Last Friday, Chilliwack Cultural Centre played host to the Fraser Valley Distillery Festival. At this well-attended event, B.C.’s distillers showcased their products, and offered samples of their wares to the paying public. On offer were a wide array of spirits, including vodkas, gins, whiskies, liqueurs, and more. Other features of the festival included hors d’oeuvres, live music, and a silent auction.
There are, alas, very few distilleries located in the Fraser Valley — only one, in fact: Roots and Wings Distillery in Langley, whose products include a vodka, a gin, and a coffee liqueur. Their vodka, made from a blend of potatoes and corn grown on their own farm near Langley, has a distinct flavour, but is quite strong, and therefore best served mixed.
The only other distillery that could be said to reside in the Fraser Valley (if you stretch the definition a bit) would be Dragon Mist Spirits of Surrey. Their specialty is in various liqueurs. Their blackberry liqueur was disappointing flavour-wise, but was very mild and smooth.
Noteworthy Gin deserves top points for presentation. Oranges are the signature ingredient in their aptly named gin, and there is indeed a noticeable orange flavour. Oranges were greatly emphasized, with the presenter even dressing up in an orange suit. (Where would you even get one of those?) However, the orange taste was muscled aside by the blend of spices that are also used in the recipe, and the resulting concoction has an overwhelmingly spicy taste, which is more pleasant a few minutes after it has been drunk.
Taynton Bay Spirits of Invermere had a number of tempting offerings, including a raspberry vodka among others, with a “survival kit” containing a bottle of each being one of the bidding items in the silent auction. Sinsation is their cinnamon liqueur, which they described as being “Fireball on steroids.” While Sinsation has a very clear aroma, and rich taste of cinnamon, it is in fact very smooth, and far less spicy than one might expect. It is a great pleasure to drink straight.
Legend Distilling’s Black Moon Gin, in addition to the hint of lime one expects from gin, has a distinct taste of rosemary, which is the signature ingredient in their wares. Apart from the unique rosemary flavour, there is nothing particularly remarkable about it.
Wayward Distillery of Comox’s Unruly Gin has a classic flavour, with a pleasant aroma and a bit more sweetness than is usual on account of honey being the primary ingredient in their products.
Next came Maple Leaf Distillery of Penticton, whose products are made from fresh Okanagan Valley fruit. Their kirsch is a cherry liqueur commonly used in southern Germany and parts of France to flavour dishes such as fondue and black forest cake. This is probably the best use for it, as when it is consumed unadulterated, it is quite strong, and the cherry flavour is somewhat faint.
Shelter Point Distillery’s single malt whisky was described as being much like scotch in flavour. However, it is much less sweet, almost bitter or sour, in flavour.
Crow’s Nest Distillery produces a remarkable dark rum that is smooth, and has a rich and pleasant flavour. It is good both straight-up, or with a mixer.
Ampersand Distillery’s gin was thoroughly average in what one can expect from a gin, with a mild blend of citrus and spices for flavour, and is not too strong.
Prizes were awarded at the end of the event, but unfortunately, I had to leave before they were announced in order to catch the bus home. For myself, it was a toss-up between Taynton Bay’s Sinsation, and Crow’s Nest’s dark rum. I ultimately cast my vote for the latter, since I felt they weren’t getting enough love. As thanks for my generosity, I am now the proud owner of my very own hip flask. (I’ve always wanted one of those.)
Image: Aleister Gwynne/The Cascade