Kris Rothstein's Blog

The Spirit of BC Craft Spirits

Kris Rothstein

In 2016 I experienced the sensory overload of the main tasting at BC Distilled, so this year I arrived early, plenty of research under my belt, ready to chat and sip spirits.

Maple Leaf Spirits was one of my favourites in 2016, when I loved their pear liqueur, so they were my first stop. This year, Annette and Jorg from Penticton were excited about their newly-released Lady of the Cask, a brandy made from grapes and aged six years. Jorg gave it the name because he felt he could hear the spirit of the spirit (ha ha) calling to him when it was ready! It is an incredibly smooth brandy, without that severe alcohol kick. I also loved the sour cherry liqueur, which—because the cherries are sour—escapes that sickly sweetness of some liqueurs.

Goodridge and Williams in Delta (yay, close! and appointments available) makes a beautiful, tasty range of aperitifs such as Rubato, which is their take on campari and was served with gin. I love to see more and more uses for rhubarb (I have a huge plant in my garden) so I was sold. And the taste was fantastic, herby and sweet, one of my favourite beverages of the afternoon. They also make an orange aperitif as well as a grapefruit pomelo blend.

I was particularly excited to talk to Ian at Anderson Distilleries in Burnaby (again, make an appointment!). All their products starts with a naked neutral spirit made from barley and a sourdough starter rather than yeast, which in their case is branded as a tequila. With that they make gorgeous limoncello, lime cello and orangello. And I swooned over their creme de menthe, which they made not because they were particularly in love with that liqueur but just to prove that it could be done well. It is minty without being too sweet. You might find them around some Lower Mainland farmers markets. It’s kosher and vegan and mostly organic. They come from a physics and science background so it isn’t surprising that they see certain products as a technical challenge.

I stopped at the Bohemian Sprits booth specifically to try their pink gin which is coloured with huckleberry juice. High marks for using local ingredients in an inventive way. With a background in forestry, they are interested in the botanical side of distilling and source all plant matter locally in the Kootenays. I also tried a William Tell apricot shrub. In case you don’t know shrubs, they are also called drinking vinegars and are sometimes called the first cocktail as they were a way of preserving fruit with sugar and alcohol. For another fantastic shrub, try Vancouver’s own Heidi Kuhn’s Mixers and Elixirs—the nectarine and quince are my favourites.

The Woods Spirits in North Vancouver was a revelation last year, as I was introduced to the complex bittersweet taste of the Italian liqueur amaro. I could not resist another sip, as Fabio Martini discussed his love of foraging and tipped me off to a new project involving chanterelles. I am always on the lookout for original and crazy ideas so I can’t wait to try it.

And there was so much more. Old Order Distilling originates in an orchard in Summerland. I tried their Black Goat vodka, which is made with natural plant-sourced minerals and named after the local wild goats. Victoria Distillery is all about flavour including a spiced rum with orange, vanilla and ginger. You don’t see many rums in BC so this was a pleasure and all made with fair-trade sugar and molasses.

Narrative is a line of fortified wines from the winery Okanagan Crush Pad. Their fifty/fifty blend of eau de vie spirit with Syrah and Merlot grapes was one of the two bottles I brought home! Legend Distilling in Naramata had a delicious amaro and an interesting gin with rosemary. I had hoped to try their Slowpoke Farmberry vodka but I’ll just have to visit in person. Most of these distilleries are open for tours and tastings and cocktails. Distilling calls to a certain kind of personality, no matter whether their background is in farming, chemistry, foraging or making wines. And owners tend to be very generous with their time, stories and enthusiasm.



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