tasting events

BC Distilled 2018 Recap


Audience Favourites

  • Amaro or Vermouth (Italian-style bitter liqueurs): The Woods Spirit Co. - The Woods Amaro
  • Apéritif or Digestif: Sheringham Distillery - Sheringham Akvavit
  • 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    
  • Liqueur: Monashee Spirits Craft Distillery - Big Mountain Creamer
  • Gin: Ampersand Distilling Company - Ampersand Gin
  • Other White Spirit: Salt Spring Shine - Apple Pie Moonshine
  • Rum: Wayward Distillation House - Drunken Hive Rum
  • Vodka: Ampersand Distilling Company - Per Se Vodka (tie), Salt Spring Shine - Hive Vodka (tie), 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

Survey Insights


This is always a big topic in your comments. We had four great restaurants this year, and I think they provided more food that in past years. I also brought in food trucks for people to feed themselves before the show, which most of you appreciated (some didn't like them there). Some additional points:

  • I will bring the food trucks back next year. I purposefully didn't ask them to stay for the length of the event because I didn't want to manage a lot of in an out, but I'll think about it for next year. I may also bring in a third truck.
  • I understand the desire some participants have for more veggie/vegan options. I'll keep trying, but it's not easy (especially vegan).
  • The cost and effort of bringing in restaurants means there will never be enough food for some people at BC Distilled (sorry!). For me to ensure everyone could eat their fill would mean I would have to increase the ticket cost by $20-30 per person to cover my costs. I'm pretty sure no one wants that.

Things You Liked

  • Return to the original glassware: Generally people appreciated bringing back the shot glasses. The Glencairn glasses some attendees had didn't go unnoticed by many of you, and I got a few comments that they should be provided to everyone. I did offer them for sale, but it wasn't super obvious on the ticketing page. Unless I get some amazing sponsorship these won't become standard -- they're just too expensive (literally 10x the price of the shot glasses).
  • PADS dogs: half the comments were about the dogs. I have no plans to abandon that relationship. This year we raised nearly $6,000!
  • No tokens: this is another thing that I do not intend to change. I personally dislike events that use them, so why would I run one that way? Also, I believe people actually drink less when their samples don't cost extra (they are more willing to pour out stuff they don't like, and have no incentive to drink more to 'use up' paid tokens).
  • Less crowded: we had more distilleries this year, so I had to reduce the number of attendees to meet fire code requirements. However, I reduced it a little more than I needed to, and I think it worked out really well. I'll keep the numbers the same next year.

Things you want to see changed

  • Longer event: some people asked for more time. A couple of years ago I increased the tasting from 2.5 to 3 hours (that came with a $10 price increase). I'm not convinced I want it to go longer, if for no other reason than it just increases the likelihood of people getting too drunk.
  • Speeding up liquor purchases: I'll talk with the vendor about this (by the way I can't allow distilleries to sell directly - that's the rules), but I know it's a difficult thing to manage.
  • Music: a few of you would like live music (or a DJ). There was music over the speakers but it was difficult to get the volume right for a few reasons. There are some challenges here - there are two rooms, so ... two bands? Or one room gets shafted? And it's an extra cost I'm not eager to take on - the festival isn't a massive financial operation, and adding that cost without a way to pay for it would be difficult.
  • Products listed in the program: The challenge here is (1) the last minute nature of finalizing those products, and (2) the extra printing cost. Next year I'm going to look at going electronic. There's got to be an app for that.
  • More of spirt X: A note for those who wanted more whisky or more amaro or weren't happen that some spirits weren't for sale -- this is entirely out of my control. The distilleries decide what products to bring, and what products to sell. 
  • Comments on the location: this is an area where I don't have a lot of options. There are a slew of things that go into finding a location. The Croatian Cultural Centre is a pretty good location that meets all of the festival's needs. Hotels don't work. The Convention Centre won't even return my calls. I have spent dozens of hours trying to find other options with no luck. Do you have any great ideas? I'm all ears!

A Couple of Other Notes

BC Distilled 2017 Recap

Photo: Victoria Black of   www.wildheartscollective.com

Photo: Victoria Black of  www.wildheartscollective.com


BC Distilled Audience Favourites

Two new categories were added this year - Barrel-Aged Gins and Whisky. 

  • Apéritif or Digestif - Sheringham Distillery Akvavit
  • Barrel-Aged Gin - Odd Society Spirits Oaken Gin
  • Barrel-Aged Spirits (this is a catch-all category for aged spirits other than those with their own category) - de Vine Spirits Honey Shine
  • Brandy - Long Table Distillery cooperation with Deep Cove Brewers & Distillers - VSOP Reserve Pairs of Pears Brandy
  • Flavoured, Infused, or Barrel-aged Vodka - Sons of Vancouver Chili Vodka (winner 2016)
  • Gin - Ampersand Distilling Co Ampersand Gin (winner 2016)
  • Liqueur - Sons of Vancouver Amaretto (winner 2015, 2016)
  • Un-aged “Whisky” - Odd Society Spirits Mongrel
  • Vodka - Ampersand Distilling Co Per Se Vodka (winner 2016)
  • Whisky - Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery BRBN Bourbon-style Corn Whisky

Other Survey Insights


This gets its own section as it generated a lot of feedback, positive and negative.

There's no question that people love the food, but as was the case last year, the number one complaint is that there wasn't enough. Last year we had five restaurants, and this year we had six (plus pickles!). Some thoughts:

  • Getting restaurants to participate is one of the biggest challenges of the show. It represents a considerable commitment of resources for them, and most restaurants can't or aren't willing to do spend the time and money it takes to participate.
  • I tried to get food trucks in this year but had no luck. I've learned some things and will probably try again next year.
  • Broadly, the cost of bringing in more food is prohibitive. I could bring in a caterer but it the festival's budget doesn't support it.
  • I'll continue to try to find a way to get in more food at a reasonable cost.

Other Notes

  • The Venue: The increase in space was appreciated. The show is getting close to capacity at this location - I'll be looking for something else, but it is extremely difficult to find a space which fits the needs of BC Distilled. We may end up back at the same place next year.
  • Pacific Assistance Dogs Society: The presence of PADS dogs stole the show again! We raised almost $4,000 for them this year through the 50/50 draw, the silent auction, and a portion of ticket sales.
  • Atmosphere: There were a lot of comments on the overall vibe of the show and how much people like it. Related to this is the fact that we don't charge for samples, which I think reduces consumption as people don't feel an obligation to finish each spirit to 'get their money's worth'.
  • Glassware: There was a general recognition that this glassware wasn't the most appropriate for the format. They would work for sitting at home sipping on something, but given the size of the spirits samples and the shape of the glass, most people would rather not use them at an event like this.  

A Few Other Notes

  • The festival sold out. Well, ticket cutoff was at 5pm on Saturday, at which point there was one ticket left for sale. I'll call that a sellout.
  • 26 awesome volunteers helped make this show happen. The wonderful gentlemen at Sons of Vancouver and The Dubh Glas Distillery kindly donated product to add to our gift bags. It's the best volunteer gig in town!
  • Our sponsors provided a huge amount of help in making the show happen, and I want to thank them one more time.

A Small But Shining Local Presence at a Dram Come True

Every year Vancouver's own Writers Festival holds a fundraiser called a Dram Come True. It's focused on Single Malt Scotch, with some Irish, Canadian and Japanese whiskies thrown in for good measure. After a two or three year hiatus I decided it was time to visit and see how things have changed. In the past it was held in a private mansion in Shaughnessy. It was packed full of people, but you could wander the awesome grounds with a a scotch in hand and if it's your thing light up a big ol' cigar to help you with some existential contemplation.

Pemberton Distillery Single Malt

This year it was held at Hycroft House. It was a much bigger location, which meant more room to move around. The lines at the tables were still there, but it was definitely more roomy. Leave your cigars at home, though, as the new property doesn't allow them.

The event held the usual suspects, such as Macallan, Ardbeg, some very nice Caol Ila, and so on.  Also making a strong appearance was the Canadian version of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, whose headquarters in Leith, Scotland some of us might consider to be close to the centre of the universe. This is definitely not an event to highlight the best of Canadian or BC spirits, though.

One treat was the presence of Pemberton Distillery, tucked away from the other tables. And they came prepared - serving their soon to be bottled single malt whisky, aged in bourbon barrels and barely three years old. It was a treat, to say the least. I tried one forgettable ten year old Canadian Rye Whisky which had nothing on our Tyler's newest product.  It's coming in September this year and I cannot wait.

I think ADCT has lost a bit of its heart moving to the bigger location, but it's still a great event and it's fun to support the Writer's Festival. If they can get more BC-based whiskies in the years to come it will make it all the more special.