What’s gold and bronze and acclaimed all over?

Local Lohin McKinnon Whisky launches to international accolades.

Lohin McKinnon’s new handcrafted single malt Peated Whisky and Chocolate Malt Whisky were recently awarded gold and bronze at the 2018 San Diego Spirits competition. Central City Distillers photo

Gold and bronze aren’t just hues to be found in fine whisky — they’re also the colours of the hardware Lohin McKinnon’s new whiskies took home at the recent 2018 San Diego Spirits Competition.

Having only just released in British Columbia, Lohin McKinnon’s new handcrafted single malt Peated Whisky and Chocolate Malt were both recognized with awards.

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Blueberry Gin Smash

• 1.5 oz Queensborough Gin
• 0.5 oz dry vermouth
• 0.5 oz maple syrup
• 2 dashes aromatic bitters
• 5 fresh blueberries
• 3 lime wedges
• 1 mint sprig
• Tonic water

Add bitters, blueberries and limes into the glass and muddle them. Add Queensborough gin and dry vermouth and stir. Add ice cubes and top up with tonic. Add some crushed ice to the top of the glass and garnish with some blueberries and mint.

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It’s G&T time

The Alchemist’s tasting panel searches for the best B.C. gin to enjoy with your tonic

The G&T is a warm-weather classic. But which B.C. gin is the best choice?

Now that spring has finally sprung, we’re craving lighter sprits and fresher flavours. In other words, we’re craving gin, especially when it’s mixed with tonic water.

Our tasting panel comprising some of Vancouver’s top bartenders—Max Borrowman of Juniper Kitchen & Bar; Amber Bruce of The Keefer Bar; J-S Dupuis of Wentworth Hospitality (Tableau Bar Bistro, Homer St. Café); and Josh Pape of Gooseneck Hospitality (Wildebeest, Bells and Whistles, Bufala, Lucky Taco)—sampled nine B.C. artisanal gins, suggested the best cocktails to make with them, and then mixed them with tonic water to determine which worked best.

Here’s what they had to say.

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BC Distilled 2018

De Vine Spirits. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.

Central City Brewers & Distillers. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Goodridge & Williams Craft Distillers. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Victoria Caledonian Distillery. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Tailored Spirits. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Old Order Distilling Co. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
The 101 Brewhouse + Distillery. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
After Dark Disillery. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Shelter Point Distillery. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Gillespie's Fine Spirits. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Resurrection Spirits. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Pacific Rim Distilling. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Phillips Soda Works. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Phillips Fermentorium Distilling Co. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Salt Spring Shine Craft Distillery. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Victoria Distillers. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Lucid Spirits. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Stillhead Distillery. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Rootside Provisions. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Tumbleweed Spirits. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
The Woods Spirit Company. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
The Alchemist publisher Gail Nugent with B.C. Distilled founder Alex Hamer. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Mixers and Elixers. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Legend Distilling. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Long Table Distillery. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.
Yaletown Distilling Co. Byron Smith/Tank Five photo.

Spirits were high at the fifth annual BC Distilled festival at the Croatian Cultural Centre in Vancouver on April 14, which brought together 40 artisan distilleries from around the province, including a dozen new distilleries that have opened in the last year.

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Business in the back, party in the front

Distillery tasting rooms are some of the hottest cocktail bars in B.C. Here are a few to try in the Vancouver area.

The tasting room at Surrey’s Central City Brewers & Distillers is a welcoming space to sample spirits and enjoy a cocktail or two. Duncan Joseph photo.

Distillery visits aren’t just for spirits geeks—although staff (even the distillers) are usually keen to tour guests through the production line. Even micro-distilleries now offer flights, cocktails and tastings, some spiked with snacks or entertainment. More reasons to visit: You can buy bottles right from the source, including seasonal and limited releases, only-at-the-distillery products (such as collaborations with local brewers or food producers) and even cocktail accoutrements. Since many distillery tasting rooms are small, family-run affairs, call ahead or check social media for hours, especially if your group is more than a few or would like a tour.

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Salted Caramel Rob Roy

Christos Kaliatzis’ Salted Caramel Rob Roy. Duncan Joseph photo

The Rob Roy was created in 1894 at Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria; at Central City, bartender Christos Kalaitzis created this salty-sweet version that won the Canadian Art of the Cocktail competition in 2017.

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 oz Lohin Mckinnon single malt
• 1 oz sweet vermouth
• 0.5 oz salted caramel sauce (see recipe below)
• 2 dashes rosemary bitters
• Garnish: Orange zest

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Canada’s best artisan spirits announced

Sheringham Akvavit named Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year

B.C., which is home to almost 45 per cent of Canada’s artisan distilleries, took home the greatest number of awards, including the Artisan Spirit of the Year: Sheringham Distillery Akvavit. Lucy-Kate Armstrong photo

One hundred and seventy-five. That’s a lot of spirits to taste, especially when they range from akvavit to amaro to apple brandy.

But throughout December 2017, that just what I and seven other spirits experts from coast to coast did, sniffing, swirling, sipping and occasionally spitting, as we judged the inaugural Canadian Artisan Spirits Awards.

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Roll out the barrel

Surrey’s Central City may have begun as beer brewers, but they are fast becoming one of B.C.’s most important distillers of single malt.

Central City has 1,400 barrels of single malt aging right now.

He may have a lengthy career in brewing behind him, but Gary Lohin is clear: “I’ve been a whisky aficionado for even longer.”

He got his start in beer at Whistler Brewing back in 1989, before spending most of the 1990s at Sailor Hagar’s Brewpub in North Vancouver. He moved to Central City Brewpub in Surrey in 2003 where his Red Racer beer lineup established him as one of B.C.’s top brewmasters. It was on trips to Oregon and California that he visited microdistilleries and began noticing that breweries there were adding stills. So, when Central City began planning its new production facility in 2010, Lohin suggested to his business partner that they should add a distillery.

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B.C.’s gold medal gin: Central City strikes award-winning balance with Queensborough

Here’s a local spirit to add a tonic to your liquor cabinet

Christos Kalaitzis, mixologist and spirits brand ambassador (left), and Stuart McKinnon, head distiller at Surrey’s Central City Brewers + Distillers, showcase their award-winning Queensborough Gin and Double Gold Gin cocktail. Central City Brewers & Distillers photo

British Columbia’s artisan gins are in a tricky place.

Some are interesting, but not exactly delicious. Some taste good, but aren’t exciting enough to warrant the high price tag that the difficulty of making local hooch demands. Some have such powerful cereal notes you know the distiller really wants to be making whisky instead. Some taste like perfume, others like vodka.

And then there’s Queensborough gin from Surrey’s Central City Brewers + Distillers.

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Queensborough Gin “Double Gold” Cocktail

The Queensborough Double Gold Gin cocktail. Central City Brewers & Distillers photo

Christos Kalaitzis, brand ambassador and mixologist for Central City Brewers + Distillers, created this cocktail to celebrate their gin winning double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

INGREDIENTS:
1.5 oz (45 mL) Queensborough gin
0.5 oz (15 mL) dry vermouth
1 oz (30 mL) maple syrup
3 dashes aromatic bitters
3 mint leaves
Ginger ale

METHOD:
Place all ingredients except ginger ale in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Double strain into a wine glass, add fresh ice and top up with ginger ale. Garnish with cinnamon stick and mint sprig. Serves 1.

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