If the spirit moves you

Celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 by buying or drinking a woman-made spirit, such as these global brands that have women master blenders, distillers and more.

At Ron Zapaca in Guatemala, master blender Lorena Vasquez is credited for pioneering the a “solera” aging method in rum. Photo courtesy of Ron Zacapa

American whisky

Down in Tullahoma, Tennessee, master distiller Nicole Austin is shaking up the nearly 150-year-old George Dickel whiskey brand. One state north in Kentucky, although legendary Michter’s master distiller Pamela Heilmann retired in 2019, she passed the torch to master of maturation Andrea Wilson. At Woodford Reserve, Elizabeth McCall is the assistant master distiller, at Old Forester Jackie Zykan is master taster and Eboni Major is the master blender at Bulleit.

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Four’s the charm: Results of the 2021 Canadian Artisan Spirits Competition

For the fourth year in a row, a B.C. craft spirit has won the Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition: raise a toast to Vancouver Island’s Ampersand Distilling, makers of Nocino!

Ampersand Distilling Company’s Nocino! is the Canadian Artisan Spirit of the year for 2021. Supplied photo

The Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year is the Nocino! from Ampersand Distilling Company on Vancouver Island. Founded by the Schacht clan, Ampersand operates from a Duncan-area farm, using stills that were designed and built by father and son Stephen and Jeremy; Jessica Schact is instrumental in product development; and Ramona Froehle-Schact manages the farm and more—a true family affair.

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Big Flavours, Little Packages

B.C.’s small-batch distillers got crafty in this season, releasing new bottled cocktails, gift packs, special editions and other little goodies—from vermouth to liqueur—ideal for stuffing stockings, or treating yourself to new tastes.

Odd Society’s Joel McNichol with the distillery’s collection of limited edition brewery collab whiskies. Katharine Manson photo

Cocktail lovers have a whole back-bar of B.C. craft cocktails and spirits to taste this holiday season. Mini-bottle sets are a hot commodity: Shelter Point’s 12 Days of Christmas advent calendar sold out, direct from the distillery, in hours. More common are spirit trios, which you can break apart into three little presents, or sample without investing in full-size bottles. Sheringham’s gin trios sell out at Legacy Liquor Store, where Remy Letendre, the buyer for the extensive B.C. craft spirits section, says, “This year, I was excited to see a few brands take part in the ‘tri-pack’ Christmas selection. I think it’s a great way for these craft distilleries to get people to try a wider range of products. The early success of the Esquimalt vermouth tri-pack just shows how people are willing to branch out … for home bartending.”

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The Alchemist Fall/Winter 2020

Getty images photo

Have you been spending a lot more time at home lately? Funny, us, too! That’s why, in this issue of The Alchemist, we look at ways to shake things up in our home bars.

Charlene Rooke rounds up the tools you need—which also happen to make great holiday gifts—and talks to cocktail legend Camper English, founder of cocktailsafe.org, about the dangerous things you really shouldn’t be doing at home or anywhere. We offer the five essential classic cocktail recipes everyone should know, and our Tasting Panel shares the bottles they stock at home. And we introduce our new Home Bar columnist, Matthew Benevoli, who shows us how to make homemade vermouth.

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B.C. beverage producers join forces to rally support for local businesses with Time to Buy BC campaign

Supplied photo

B.C. alcoholic beverage producers are joining forces to encourage British Columbians to support local businesses in an effort to mitigate the economic devastation wrought by COVID-19. The “Time to Buy BC” campaign was launched on Tuesday in a joint effort between the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild, the B.C. Farm Crafted Cider Association, the Craft Distillers Guild of B.C. and the B.C. Wine Institute, together representing more than 500 breweries, cideries, distilleries, wineries and alcoholic beverage producers across the province.

The campaign’s website, TimeToBuyBC.ca has a complete list of local B.C. craft breweries, cideries, wineries, distilleries and refreshment beverage companies you can support.

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Canadians rally to save restaurants with #TakeoutDay

Juke Fried Chicken’s bar manager Sabrine Dhaliwal has created pre-mixed cocktail bases to enjoy with your takeout. Supplied photo

In a historic move to save the foodservice industry, several hundred restaurant owners, chefs, culinary leaders and celebrities across Canada have joined forces to support Canada Takeout to make every Wednesday #TakeoutDay. This movement encourages Canadians to order from their favourite local restaurant offering takeout or delivery, with a nationwide kickoff on Wednesday, April 15, 2020 for #TakeoutDay.

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B.C. distilleries are keeping your spirits up

B.C. distilleries are answering the call during Covid-19 by providing delicious artisan spirits as well as hand sanitizer to our communities

Support your local distillery by purchasing their products online. Istock photo

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.

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Spring forward with the latest issue of The Alchemist

This pretty-in-pink Lillet Spritz from Tableau Bar Bistro is an ideal aperitif before a meal, as well
as the perfect spring sipper. Dan Toulgoet photo

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.

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Artisan distillers turn their hands to sanitizers

Sweet Orange + Gin Sanitizer produced by Victoria’s Nezza Naturals and Victoria Distillers is being donated to the region’s health-care workers. Supplied photo

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.

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