2021 Artisan Distillery Award Results


After being part of a fourteen-person panel that judged hundreds of samples from artisan distilleries from across Canada, I have some thoughts on distilleries in Canada. Spoiler—they’re all positive. 

I tasted some odd stuff. Spicy, pickled, smoked, sugared, fishy (yes, fish-based spirit) odd stuff! The gins were fascinating, the absinthes intense, the young whiskies developed, the rums a good twist on an adaptable profile. It all points to one simple fact; I couldn’t possibly choose a favourite from the bunch of spirits. 

Invest in your local distilleries. A friend and I were chatting about this the other day. Whisky is a hugely scalable product where big distilleries can make terrific whisky at a cheaper price-point compared to micro-distilleries. Smaller distilleries are in it for the long-game but they won’t ever compete on price. They can, though, compete on ingenuity and creativity. 

The “other” spirits distilleries make are excellent. As a judge, I’ve tasted some incredible gins, rums, absinthes, vodkas (yes, even vodkas!) in a terrific variety of products. One can make well-reasoned argument that whisky in artisan distilleries is “too expensive” but commercial distributors in gins, vodkas, and rums generally compete in a narrow taste profile. Artisan distilleries excel by rethinking these categories. 

And most importantly… Buy the weird stuff. Maybe even their Vodkas. ‘

I appreciate Jason’s sentiment here, when he considers rethinking vodka: 

Also, notably (and this is why I care) – Canadian producers make great vodka – particularly the smaller producers who build in a bit more character around the edges of their spirits. I’ll highlight a few in the upcoming months.

My recommendation? Have a look at the results, sort by Provence, and pick-up something that sounds delicious to you. For me, that means I’ll be getting The Last Straw Distillery’s Blackstrap Rum

Finally, have a read of The Definitive Guide to Canadian Distilleries that covers over 150 distilleries around Canada and listen to Davin on The Whisky Topic

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