringing something else to the party”—unique bottlings of rare whiskies and other spirits
Take an Islay journey with Andrew Laing.
The glass of Scotch he pours has a vegetal, almost mezcal-like scent, with whiffs of salty, mineral sea and fishy kelp and a distinctly ashy after taste. It’s a blended malt representing the vivid flavours of five of the finest distilleries what is perhaps the most coveted of Scotland’s whisky-producing regions. And it’s exactly the kind of exquisite, unique bottling in which his family’s company specializes.
What you need to know for making the recipes in The Alchemist.
Measurements: For the most part, our recipes are in imperial volume (fluid ounces, teaspoons and cups). We might occasionally use weight (for instance, an ounce of tea leaves for an infusion); in those cases, it will be noted.
Tools: The essentials are a cocktail shaker (cobbler or Boston), mixing glass, jigger, citrus juicer, Hawthorne and fine mesh strainers, muddler, bar spoon, sharp knife and vegetable peeler. Any special tools will be noted.
Glassware: You could fill your cupboards with different types of glassware, but you only really need three (aside from wine and beer): a stemmed “cocktail” glass, either the V-shaped martini or curved coupe; the short, stubby rocks or Old Fashioned; and the tall, narrow Collins.
For the third year in a row a B.C. distillery has won the Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year—and for the second time, it’s Sheringham Distillery on Vancouver Island.
The best artisan spirit in Canada for 2020 is a Japanese-inspired gin, delicately flavoured with cherry blossom and yuzu, which was also awarded Best in Class spirit in the Contemporary Gin category. Though its name and inspiration may sound exotic, Kazuki Gin, made in Sooke on Vancouver Island, won Excellence in Terroir for its use of local ingredients that evoke a stylistic sense of place, like the only grown-in-Canada green tea (and green tea blossoms), from at the Island’s Westholme Tea Company. The hat trick of CASC awards this year joins a growing list of accolades for the Sooke distillery founded by Jason and Alayne MacIsaac, which also won Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year in 2018, for its Akvavit.
Fets Whisky Kitchen on Commercial Drive was raided in January 2018
The Vancouver bar taking the B.C. government to court in an effort to recover $40,000 in whisky seized in 2018 has launched further court action alleging the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch breached its charter rights.
In January 2018, Fets Whisky Kitchen, a mainstay on Commercial Drive since 1986, was raided by B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch — 242 bottles of Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) single malt whisky were seized, and owners Eric and Allura Fergie were eventually fined $3,000.