For the second time in three years, Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery, which has an operations in Kelowna and Vernon, has been named Distillery of the Year at the 2015 World Spirits Awards.
And in doing so, it once again beat out larger distilleries and more established distilleries from countries across Europe, Australia and the US.
But that was just the tip of the medal-haul iceberg for Okanagan Spirits this year at the competition in Koje Denmark. Just as it did in 2013, the distillery also had its blackcurrant liqueur named Spirit of the Year.
And the winning didn’t stop there. In addition to retaining its World Class Distillery designation, senior distiller Peter von Hahn won medals for eight other spirits as well.
“Double Gold status for Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery’s aquavit, being awarded here in Scandinavia—the birth place of aquavit—was very exciting,” said von Hahn. “Imagine, a small Canadian distillery in British Columbia producing some of the best aquavit in the world.”
Okanagan Spirits also won gold for its raspberry liqueur, Genuine Taboo absinthe and coveted Laird of Fintry whisky, so rare it can only be purchased if would-be buyers win a lottery draw.
“We had high hopes for our Laird of Fintry single malt whisky, the exceptional quality of the whisky, hinted at by long waiting lists and a lottery draw, has now been further validated by the award of a gold medal,” added von Hahn.
The whisky win marks the first time a Canadian craft distillery single malt has won gold at the World Spirits Awards.
Also in the whisky category, a limited edition Okanagan Spirits’ Final Proof Master Distiller Series: Peppered Pete (yet to be released) won silver and the Gina a bronze.
The distillery’s other two first-time entrants Haskap liqueur and Danish-style Aquavitus also won gold.
“It’s wan an exciting day for us, that’s for sure,” said Okanagan Distillery CEO and president Tyler Dyck.
He said after the wins in 2013, he was a little aprehensive about entering the competition this year and not doing as well.
But he said the success of his distillery’s products at the 2015 competition, especially the ones that won gold a second time, showed the first wins were no fluke.
“It really is a credit to Peter (von Hahn) and his team. He really is a rock star in the distillery world,” said Dyck.
Comparing these early days in the evolution of craft distilling to the start of the wine industry in this province, Dyck said he believes the wins will help put B.C. and Canadian craft distilling on the map.
“This is huge not only for distilling in B.C., but also for establishing Canadian craft distilleries as a force to be reckoned with on the world stage,” he said.
In all, 65 distilleries from 25 different countries entered this year’s awards in Denmark.
Next month, Okanagan Spirits will open its latest venture—a $3 million, 16,000-square-foot, distillery in Vernon. Its smaller Kelowna distillery is located on Bernard Avenue.
The opening will make the Vernon distillery the site of the tallest copper still in North America.