Unique BC Craft Spirits

New & Innovative Products

First craft beer, then craft spirits. BC is in a golden age for those who like to indulge. Many distillers in BC started off with unaged spirits, because something has to pay the bills. By law, whisky in Canada has to be at least three years old, so distilleries have to do more than just wait for their spirits to mature. Clear spirits are also quite popular in North America, and with the booming cocktail culture, possibilities are endless for craft spirit producers. Here are some examples of unique and delectable bottlings in BC.

Vermouth is a product that could use a little more attention these days. It’s known to be a key ingredient in many classic cocktails. Vermouth’s elegance and beauty served solo or with a couple of ice cubes and a slice of orange, is a tipple not widely enjoyed on this side of the pond. In Europe, vermouth is much more than just that dusty bottle grandma pulls off the shelf at Christmas dinner. Vancouver’s Odd Society Spirits started making their bittersweet fortified wine with a base of BC Viognier grapes. Wine distiller Gordan Glanz adds upwards of 25 botanicals including wormwood, gentian, and local foraged goods like arbutus bark. Three types of citrus (orange, lime, and lemon peels) round out the pleasant, yet complex vermouth. Look for their very small batch expression that is further aged in ex-bourbon barrels. It’s a real treat.

Gin is something we have seen a lot of from our young field of distillers, though we are now seeing some very bold and exciting ingredients going into the bottle. Sheringham Distillery debuted their Seaside gin last year, and it’s a striking expression of our terroir. The Seaside gin uses a handful of traditional botanicals, but what makes this gin truly unique is the addition of locally harvested winged kelp. You may wonder, “How can a gin taste like the sea?” To me it is a walk along the sea shore, with waves pounding the beach, and kelp being left behind. While juniper and citrus do play a part on the palate, a refreshing floral and fruity profile dominates the nose. A briny, savoury note lingers nicely on the finish. This gin is just begging for some ice and an artisan tonic.

Serious cocktail imbibers may think amaretto is long gone, as are the sickly sweet 1980s cocktails that made it famous. The liqueur, which is based on apricot kernels (not almonds), is making a comeback thanks to a couple of BC boys. James Lester and Richard Klaus run the Sons of Vancouver Distillery in North Vancouver. The painstaking process of finding the perfect recipe took 82 tries, hence the name No.82 Amaretto. The silky smooth liqueur features only five ingredients, based on the boys’ wheat- and barley-based vodka. Apricot kernels, bourbon vanilla beans, and orange peel flavour the brew. A kiss of blackberry honey adds sweetness and a luscious mouthfeel.

Aperitivo in Italy is more a lifestyle than routine, kicking back at a cafe in the early evening, facing a lively piazza, crushing Spritz and Americano cocktails. Goodridge &Williams Distilling in Delta has launched Bitterhouse, a line of potable bitters. Bitterhouse Rubato is infused with different herbs and spices, with rhubarb being the highlight. Don’t get thrown off by the colour, this candy apple red elixir is far from sweet. Ripe stewed rhubarb aromas lead to bright, fresh strawberry on the palate, with an innocent, yet bitter finish. Rubato Negroni anyone?

One thing that never left, and isn’t going anywhere soon, is vodka. The square of the spirit world, vodka is colourless and odourless. Our friends at Wayward Distillery in the Comox Valley have made a nectar so alluring that one would swear they must be breaking the rules. What’s the secret? Natural, unpasteurized BC honey is fermented into honey wine or “mead”. The mead is carefully distilled and blended with glacier water, resulting in a truly sultry spirit. Pop a bottle of this in the freezer and pour it straight into a chilled glass, ice optional. It’s a product truly emphasizing the quality and complexity that can come from great ingredients and meticulous standards.

With more and more distilleries setting up shop all over the province, keep your eyes peeled and lips puckered for new and innovative spirits. Ask distillers to conduct tastings at your store and add these local ingredients to make a new signature cocktail in your bar.