Spring is awards season, and B.C. bars and distilleries have been picking up shiny gold trinkets all over the place. Just a few of the honours: Botanist Bar won the prestigious Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award from North America’s 50 Best Bars and at #19 was the only B.C. bar to make the list. Clive’s Classic Lounge in Victoria was named World Whisky Hotel Bar at the World Whiskies Awards, which also recognized Macaloney’s Island Distillery with a trio of top prizes. The Keefer Bar was nominated Best Canadian Bar by the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. And Okanagan Spirits was named Artisanal Distillery of the Year at the 2022 Canadian Whisky Awards.
For the first time in the competition’s six-year history, a whisky wins the Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year.
Fort Beauséjour Peated Single Malt Whisky from Distillerie Fils de Roy in Petit-Paquetville, on New Brunswick’s Acadian coast, achieved the highest score of any spirit entered in the Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition (CASC) this year. It is the the 2023 Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year and the first Canadian Whisky to win the award. “We’re thrilled that our eastern artisan distilleries are receiving some well-deserved praise,” CASC founder Alex Hamer said in a news release.
Originating from New Orleans, the original Sazerac used Cognac as the base ingredient (it was later replaced with rye whisky). Apple brandy provides a smoother, more fruity base for this locally inspired iteration.
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.
Proceeds from special bottles to benefit Pacific Assistance Dogs Society
BC Distilled—Canada’s largest spirits festival devoted exclusively to local artisan distilleries—remains on hiatus until 2022. But in the meantime, its organizers have partnered with five of the province’s top artisan distilleries to benefit a cause that has long been dear to their hearts.
Beginning Saturday, May 15, and for one month only, five limited-edition spirits will be made available exclusively from each participating distillery. $45 from each bottle sale will go directly to Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS), which breeds, raises and trains fully certified assistance dogs for individuals with mobility and hearing disabilities and PTSD.
B.C. craft spirits pioneer Frank Deiter is taking on the world
Frank Deiter is a man on a mission.
As the founder of Okanagan Spirits in 2004, Deiter charted the pioneering distillery’s early successes before leaving in 2011 to pursue other ventures. These days he works with Mueller Pot Stills, representing what is widely recognized as one of Germany’s leading still manufacturers across North America. He also maintains a hands-on presence throughout the craft-distilling industry as an independent consultant and instructor.
B.C.’s small-batch distillers are getting crafty with their foodie, wine and beer neighbours
It was about two years ago when my love for Odd Society’s Wallflower Barrel-Aged Gin was uniquely reciprocated: the Ode to Wallflower pale ale mated Powell Street Craft Brewery’s Ode to Citra beer with the distillery’s former gin-aging barrels, created a summer love child of a beer. It was so popular, Odd Society barrel-sharing collaborations with Storm Brewing, Strange Fellows, Coal Harbour Brewing and Steamworks followed.
The Alchemist tasting panel samples Canadian and American rye spirits
Our bartender tasting panel is never short of opinions, but no other spirit has ignited passion the way rye whisky did. Maybe because it’s our national spirit (sort of). Or maybe it’s just because bold flavours inspire bold statements.
Seven of Vancouver’s top bartenders gathered on a rainy afternoon at Homer Street Café for the tasting panel: Alex Black, bartender and mental health advocate; J-S Dupuis, beverage director of Wentworth Hospitality; Robyn Gray of the Rosewood Hotel Georgia; Katie Ingram, bar manager at Elisa Steakhouse; Grant Sceney, Fairmont Pacific Rim; and, from Homer Street Café, Rob Scope and David Wolowidnyk.
They loved the sweet spice and rich, bold flavour of the rye. But they differed on whether Canadian or American is better, and whether it has to be 100 per cent rye or can be a blend of grains. And they admitted that as much as they love rye, it’s a hard sell to consumers, many of whom are unfamiliar with it and prefer the simple sweetness of bourbon.
The panel tasted 12 rye-based spirits. Here’s what they had to say.