Festival of the Spirits – BC Distilled 2016

Festival of the Spirits – BC Distilled 2016



BC Distilled is BC’s premier craft and micro-distillery festival. Its goal is to celebrate and promote British Columbia’s many specialty distilleries. The festival is the largest spirits event in Canada reserved exclusively for local distilleries.

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In addition to 26 distilleries, there were several restaurants and other exhibitors in attendance, some of which were only at the evening public event.



At tastings such as these, I find it best to go in with a plan so as not to be too overwhelmed with all the choice, and while I spit everything (hey, I am working you know) it is best to have a focus so that you can better compare products. This time, after picking up my tasting shot glass, I decided to stick primarily with gin since I know there are so many top quality ones made here in BC.


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Okanagan Crush Pad

I was pleased to see winemaker and distiller Matt Dumayne and the rest of the crew from Okanagan Crush Pad pouring their new line of distilled spirits. I tasted the ‘Bolly Water’, a special fennel-dominant gin made for Vij’s restaurants and compared it to their own Narrative gin, which was more citrus lead. They also offer Narrative Spirit, a vodka-styled liquor, which is technically a brandy as it is made from distilled wine. This ‘vodka’ was very smooth, not surprising, as the spirit is made from seven varietals of wine, triple distilled and then charcoal filtered.




Gillespies Fine Spirits

Their gin was long and smooth in the mouth and showed notes of elderflower.

Lemoncello – the zest from organic lemons (a painstaking process) is macerated in vodka. Delicious.



Merridale Estate Cidery

I was surprised to see Merridale there. This cidery, based in the Cowichan Valley has expanded to take advantage of their cider-making by-products and thereby have less waste and make a great new product to boot.  I tried two of their gins, one that had been made in stainless steel and had a classic, pure juniper gin profile and another, which had spent time in pinot noir wine barrels. This ‘Copper Gin’ was certainly different, very round, smooth and elegant.   It was interesting to learn that Merridale was one of the very first to get a craft distillery licence.

Goodridge & Williams

Tempo Dry Gin – I found this one had a hint of a sweet nose and some vanilla flavours along with notes of chocolate and citrus. They also make three styles of vodka, Sid’s Vodka, Nutrl Vodka and Silverdawn Vodka all in very stylish bottles.


Victoria Distillers

Gin – smooth and round with subtle juniper notes due to using low bitterness juniper (never knew there was such a thing). Then their Oaken Gin, which, as one might guess, spent a few months in American oak barrels. Try this one in a Negroni. Mmmm.




Noteworthy Gin – ‘Noteworthy’ is certainly an appropriate name for this product.  The distillery, opened just a year ago in Oliver, near Gallagher Lake.   In their very first competition they won First Place for their gin and after tasting it, I can see why. I loved its delicate orange led flavours. Seven other botanicals help to make this a delicious drink. Stevely mentioned that he uses a ‘solera system’ much like sherry producers in Spain do, holding back some from each batch to blend in with the new ones to help keep a consistency of product.


(Thanks to Cathy Browne for permission to use the above photo)

Wayward Distillation House

These two guys met many years ago and fifteen months ago; they decided to open in Courtney where they produce ‘Unruly Gin’ which is made from raw honey and no grains for the spirits. Their vodka clearly has notes of honey on the nose. Their gin downplays the usual juniper found in a London Dry style. This is more of a North American style which uses six botanicals including juniper, coriander, orange peel, lavender, green cedar tips (I was amazed to hear this) and sarsaparilla root. The cedar is very subtle but it certainly gives it a certain something that makes it stand out from the others. However, with that said, you’d be very hard pressed to find two gins at this event that tasted alike; they all had their unique signature flavours. Wayward also makes a Bourbon Barrelled Gin which spends six months in wood and uses a different botanical profile as was evidenced by the citrus dominant quality.




The Woods Spirit Co.

My last sample of the day was certainly one of the highlights for me. Amaru, is a 28% herbal liqueur, which, in some ways, resembles Cinzano or Campari, though it has its own unique flavour profile. This is a digestive made with bitter orange, wormwood and yes, grand fir needles. It is made in a different method, using a cold still. I loved this product. The Woods will be moving to a new North Vancouver location sometime this year, so keep an eye out for them. Thanks Fabio!




Several people commented on the Espresso infused vodka and I noticed many walking around enjoying Caesars.


I was lucky enough to try a couple of Cartems doughnuts on the way out.






The only disappointment at events like this is that there is never enough time to visit all the vendors and taste as many samples as you’d like and I know I missed out on some impressive products.

If you are a fan of martini’s, gin and tonic, gin fizz and any other gin based cocktails, you might want to seek out the Vancouver Gin Society and take part in one of their monthly events. Come out and taste some of the many different styles of gin (I had no idea how different they can all be) and listen to local distillers talk about their products.

Treats and canapés were provided by Blacktail Restaurant and Edible Canada.

Other exhibitors included Cioffi’s Meat Market & Deli, Koko Monk Chocolates, Callister Soda, Cartmens Donuterie, Golden Ears Cheesecrafters, Bittered Sling Extracts and Walter Craft Caesar Mix.



Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS) was the designated charity for the festival

Production is small at all these facilities and sometimes they can run out of a product, so when you find one you like, I suggest you buy an extra bottle or two as your finances allow. Look for these spirits at Legacy Liquor Stores and other private stores.

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