Nine Local Cask Whiskies to Watch For

BC Distilled’s first cask-whisky tasting gathered local spirits in a wild variety of maturities, styles and ages

BC Distilled’s first cask-whisky tasting gathered local spirits in a wild variety of maturities, styles and ages

Third-generation distiller Mike Nicholson was a lively spirit guide on March 25, leading the city’s whisky aficionados through smelling, tasting and watering (the Scottish practice of adding a few drops, to open the flavours) nine sprits. Many of the distillers were bravely present, listening to cheeky descriptors like “furniture polish” and “burlap sack” to describe their liquid labours of love.

Click through for nine local whiskies to watch…

Credit: The Dubh Glas Distillery

The Dubh Glas Distillery

The Dubh Glas Distillery (pronounced “douglas”) brought a Willy Wonka of a playful whisky from HQ in Oliver, sniffing of candy floss, lemon and Baileys and tasting as toasty and lip-smacking as a macaron. With just over 10 months in small barrels it’s already developing plummy, stone-fruit and maple notes that show golden-ticket promise.

Credit: Sons of Vancouver Distillery

Sons of Vancouver

You’d expect nothing less from the mad scientists of North Van’s Sons of Vancouver Distillery than this mash-up of a rye whisky fermented with rum yeast. A butterscotch nose and almost resinous taste show the styles sparring after only six months in a barrel formely occupied by bourbon and single malt: when market-ready it will be nothing less than fascinating.

Credit: Pemberton Distillery

Pemberton Distillery

The idea of terroir doesn’t get more literal than loamy potting soil, hay, grain-dust and similarly earthy and vegetal smells on the nose of a Pemberton Distillery whisky that’s already done five years time in a Four Roses bourbon barrel. All of Scottish-trained master distiller Tyler Schramm’s spirits are carefully considered, so this wild-card whisky should be a winner.

Credit: De Vine Vineyards

De Vine Vineyards and Distillery

De Vine Vineyards and Distillery used ultra-local Saanich-grown and -malted barley in a spirit that, after only a year in oak, has a silky mouth-feel and sophisticated smoky note (despite the malt being floor-dried, not over fire). Former bourbon casks give it an amber hue and savoury, cookie-spice flavours like clove and cinnamon.

Credit: Arbutus Distillery

Arbutus Distillery

Many picked up an EVOO-like herbaceous nose and nicely slippery mouth-feel in an Arbutus Distillery whisky that already has a honeyed, beeswaxy aroma and a slight Calvados note on the palate. Aging in former bourbon casks, this heady, six-month-old spirit is rough and not yet ready, but hints at the potential to be great.

Credit: Odd Society Spirits

Odd Society Spirits

No one could believe that Odd Society Spirits’ butterscotch-smelling, faintly cherry-tasting amber spirit had only been under wood for two and a half years. Distiller Josh Beach explained that they’re using honeycombed barrels from Minnesota cooperage Black Swan, which create more woody surface area for quicker and more intense aging. A limited number of 30-litre private casks are still available for advance purchase: smart whisky-lovers will get in on the action fast.

Credit: Tourism Victoria

Victoria Distillers

Victoria Distillers’ 13-month-old whisky gives a pure whiff of Orville Redenbacher’s on the nose and this 60% alcohol spirit creates serious fire on the mid-palate at cask strength. Pale as pilot grigio, this pleasantly light-tasting and -looking spirit promises to be as delicate as the brand’s cucumber- and rose-infused gin.

Credit: Okanagan Spirits

Okanagan Spirits

Only two whiskies were tasted at bottle strength: one of them the global award-winning Laird of Fintry Single Malt from Okanagan Spirits, a whisky so coveted you have to enter an online lottery for the chance to be allowed to buy a bottle. (Lucky BC Distilled visitors could find a few bottles in the on-site Legacy boutique.) Its time in former fortified-wine barrels (after time spent in Jack Daniels casks) gives it a rich, smooth port-like finish.

Credit: BC Distilled

The Liberty Distillery

The Liberty Distillery also brought its elegant, straw-coloured whisky at a bottle-friendly 42% strength, looking and tasting comparatively light (versus its woody, cask-strength competitors) after more than two years in Jack Daniels barrels. The tourists and visitors who flock to this Granville Island facility and tasting room will find this another crowd-pleasing tipple when it reaches three-year maturity before the end of 2015.