B.C.’S DIS­TIL­LERIES TAKE FLIGHT

Whistler Traveller Magazine - - TRAVELLER I CONTENT - STORY BY ALEXAN­DRA GILL IM­AGES BY JOERN RO­HDE

As a vis­i­tor to Whistler, you will prob­a­bly want to ex­pe­ri­ence lo­cally sourced food and beverages: from Dun­geness crab, Kusshi oys­ters and Pem­ber­ton beef to wines from the Okana­gan and mi­cro­brews from craft brew­eries. Now, you can add lo­cal spir­its – in­clud­ing gin, vodka, ab­sinthe, le­mon­cello and sin­gle-malt Scotch – to the mix. Bri­tish Columbia’s craft dis­till­ing in­dus­try is flour­ish­ing. In fact, the West Coast is Canada’s un­of­fi­cial hub of ar­ti­san dis­til­leries, also known as bou­tique, mi­cro or in­de­pen­dent pro­duc­ers of liquor. Thirty-two of the 60 mi­cro dis­til­leries in Canada are in B.C., and ac­cord­ing to B.C. Dis­tilled, the an­nual mi­cro-dis­tillery fes­ti­val, most of them have emerged in the past four years and pro­duce more than 60 per cent of the coun­try’s small-batch spir­its. Why the re­cent B.C. bounty? For the past cen­tury or so, Cana­dian liquor pro­duc­tion had been dom­i­nated by a hand­ful of large-scale, masspro­duced dis­til­leries. The re­stric­tive bu­reau­cracy and liquor taxes that grew out of pro­hi­bi­tion in the early 20th cen­tury made it im­pos­si­ble for the lit­tle guys to com­pete. But in 2013, the B.C. govern­ment be­gan loos­en­ing the laws. The “tied house” rule, which had pre­vented craft dis­til­leries, brew­eries and winer­ies from sell­ing prod­ucts at their own off-site restau­rants, was ended. Craft dis­til­leries were al­lowed to build on-site tast­ing rooms and lounges, and also sell di­rectly to restau­rants and pri­vate liquor stores, thereby by­pass­ing the bru­tal markups and byzan­tine dis­tri­bu­tion routes through the pro­vin­cial liquor board. It’s still not easy to pro­duce prof­itable yet pre­mium, small-batch hooch in this prov­ince. The craft des­ig­na­tion comes with its own set of oner­ous reg­u­la­tions, while liquor con­tin­ues to be taxed at a higher rate than beer or wine. But those ded­i­cated to their craft have carved out a niche in sell­ing highly dis­tinc­tive spir­its made with lo­cal grains, in­dige­nous botan­i­cals and wild fruits that ap­peal to con­nois­seurs look­ing for the taste of ter­roir in their cock­tails.

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