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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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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B.C.’s most spirited festival

Clear your schedule for the BC Distilled festival.

Jeff Grayston photo

BC Distilled is the biggest artisan and micro-distillery event in Canada and a must for anyone interested in spirits and cocktails. It is April 14 at the Croatian Cultural Centre, with a trade tasting from 2 to 4:30 pm followed by the public event, 6 to 9 pm.

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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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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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Polynesian Strange Fellow

Justin Taylor’s Polynesian Strange Fellow. Oliver Harden photo

• 1.5 oz. Wayward Distilling Honey Rum
• 0.5 oz. orgeat syrup
• 0.5 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
• half a ripe banana
• 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
• 4 oz. Strangefellows Guardian White IPA

Put the banana into a cocktail shaker and muddle to a paste. Add everything except the beer, add ice and shake vigorously. Fine strain over fresh ice into a goblet. Top with Strangefellows Beer. Garnish with fresh banana slices.

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Wayward Distillation House

Harking bark to the earliest recorded alcohols, Comox-based Wayward starts all its products by first creating mead to form the base, and add a touch of sweetness on the nose.

2931 Moray Ave, Courtenay


• Drunken Hive Rum
• Unruly Vodka
• Unruly Gin
• Wayward Order – Depth Charge Espresso & Cacao Bean Liqueur
• Wayward Order – Krupnik
• Wayward Order – Elixir
• Wayward Order – Bourbon Barrelled Gin


Unruly Vodka

FRAGRANCE: Floral and earthy. Honey, new garden notes.
FLAVOUR: Sweetness from the honey with hints of vanilla.
FEEL: Full body, pleasant viscosity.
FINISH: Long, savoury.
BEST ENJOYED: Mixes well with basil, pineapple and lemon. Also fantastic neat, or on the rocks. Preferred olives for a Martini.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Unique vodka made from B.C. honey—a must try for those looking for something different. —Scott Barber, April 2016

Unruly Gin

FRAGRANCE: Juniper, and pine. Slight honey and sweet nose. 
FLAVOUR: Muted juniper, semi-sweet, white pepper on the palate.
FEEL: Thick, silky mouthfeel.
FINISH: Slightly bitter, with honeyed herbal finish.
BEST ENJOYED: Delicious in a Last Word; mix with citrus.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A sweeter, crowd-pleasing gin (not for London Dry fans). Use in cocktails. —Shaun Layton, July 2016

Depth Charge Espresso & Cacao Bean Liqueur

FRAGRANCE: Sweet coffee.
FLAVOUR: Deep off-dry cacao bitterness with coffee overtones.
FEEL: Thin and dry.
FINISH: Long lasting non-offensive bitterness.
BEST ENJOYED: On the rocks.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Not a sweet liqueur. A great balance of bitter and dry. —Robyn Gray, October 2016

Krupnik Spiced Honey Liqueur

FRAGRANCE: Cinnamon, honey, nutmeg, vanilla.
FLAVOUR: A beautiful fall day in a glass.
FEEL: Thick like a liqueur. I’d definitely cut it with a base spirit such as rum or bourbon.
FINISH: Warm, sweet, spicy. Yum!
BEST ENJOYED: Chill and sip on rocks or mix in a cocktail. Whiskey Sour using bourbon, Krupnik, lemon, chai and bitters.
THE BOTTOM LINE: These guys are doing everything right. —Scott Barber, February 2017

Bourbon-Barrelled Gin

FRAGRANCE: Surprisingly intense vanilla. Yum!
FLAVOUR: Citrus, with pleasant vanilla and earthy tones.
FEEL: Light, medium body.
FINISH: Spicy.
BEST ENJOYED: Neat or on the rocks. Try it in a Martini, Negroni or Corpse Reviver #2.
THE BOTTOM LINE: If you’re looking for a gin that isn’t juniper forward, this is for you. I love working with and drinking this product. —Scott Barber, July 2017