Alberta whisky named Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year

The win marks an exciting shift in small-scale distilling across the country

The Fort Distillery’s Mountain Pass Whisky is the 2024 Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year. Photo courtesy Artisan Distillers Canada

After seven years of domination by B.C. and Ontario, an Alberta distillery has taken home the top prize at the 2024 Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition.

In a series of blind tastings, a cross-Canada panel of judges selected The Fort Distillery‘s Mountain Pass Whisky as the Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year. The Fort Saskatchewan distillery prevailed over more than 80 small-scale spirits producers from 10 provinces and territories, who entered nearly 300 products in the competition; its whisky was only the second ever to win CASC’s top award.

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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.

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Dry, Damp or Doused? What to Drink this Winter

With the Dry-uary season upon us, here are some favourites for those taking a break from cocktails, or looking for some fresh 2024 drink-spiration.

Seedlip is a pioneering non-alc brand. Supplied photo

When renowned a popular U.S. drinks writer began curating a list of non-alcoholic spirits on his Alcademics blog (pioneering brand Seedlip was the first entry), it felt like a novelty niche on the cocktail scene. Today the list is approaching 200 brands, and with so many non-alcoholic alternatives on the market, including many Canadian brands, it can be hard to know what to try.

But first, to tackle the elephant in the room: why can non-alcoholic products cost the same as traditional, boozy ones? High-quality products often use the same distillation process as traditional spirits, which are then de-alcoholized (those with allergies, note: de-alcoholized spirits can legally still contain less than 0.5 per cent alcohol: about the same as a ripe banana, and less than soy sauce). That means a more involved, often more expensive, production process. Others are developed in a complex process of combining flavours, textures and botanicals to re-create the taste and mouthfeel of alcohol.

Amongst these favourites, we’ve leaned into low-sugar, low-additive Canadian brands, because although there are fewer international barriers to shipping these products than with alcohol, why not support local?

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Winter of Whisky

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler

A great bottle of whisky has always been the ultimate holiday gift, but this year Scotch brands are leveling up with immersive whisky experiences that include exclusive tastings, food pairings and even hotel stays. If your whisky tastes run more local, snap up a presale bottle of Sheringham’s rye-forward whisky, coming in 2024: it’s bound to be as stellar as their award-winning gin.

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Where to Drink Right Now in Whistler

Whether it’s for après or waiting out a no-snow day, the mountain village has plenty of fine drinking options. And if what you crave most is a beer while watching the game in good company, you’ll find the locals huddled at Stinky’s on the Stroll and other casual watering holes!

The Phoenix cocktail at Wild Blue Restaurant + Bar. Charlene Rooke photo

Wild Blue Restaurant + Bar

Whistler’s most-lauded new restaurant is fronted by a big, beautiful, boomerang-shaped bar, just as pleasant a place to while away an evening as the plush, shiny dining room: the full menu is available at the bar, and service is superb. Crush a plate of raw oysters with a Martini (there are six on the menu, but ask for one made with Copperpenny 006 Oyster Shell gin), and try creative mixology like the Phoenix, a Lot 40 Rye sipper fortified with Cocchi Americano Rosa and sherry, and topped with Laphroaig for a smoldering, savoury finish. A helpful glossary of “Intriguing Techniques & Ingredients” is your cheat sheet to deciphering some of the complex culinary-bar techniques used here. The B.C. edition of Fernet Hunter (a collab with Endeavor Snowboards) is available here, and would make an amazing amaro caldo on a chilly day.

Watch for: An eye-popping $49 deal this winter for a three-course menu during the week (Sunday through Thursday).

@wildbluerestaurant

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Peek inside this hidden new Vancouver cocktail and raw bar before it officially opens

Look for the sign and go up the stairs to this sexy, intimate spot for drinks and snacks—soon!

Ama is a new Japanese-inspired cocktail and raw bar hidden above a Michelin Guide-recommended Greek restaurant in Vancouver. Lindsay William-Ross/V.I.A. photo

The only tell that there is a sexy, intimate Japanese-inspired cocktail and raw bar tucked in the space above a bustling Fraser Street Greek restaurant is the clever metal sign positioned above eye level to the right of an unadorned orange-hued door.

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Miami-inspired Vancouver bar with food and live entertainment sets opening date

Get ready for a spicy taste of Miami right here in Vancouver

Three must-visit Toronto distillery tasting rooms

Whether you’re shopping for spirited holiday gifts, booking a private party or imbibing some seasonal cheer, there’s no cozier time to visit a Toronto distillery tasting room. Here’s a flight of three you could even knock back all in one fun day.

At Nickel 9 Distillery, you can take a cocktail class on the third Thursday or every month. Facebook.com/Nickel9Distillery photo
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Vancouver’s new speakeasy-style bar and restaurant is inspired by the occult

The founders of Vancouver’s beloved and departed ‘nerd bar’ are behind an exciting new venture

Arcana Spirit Lounge – disguised as a pet psychic business – is an occult-inspired cocktail bar and restaurant from the people behind Vancouver’s beloved Storm Crow bars. Photos courtesy Arcana Spirit Lounge

Does your cat, dog, or parakeet need a little help from the great beyond? Or do you just need a fun new spot to grab a drink?

What looks like a pet psychic business in Gastown at 238 Abbott St is actually the clever cover for an upcoming new cocktail bar and restaurant from the creative minds that brought Vancouver its beloved—and departed—Storm Crow bars.

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New podcast explores the secret world of “bartender handshake” drinks through a Canadian lens

Photo courtesy of The Blackbird podcast.

If you’ve ever seen, or taken part in, a round of welcome shots offered to insiders at a mixology-forward bar, you’re already familiar with the bartender handshake.

The cocktail renaissance of the last 20-some years spurred the tradition of bartenders pouring a little something (often something unknown or slightly unpalatable to the general drinking public) for visiting colleagues. To enter a bar and receive a so-called bartender handshake drink is like being part of a secret society. Global trends started this way, as uber-local greetings: San Francisco bartenders were pouring handshake shots of Fernet-Branca 20 years ago, and Chicago has cornered the market on ultra-bitter Malort. There’s even a world-ranked bar in Mexico city called (wait for it…) Handshake, which has a menu of little welcome snack-tails.

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