Spirit of wine country

The South Okanagan is a fruitful playground for distillers to innovate and collaborate

“Smile, there’s gin,” says the chalked sign. Perched on the Naramata Bench, with a sleek tasting room and sunny patio overlooking Okanagan Lake, Legend Distilling could be mistaken for a hip winery. But a taste of its Doctors Orders gin puts me firmly in the spirit world as I begin my quest to discover what unites the South Okanagan Distillery Trail, a handful of stops mapped on a passport-style stamp card.

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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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Old Order Distilling

At their Penticton distillery, Graham Martens and Naomi Gabriel take barley from Vanderhoof, malt it in Armstrong, then distill it with spring water from Anarchist Mountain.

270 Martin St., Penticton
778-476-2210
OldOrderDistilling.ca


PRODUCTS:

• Heritage Vodka
• Legacy Gin
• Genesis Whisky
• Blessed Bean Coffee Vanilla Liqueur


TASTING NOTES:


Legacy Gin

FRAGRANCE: Dill, licorice.
FLAVOUR: Anise heavy, funky fruit.
FEEL: Thin.
FINISH: Citrus and aniseed.
BEST ENJOYED: In a Corpse Reviver #2.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Mix with citrus and absinthe. —Shaun Layton, April 2016


Blessed Bean Coffee Vanilla Liqueur

FRAGRANCE: Raw vanilla; imagine opening a bag of vanilla bean pods.
FLAVOUR: Milk, vanilla and coffee. Almost a barista drink.
FEEL: Not as sticky as expected. Smooth and clean for a liqueur.
FINISH: Nice coffee bitterness at the back.
BEST ENJOYED: Great addition to coffee or latte, or on rocks as a decent after dinner option.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Very good alternative to commercial coffee liqueurs. —Trevor Kallies, July 2016


Black Goat Vodka

FRAGRANCE: Sweet, lightly toasted grains.
FLAVOUR: Vanilla, tropical fruits, white pepper.
FEEL: Silky and soft.
FINISH: Sweet, shorter.
BEST ENJOYED: As your favourite highball. But darker.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Bit gimmicky. If you want black vodka, go for it! —Josh Pape, October 2016


Heritage Vodka

FRAGRANCE: Mild. 
FLAVOUR: Some heat with a decent amount of grain.  
FEEL: Innate creaminess.
FINISH: Touch of grainy smoothness.
BEST ENJOYED: Toss it in the freezer and drink it ice cold. 
THE BOTTOM LINE: Wax dipped with no tab, so required a knife to open. They leave a decent amount of grain flavour in the distillate so it is enjoyable to drink! —Trevor Kallies, February 2017


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