Alberta distilleries shine at major competitions

Maturing businesses win medals at national and international whisky awards

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Like a fine whisky, Alberta’s blossoming distilling industry is maturing very nicely.

In the past decade about 55 distilleries have started crafting spirits in the province, according to records from Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis, which oversees the industry.

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With dozens of distillers now reaching their fourth and fifth birthdays, we’re starting to see aged whiskies joining the quicker-to-produce vodkas and gins on the shelves. Judging by the awards being garnered by these new producers at a number of high-profile competitions, they are on the right track.

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Alberta distilleries earned several medals and honours at both the Canadian Whisky Awards and the World Whiskies Awards. The top Alberta performer in the Canadian competition had to be GrainHenge, the whisky brand produced by Red Deer’s Troubled Monk Brewery. It’s Arrowwood whisky won a gold medal and was named the rye whisky of the year, the best new whisky and the best whisky aged eight years or less.

Impressive for a venture just five years old. Head distiller Garret Haynes says the awards are still sinking in.

Other gold medals announced in mid-January went to Calgary’s Bridgeland Distillery for its Wheat Whisky and Taber Corn Whisky, both part of its Artisan Collection.

Jacques Tremblay, co-owner of Bridgeland Distillery, said they enter competitions to show the quality of the products they make.

“It’s to get a bit of external validation. We tell people we produce quality products from scratch. Awards help to show that,” says Tremblay.

Not to be outdone was Canmore’s Wild Life Distillery, which grabbed gold for both its rye and wheat whiskies. The much larger and established Alberta Distillers and HIghwood Distillers also took golds at the Canadian awards for their Alberta Premium Cask Strength 2023 and Ninety 20 Year Old, respectively.

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At the World Whiskies Awards, Turner Valley’s Eau Claire Distillery earned a gold medal for its Batch No. 7 single-malt whisky while the Anohka Distillery, located in Parkland County, about 50 kilometres west of Edmonton, won gold and was named World’s Best in the New Make & Young Spirit category for its This is Not Whisky Heavily Peated Single Malt Spirit.

The Eau Claire tipple has been aged seven years while Anohka’s is just a baby, with 14 months of aging. In Canada, a spirit must be aged for three years to be called a whisky, hence the clever This Is Not Whisky name.

Congratulations to all the Alberta distilleries that are bringing delicious variety to the province. Here are a few tasty whiskies I’ve tasted recently.


Bridgeland Distillery
Artisan Collection Taber Corn Whisky

Following the style lead of American Bourbon, this whisky is made primarily from corn. In this case the blend is 60 per cent corn, 32 per cent barley and eight per cent wheat. It was aged in new American white oak barrels for three years. Bottled at 55.1 per cent alc./vol., it is lively and spicy, with a beautiful sweet core of caramel, honey, flint and mineral.

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It’s only available at the distillery, selling for $64 for a 500-millilitre bottle.


Eau Claire Distillery
Batch No. 7 Single-Malt Whisky

The Turner Valley distillery grows and harvests its own barley for its spirits, including this single-malt that was aged seven years in a mix of new Hungarian oak, ex-sherry French oak and former Bourbon (American Oak) barrels.

Bottled at 48 per cent alc./vol., it is round, rich and smooth, with great intensity and a long sweet finish. Look for flavours of toffee, spice, coconut, chocolate banana loaf, dried apricot, pineapple and walnut.

It sells for $99 at the distillery for a 750 ml bottle. It might also be found at retailers such as Ace Liquor, Safeway/Sobeys Liquor, Willow Park Wines and Spirits and Wine and Beyond.


GrainHenge Whisky

The fourth whisky in GrainHenge’s small-batch series is made from a blend of flaked rye (61 per cent) and rye malt (39 per cent). It was aged 39 months in new American white oak barrels and bottled at 46.6 per cent alc/vol.

It is light and fresh on the palate, with flavours that coat the mouth and a beautiful finish. Toffee, white pepper, dried orange rind, leather, raisin, caramel, cream and white pepper flavours dance on the tongue.

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The distillery, named to honour the elevators, granaries, mills and abandoned wood buildings that stand sentinal on the prairie, is selling Arrowwood online, at the Red Deer brewery and at the Troubled Monk tasting booths at the south and west locations of the Calgary Farmers’ Market. A 750 ml bottle costs $100.


Wild Life Distillery
Peated Single Malt Whisky

This whisky is so new it hasn’t been entered in any competitions yet. But boy is it tasty. Released at the start of April, peated malt barley was imported from the United Kingdom to make this delicately smoky and rich whisky, with flavours of brown sugar, vanilla, dried apricot, flint and spice.

It was distilled using a 500-litre alembic copper pot still and bottled at 47.7 per cent alc./vol., the four-year-old whisky was aged in ex-Bourbon barrels.

Wild Life co-owner Keith Robinson says they were thrilled with the results.

“We feel it perfectly walks the line of smoke and sweetness, fruit and malt, complexity and approachability. We have been tasting it every 6 months since we made it, and seen this evolution take place first-hand,” he said in an email.

With just 300 bottles produced, it’s only available at the Canmore distillery or through its online store. A 750 ml bottle costs $110.

Contact Darren Oleksyn at [email protected] or follow him on Instagram or X. Looking for a specific product? Because inventories are always in flux, it’s a good idea to call a store to confirm they have it. A search on can give you an idea of stores that have carried the products.

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