A B.C. spirit comes out on top for the fifth consecutive year in the Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition: cheers to DEVINE Distillery’s Ancient Grains, also the Best in Class Young Whisky.
The grains may be ancient, but a globally unique, made-in-B.C. whisky is making modern history: Ancient Grains from DEVINE Distillery in Saanich is the Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year 2022.
The top-scoring spirit across every category of the national competition, Ancient Grains is also the Best in Class Young Whisky for the third time (so classified because it matures for less than three years, which is the minimum requirement for labelling as “Canadian Whisky”). The whisky was originally created by master distiller Ken Winchester in 2017, using B.C.-grown heritage barley, einkorn, emmer, spelt and kamut, and matured in smaller quarter-casks.
“Terroir” spirits define B.C.’s flavours, culture and sense of place
Comparing B.C. craft spirits from a decade ago to today is like comparing 1970s drip coffee to artisanal, fair-trade Chemex pour-overs. While B.C. has a long distilling and even rum-running history, the first wave of local, small-batch distilleries debuted not even 20 years ago. The second wave happened when 2013 B.C. liquor laws defined “craft” spirits as those using 100 per cent B.C. agricultural raw materials.
Now, a third wave of modern distillers is bottling the flavour and culture of the province, defining the future of B.C. spirits. Follow their progress through distillery newsletters and social media feeds.
These gift ideas will warm the hearts and glasses of every cocktail lover on your list.
Start your festive shopping now.
In a holiday season with some international supply-chain blips, shop local—and shop soon!—for B.C. small-batch spirts holiday gifts. Limited-edition and seasonal items sell out fast, so if you happen to miss out this season, get on e-newsletter lists or follow distilleries on social media to watch for the next drop, and be very nice (not naughty) until next year. Many items from last holiday season are bound to be available again, so check out last year’s guide, too.
These gift ideas will warm the hearts and glasses of every cocktail lover on your list
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.
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.”
Chad Rivard is a quiet staple in the Vancouver bar scene, having advanced through the ranks of some stellar establishments, including the Acorn, the Shameful Tiki Room, and Odd Society Spirits Distillery. ‘Quiet’ no longer fits the bill though, as he recently rolled out a series of pop up bars called The Headroom (with Rhett Williams and Chris Kelley) which transform local bar venues into temporary 80s neon-dream scenes, complete with blue drinks, throw back decor, and amazingly sensational attire. On top of it all, he’s in the process of designing the bar program for the soon-to-open Straight & Marrow. Keep your ear to the ground, and don’t miss the next Headroom event, scheduled for the end of this month, with a theme to end all themes!
*Since this interview was had, and in light of the COVID-19 health advisories, the Headroom has postponed their next event until further notice. We have kept the interview as is, and look forward to updating you with notice of their next event!
Why you should be drinking vermouth made in B.C.
More than 200 years ago, wine drinkers in Turin and Marseille started adding bittering and flavouring botanicals to wine fortified with spirit, to make an entirely new drink. The styles they created—a sweeter, reddish-brown style in Italy and a drier white-wine version in France—are iconic today, and collectively known as vermouth, a term that comes from the root word for wormwood, which is synonymous in many languages with “bitter.”
Now enjoying a renaissance thanks to cocktail mixology and the Spanish-driven trend for sipping them solo or as a spritz, vermouths should have a place on your back bar. (Actually, in your fridge, where a red vermouth will stay fresh for several months, and white vermouth for several weeks after opening.) Here are three new and three favourite B.C. bottlings to try.
Recipe from Odd Society Spirits.
• 1 oz Odd Society Prospector Rye Whisky
• 0.75 oz Odd Society Bittersweet Vermouth
• 0.25 oz Odd Society Crème de Cassis
• Garnish: orange twist, brandied cherry