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On the Pass: Whisky of the Year

In 2012, when Davin de Kergommeaux published the first edition of his book, Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert, there were all of nine whisky distilleries operating in Canada, producing such globally recognizable labels as Crown Royal, J.P. Wiser’s and Canadian Club.
No surprise, then, that those nine have dominated the Canadian Whisky Awards since their inception in 2010. Until, that is, this year. Because on January 19, the coveted title of Whisky of the Year — for the first time — went to a small artisanal distillery. British Columbia’s Sons of Vancouver Distillery took the 2023 title with its Palm Trees and a Tropical Breeze Whisky. Made entirely from rye, Palm Trees is named for the response it provoked when sampled at the distillery, according to co-owner James Lester. “People tasted pineapple and coconut and said it made them want to be on a beach somewhere.” Packed with tropical fruit on the nose and palate, Palm Trees is indeed wonderfully round and sweet, with the trademark spiciness of rye grain reserved for the finish. Although it is long since sold out, Sons has plans for several more one-off releases this year and hopes to have its whiskies in regular supply in 2024.