The Unconscious Asian Tweeting At Your Feet
My Review of the BC Distilled Festival
Two years ago when I attend the BC Distilled Festival, I was the unconscious Asian tweeting at your feet. This year, it’s no different except that I have a cane to steady me on my feet when I start to swoon from all the spirits. Luckily this year, I carried bread sticks in my pocket to absorb the after effects of too many spirits, as the restaurants (Forage, H2 Rotissiere, Juniper and Whiskey Six BBQ) weren’t at the trade tasting session.
Note that not all of the exhibitors listed on the BC Distilled Festivals program showed up for the trade tasting, so my review only covers those I liked from those present. I also did not taste any “hard liqueurs” unless they were presented in a cocktail as no one has volunteered to be my personal “pick me up the floor wherever I may fall” attendant. The following are the highlights of the BC Distilled Festival.
Afterdark Distillery: I’ve never had moonshine as I’ve always been afraid of swooning on the spot, but I had to try some of the odd flavours of moonshine such as mango peach, espresso, lemonade or maple, which is like coating a kick in the butt with sugar. And now I’m ready to sing The Afterdark Distillery song (on front page of website). If you don’t like the moonshine, then move on down to vodka or whiskey. You have to be a fan of moonshine to even like the flavoured ones as I found that they still grabbed the roots of my hair from the inside of my head (like grappa) and even the sweetest flavour maple did not to temper this after effect.
Ampersand Distilling: Ampersand Gin was voted BC’s best gin in BC Distilled 2016 and 2017 because it’s made from organic BC wheat with eight organic & wild harvested botanicals and their own spring water. If you’re a gin lover, you’ll love this gin. I didn’t try their gin but found that the Nocino! Black Walnut Liqueur was an interesting combination of intense walnut flavour sweetened with honey.
Barrelhouse Brine: If you like pickled vegetables, well these are organic pickled vegetables that aren’t made with chemicals or preservatives. I tried the hot pickled pineapple which I found a little spicy, but I suspect it would be great in a salsa with other ingredients to tone down the heat.
Gillespie Fine Spirits: Put a little kick in your spirits with the Aphro Chili Chocolate Elixir or pucker up with Lemoncello, and sweeten things up with Raspberry Gin Flask. There’s also Sin Gin and Gastown Shine Wheat Vodka for the serious spirits. If you ever had Fireball, well the Aphro Chili Chocolate Elixir is three times more potent and is guaranteed to set your tongue on fire. The Lemoncello though was quite nice and a good balance between sweet and sour with none of the noxious alcoholic “burn” that other cheap lemoncellos have.
Goodridge & Williams Craft Distillers: Being a girly girl I had to try all the wonderful flavored spirits here such as NÜTRL Vodka Soda, made with simply vodka, soda water and natural lemon, Bitterhouse aperitifs (Rubato, LaDame and DaMan) which are made with herbs, bittersweet fruit and natural cane sugar, Mapleshade Repose, spirit with tones of plum, apricot, caramel and chocolate. Also available are Sid’s Handrafted Vodka, Nutrl Vodka, Tempo Renovo Gin, Silverdawn Vodka. I tried the Bitterhouse apertifs which were rather intense but I suspected would taste great in a cocktail. The Nutrl Vodka which has only three ingredients, sadly needed more lemon to make me happy.
H.K. Kuhns Mixers & Elixirs: This company wasn’t a distillery but produced mixers and ellixirs made from fruit based vinegars which I found had a nice fruity flavour that was less intense than bitters that bartenders purchase for cocktails. I was told that you could use these with prosecco, so I bought the Black Currant vinegar to make Kir Royales.
Legend Distilling: By the time I reached this booth, I was ready to leave with any boy toy that looks legal as the Blasted Brew Spiked Coffee Liqueur, Manitou Orange & Sumac Liquer and Naramaro made my eyes slanted more (which I didn’t think was possible as I’m already a slant eye Asian lol). I especially liked the Blasted Brew Spiked Coffee Liqueur as it had a distinct coffee flavour that was entirely different from Kahlua. The Manitou Orange & Sumac Liqueur has a nice bitter orange flavour that isn’t too sweet which I suspect would be great with soda.
Monashee Spirits: Come on baby light my fire with your Vulcan’s fire which is an infusion of apples, cinnamon, honey, maple syrup and red thai chili peppers. Or caffeinate me with your Big Mountain Cream of organic BC cream, infused with chocolate, caramel, almonds, vanilla honey, maple syrup and local Stoke Roasted Coffee – I quite liked this one as it just reminded me of a spiked up coffee creamery, except one that I would probably drink a gallon of – without the coffee.
Odd Society Spirits Located on Powell Street, this distillery produces vodka, gin, single malt, and Crème de Cassis with bc blackcurrants just like the kind your French momma gave you to get you to femme la boucher late at night. I did buy the Crème de Cassis myself to make Kir Royales as I found this tastes just like the Cassis liqueur I had in France and doesn’t have that strong alcoholic “burn” aftertaste that some liqueurs do.
Sons of Vancouver: By the time I arrived at this booth to taste some cocktails, I had to struggle to remember the answer to the following question – who am I? Yes, the Amaretto and orange juice, Chilli Vodka with Ginger Blue and Blue Curaçao with pineapple juice, impressed me so much that I wanted to sign up to be one of the Daughters of Vancouver. All these spirits were excellent in cocktails.
Taynton Bay Spirits: Vodka, Gin, Tequila and Raspberry infused Vodka. This booth won, hands down, the award for the weirdest spirit – Pickled Vodka, which enhances your Caesar drink and produces the double pickle effect. It did elevate the taste of the Caesar.
Tumbleweed Craft Distillery: What is it with flavoured moonshine? With flavours such as maple, Buckie’s Apple Pie and Cherry I just want to moon someone – is it you? And to kick it up more than a notch, try the Fireweed Whiskey, Rock Creek Rye, Midnight Brandy, Tumbleweed Vodka or Sophia Esprit-De-Vin. Again, no amount of sweet additives could seduce me into thinking that moonshine is a friend of mine as I also found this quite intense and quite similar to grappa.
Wayward Distillation House: Unruly Vodka, Unruly Gin and The Wayward Order – sounds more like a teenage rebellion than a line of spirits I daresay. I tasted the Drunken Hive Rum made from carmelized BC honey which had dark fruit and pecan on the nose with caramel notes but preferred the Wayward Krupnik which is a spirit made with honey, spices, citrus and vanilla beans, and to me tasted like a spiked up Chai rum.
Walter Craft Caesar: All natural ingredients with no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial flavours and no MSG. This I would call the premium mix to use if you want a great tasting Caesar. Once you’ve had this, you won’t be able to go back to canned mix as it tastes fresh.
Woods Spirit: Drink the woods with Wood Spirits Amaro Bitter Liqueur with grand fir, grapefruit, rhubarb and bitter orange, or Cascadian Dry Gin. My favorite spirit here was the Amaro Bitter Liqueur with grapefruit juice as the bitterness of the Amaro paired nicely with the sourness of the grapefruit.
Here are the winners of the Audience Favourites Awards at the BC Distilled Festival:
- Amaro or Vermouth (Italian-style bitter liqueurs): The Woods Spirit Co. – The Woods Amaro
- Apéritif or Digestif: Sheringham Distillery – Sheringham Akvavit (winner, 2017)
- Brandy or Eau de Vie: Maple Leaf Spirits Inc. – Lady of the Cask
- Barrel-aged Gin (Gin which has spent time aging in a wood barrel): The Dubh Glas Distillery – Noteworthy Gin – Barrel Rested
- Flavoured or Infused Vodka – Sons of Vancouver Distillery – Chili Vodka (winner, 2016, 2017)
- Liqueur: Monashee Spirits Craft Distillery – Big Mountain Creamer
- Gin: Ampersand Distilling Company – Ampersand Gin (winner, 2016, 2017)
- Other White Spirit: Salt Spring Shine – Apple Pie Moonshine
- Rum (not strictly sugar cane rum): Wayward Distillation House – Drunken Hive Rum
- Vodka (three-way tie): Ampersand Distilling Company – Per Se Vodka (winner, 2016, 2017); Salt Spring Shine – Hive Vodka; Sons of Vancouver Distillery – Vodka Vodka Vodka
- Whisky: Odd Society Spirits – Single Malt Whisky
- Young “Whisky” (whisky-style spirits which have spent less than three years in a barrel): De Vine Wines & Spirits – Ancient Grains
The BC Distilled Festival raised nearly $6,000 for the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS) through a silent auction, 50/50 draw, and a portion of ticket sales. “For a distillery event, it’s fun that one of the most frequently mentioned positive aspects in our post-event survey is the presence of (PADS) dogs,” Hamer said. PADS breeds, raises, trains and supports certified assistance dogs for people living with disabilities and for community care professionals.