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Ampersand Nocino! Named Canadian Artisan Spirit Of The Year

Posted by Arctic Wolf on February 9, 2021

Today Artisan Distillers Canada (ADC) proudly announced the 2021 results for the Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition (CASC). A nationwide spirits competition which I participated in as one of the nationwide panel of CASC Judges. (CASC is Canada’s only national spirit competition reserved exclusively for artisan distilleries.)

The 2021 edition of CASC included an expanded set of categories, reflecting the growing size and diversity of spirits produced by artisan distillers across the country. Best in Class, Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals were awarded in 19 spirit categories. The competition also includes Terroir honours, recognizing distilleries whose use of local ingredients is reflected in the character of their spirits.

Alex Hamer (ADC’s founder) made the following statement:

“This year I am pleased to see spirits from across the country represented in our Best in Class awards, with distilleries in Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia all taking Best in Class prizes.  It’s also great to see that even in the face of considerable pandemic-related business interruptions, our distillers continue to produce high quality spirits of every kind.”

Image courtesy of Artisan Distillers Canada

And this years top honour for  CANADIAN ARTISAN SPIRIT OF THE YEAR was awarded to Ampersand Distilling Company (located in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island) for their Italian-style green walnut liqueur, Nochino! made with walnuts handpicked in the Cowichan Valley and sweetened with local honey.

It was apparent the Judges (including myself) loved this spirit, with the following notes cited in the judging results:

“pronounced aromas of walnut, and medium notes of orange peel, nutmeg, coffee, and burnt sugar … very complex and exceptionally balanced … with a deeply roasted flavour and a pleasing note of bitterness … [a] carefully crafted liqueur.”

In addition, the following spirits earned the top scores in their respective categories:


  1. Absinthe: Distillerie Fils du Roy (QC) – Courailleuse
  2. Akvavit: Confluence Distilling (AB) – Vinland Aquavit (Best in Class, 2020)
  3. Amaro or Vermouth: The Woods Spirit Co (BC) – Pacific North-West Amaro
  4. Brandy or Eau de Vie: Wynndel Craft Distilleries (BC) – Apple Brandy
  5. Flavoured or Infused Vodka: Arbutus Distillery (BC) – Espresso Vodka
  6. Aged Gin: The Liberty Distillery (BC) – Endeavour Old Tom Gin
  7. Classic Gin: Patent 5 Distillery (MB) – Navy Strength Gin
  8. Contemporary Gin: (tie) Compass Distillers (NS) – Gin Royal; The Dubh Glas Distillery (BC) – Noteworthy Gin – Navy Strength
  9. Flavoured Gin: Raging Crow Distillery (NS) – Spruce Tip Gin
  10. Liqueur: Ampersand Distilling Company (BC) – Nocino!
  11. Fruit Liqueur: La Vallée Bleue (QC) – Cassimix
  12. Alternative Rum: Merridale Cidery & Distillery (BC) – Cowichan Spiced Rhumb
  13. Traditional Rum: Last Straw Distillery (ON) – Blackstrap Rum – Double Barrelled
  14. Classic Vodka: Bandits Distilling Inc. (SK) – Northern Lights Vodka
  15. Contemporary Vodka: Ironworks Distillery (NS) – Ironworks Vodka
  16. Single Grain Whisky: Shelter Point Distillery (BC) – Double Barrel Batch 5
  17. Single Malt Whisky: Odd Society Spirits (BC) – Commodore Single Malt Whisky
  18. Young Whisky: DEVINE Distillery (BC) – Ancient Grains (Best in Class, 2019, 2020)
  19. White Spirit: Silver Fox Distillery (ON) – 4 Peppercorns

An additional category of Bitters was also included with the Best in Class – Bitters award presented to Distillerie Fils du Roy (QC) – Fils du Roy Bitter.

Medals were awarded to distillers and bitters-makers from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

If you are interested in a complete listing of all the results, they can be found on the Artisan Distillers Canada (ADC) website:


Artisan Distillers Canada is a national organization focused on celebrating and highlighting artisan distilleries and spirits across Canada. The annual Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition was founded in 2017 to recognize the best of Canadian artisan distilling. Distilleries must meet our qualifications ( to participate in the competition.

The first annual Artisan Distillers Canada Conference & Trade Show will be held October 19 – 20, 2021, at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

For more information, visit

CASC is grateful to their sponsors: South Peace Grain, nwPURE, & Specific Mechanical Systems


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