A spirited selection at the BC Distilled 2019 Audience Favourites Awards

Odd Society’s Prospector Rye Whisky was voted the audience-favourite whisky at BC Distilled. Gail Nugent photo

They came, they sipped, they chose their favourites, ranging from a delicately herbal absinthe to a boldly spiced rye whisky.

Some 600 people descended on the Croatian Cultural Centre on April 6 for the sixth annual BC Distilled festival, highlighting the best of the province’s artisan spirits. Some 180 spirits from 39 distilleries were poured over two tastings, and at the end of it all, the audience voted for their favourites in 13 categories.

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Chuzzlewit’s Pear

Justin Taylor’s Chuzzlewit’s Pear. Dan Toulgoet photo

• ¼ Anjou pear
• 0.5 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 0.75 oz blended scotch whisky
• 0.75 oz amontillado sherry
• 0.5 oz Sons of Vancouver amaretto
• 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

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A shift out of neutral

The Alchemist’s tasting panel samples B.C. vodkas for a taste of the province’s most crowd-pleasing spirit

The lineup of vodkas tasted by the panel reflected a range of flavours from clean and neutral to surprisingly lush, fruity, bold and intense. Dan Toulgoet photo

Nazdarovya! With the FIFA World Cup kicking off this month in Russia, our thoughts have turned to vodka. (That and Neymar’s incredible comeback, of course.)

Vodka is often described as a “colourless, odourless, flavourless” spirit, but its clean subtlety is sometimes just what we crave. And so we asked our Alchemist tasting panel comprising some of Vancouver’s top bartenders—Olivia Povarchook of Vij’s Restaurant, Katie Ingram of Toptable Group and Josh Pape of Gooseneck Hospitality (Wildebeest, Bells and Whistles, Bufala, Lucky Taco)—to sample eight artisanal B.C. vodkas, share their thoughts and suggest cocktails to make with them.

Here’s what they had to say.

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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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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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Bourbon Sour

Sons of Vancouver’s Bourbon Sour. Dan Toulgoet photo

“This is one of my favourite cocktails to make,” says James Lester, co-owner of the Sons of Vancouver Distillery in North Vancouver. His method of shaking the egg white with a single ice cube makes the froth impressively thick and rich.

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Sons of Vancouver’s amaretto earns global amore

North Van distillery wins worldwide attention thanks to Kaitlyn Stewart — but many have already fallen in love with its nutty liqueur

Sons of Vancouver’s James Lester with the No. 82 amaretto. Dan Toulgoet photo

What might just be Vancouver’s coolest cocktail lounge isn’t in a fancy hotel or a downtown hipster hangout. Heck, it isn’t even in Vancouver and it isn’t, for that matter, actually a bar.

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Vancouver’s Brooklyn

Vancouver’s Brooklyn. Lucy-kate Armstrong photo

A take on the defunct classic cocktail, The Brooklyn, and an homage to the relationship between North Vancouver and the big city over the bridge.

• 1.5 oz. rye whisky
• 0.3 oz. amaretto
• 0.3 oz. Cocchi Americano
• 0.3 oz. maraschino liqueur
• 3 dashes of bitters
• 1 maraschino cherry

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Prodigal sons

How Sons of Vancouver is riding the big boom in small spirits

James Lester (L) and Richard Klaus bring a clear point-of-view to Sons of Vancouver. Lucy-kate Armstrong photo

It will be just two short years in February since Sons of Vancouver opened for business—with a 700-litre still repurposed from a dairy pasteurizer. And, like so many of the distilleries around B.C., owners James Lester and Richard Klaus have barely had time to pause for breath.

Take the past few months of 2016 as an example: Sons ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to upgrade to a proper—and much bigger—still, opened a tasting room, and will release a special barrel-aged edition of their signature No. 82 Amaretto in time for the holidays.

It wasn’t meant to happen this fast.

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On the Town: BC Distilled 2016

The second annual BC Distilled event showcased 27 craft and micro distillers from around the province, with almost 500 ticket holders in attendance.

 

Mixologist Kylie Bartlett and founder and distiller Gordon Glanz show off East Vancouver’s Odd Society Spirits. Alexa Mazzarello photo.
BC Distilled founder Alex Hamer snuggles up with a representative from charity recipients, Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS). Alexa Mazzarello photo.
Richard Klaus and James Lester of North Van’s Sons of Vancouver took home audience awards for their Chili Vodka and No. 82 Amaretto. Alexa Mazzarello photo.
Sheringham Distillery’s Alayne and Jason MacIsaac presented their signature Seaside Gin, William’s White whisky, and vodka. Alexa Mazzarello photo.