Monashee Ethos Gin for the Win

Triticale could be the craft-spirit buzzword of 2019, thanks to the B.C. winner that tops the 2019 Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition, with six other B.C. distilleries winning best-in-class honours.

Revelstoke’s Monashee Spirits won the Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year award for their Ethos Gin. Marissa Tiel/Revelstoke Review photo

For the second year in a row, a B.C. small-batch spirit is the Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year. Monashee Spirits Ethos Gin from Revelstoke was not only the best-in-class Canadian gin, but scored highest of any entry in the entire competition. (Last year, Sheringham Distillery’s Akvavit from Vancouver Island claimed that honour.) And B.C. distilleries swept bragging rights in the whisky categories, showing promising maturity in our young industry.

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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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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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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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The Tom Cat

A fruity, herbal mix to get your whiskers twitching

INGREDIENTS:
2 oz. Old Tom gin
½ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. Tuscan pear rooibos tea syrup
½ oz. Triple Sec
3 dashes of peach bitters
Rosemary sprig and lemon twist

METHOD:
Fill a Collins Glass with ice. Shake all ingredients in a Boston glass. Strain into Collins Glass. Garnish with rosemary sprig and lemon twist.

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There’s new life in the old tomcat

Gin’s dark past comes to light as distillers go back to the drink’s barrel-aged roots

Early gin was stored and shipped in barrels, so it was naturally darker. Modern barrel-aging aims to add vanilla and spice complexity to gin’s botanicals. Dan Toulgoet photo

To the superstitious, a black cat is a bad omen. But to underground drinkers during Prohibition, spotting a sign depicting an old tomcat meant you’d hit the gin jackpot.

A precursor to the crisp and clear London dry gin, Old Tom gin was stored and shipped in wooden barrels, so it had a naturally darker hue. Sometimes it was sweeter or more resiny, thanks to the addition of sugar or, yes, turpentine. Swill or not, Old Tom was probably better than no Tom.

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Whisky Galore!

B.C.’s fledgling industry prepares for a bright future

Whisky is set to be the next boom in B.C. spirits. Thinkstock photo.

After just five years in business, British Columbia’s distillers have already confronted some mighty challenges. For one, it takes years of practice to make a quality product. Plus, craft liquor is expensive—not only for consumers at the till but for makers at the still.

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The Liberty Distillery

With prime real estate on Granville Island, Liberty is open for tours, tastings and daily cocktails showcasing their vodka, different expressions of gin, and various white whiskies.

1494 Old Bridge St., Vancouver
604-558-1998
TheLibertyDistillery.com


PRODUCTS:

• Truth Vodka
• Truth Oat Vodka (Distiller’s Reserve)
• Endeavour Gin
• Endeavour Old Tom Gin
• Endeavour Gin Origins
• Endeavour Pink
• Railspur No. 1 – White
• Railspur No. 2 – Wildflower Honey
• Railspur No. 3 – Spike
• Trust Whiskey – Single Grain
• Trust Whiskey – Single Cask – Madeira


TASTING NOTES:


Truth Vodka

FRAGRANCE: Fresh, bright.
FLAVOUR: Sweet, fruity.
FEEL: Velvety, even, pleasant.
FINISH: Soft. Front palate.
BEST ENJOYED: With less rather than more. Try it as a Martini with an olive or just neat.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Well made vodka. Worth the price of admission. —Josh Pape, July 2016


Endeavour Old Tom Gin

FRAGRANCE: The barrel is quite evident — hints of coriander, slight juniper, and violets.
FLAVOUR: Woodsy botanicals — cinnamon, cinchona, with small juniper presence.
FEEL: Silky from the barrel, with some tannin.
FINISH: Muted, with lingering sweetness and spice.
BEST ENJOYED: Screams for stirred classics such as a Martinez.
THE BOTTOM LINE: For whiskey lovers you want to convert to gin. —Shaun Layton, October 2016


Railspur No. 3 – Spike

FRAGRANCE: Spicy and nutty.
FLAVOUR: Vanilla and dried fruit.
FEEL: Smooth and mouth coating.
FINISH: Long-lasting.
BEST ENJOYED: In a Whisky Sour.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A young B.C. barley spirit with a rich spice complexity. —Robyn Gray, February 2017


Endeavour Pink Gin

FRAGRANCE: Slightly sweet and floral. A hint of pepper and citrus.
FLAVOUR: Bright rose petals with medium juniper.  
FEEL: Fresh, mild with a little creaminess to the mouthfeel.
FINISH: Long, floral.
BEST ENJOYED: This gin is destined for endless twists on the French 75. 
THE BOTTOM LINE: Fun to see a pink take on a navy-strength gin. Very charming bottle design and colour. —Trevor Kallies, July 2017


Endeavour Gin Origins

FRAGRANCE: Very light for a gin with 25 botanicals. Violet candies, lemon zest, potpourri.
FLAVOUR: Faint white pepper, nutmeg, mace, other baking spices.  
FEEL: Very rich, pleasant, syrupy viscosity.
FINISH: Clean finish, high alcohol sticks around.
BEST ENJOYED: Would make a great dry Gibson Martini.
THE BOTTOM LINE: For entry-level gin drinkers. Similar to Bombay Sapphire. —Shaun Layton, October 2017