Distillation in British Columbia has been around in some way or form for over 100 years and not in the pawned together stills of bootlegging stories of yesteryear that you hear about. Huge distilleries existed, supplying the British Columbian government along with supplying our thirsty southern neighbors during prohibition along “Rum Row” on the West Coast.
In recent years, the resurgence of craft distilling in British Columbia has exploded and grown expediently in a way that no other place in Canada has seen in decades. Distilleries like the minute operations of Sons of Vancouver in North Vancouver all the way to the “bigger” distilleries like Victoria Distillers in Sidney and Okanagan Spirits which has operating stills in both their Vernon & Kelowna locations. The moves by the provincial government to make distilling in British Columbia more attainable for the broader market have helped in this growth. Currently there are 65 distilleries in the province, with more in the planning process. They are as diverse as they are widespread from the north of Vancouver Island to the south of the Okanagan and everywhere in between. Many breweries have also begun distilling due to the abundant supply of barley mash and the easy transfer of the recipes for beer to grain spirit.
The legislation was changed in the last few years based on a need to support primary industries, tourism and to bolster our already burgeoning craft beer scene and to compliment our flourishing wine industry. Along with the changes to the distilling legislation changed on where, when and how you can pour your products; opening the door for tasting rooms and bars attached to the distilleries fathering the showcasing of their spirits on and off site such as farmers markets and satellite locations. Bartenders from around British Columbia have now begun showcasing the new industry with cocktails, inventive tweaks on classics and making them approachable for the masses.
The distilling industry in British Columbia is not going anywhere but bigger and better anytime too soon, with the expansion of the industries in neighbors such as Washington and Oregon in the south; the trend is here to stay. From gin to vodka, whisky is being laid down, liqueurs are being made from local fruit, vermouth & amari and talk of rums, the industry is looking forward to being locally focused, internationally renowned and in every bar and enthusiasts house in a few short years.