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'Super exciting': Vancouver Island distilleries, wineries and breweries win international awards

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For Michela Palmer who is the owner of Esquimalt Vermouth and Aperitifs, this is validation.

"We won World’s Best Semi Sweet Vermouth and the World’s Best Dry Vermouth and the World Vermouth Awards," said Palmer on Thursday.

The international awards were held in London, England.

The recognition has put her company on the world stage, a company that has only been distilling its product for four years.

"It’s super exciting, I think, primarily because we are the first non-European producer to win in the vermouth category," said Palmer.

Vancouver Island breweries, wineries and distilleries have been cleaning up on the world stage throughout the past few years.

Last week, the Sooke Brewing Company took home a gold medal at the World Beer Cup.

"We just found out that we won gold at the Beer Cup for our barley wine," said John Adair, owner and head brewer of Sooke Brewing Company.

The World Beer Cup is the biggest beer competition in the world.

Meanwhile, in April, Macaloney’s Island Distillery won World’s Best Pot Still whiskey at the World Whiskey Awards in London, England.

"Those are the biggest, most prestigious, most competitive awards on the planet," said Graeme Macaloney, president and founder of Macaloney’s Island Distillery.

That’s just three examples of many recent island wins.

The question is, what makes Vancouver Island-based alcoholic beverage producers so good?

"I think it’s kind of a two-part scenario," said Adam Bradshaw, spirits curator at the Strath Liquor Merchants in Victoria.

"We’re probably close to the top in Canada [for] amount of breweries, distilleries and wineries per-capita on the island here," he said.

Bradshaw also points out that there is no shortage of awards out there to be won. So if you cast a big enough net, you’re bound to catch something sooner or later.

"There’s award ceremonies every third day of the week, I think. It’s crazy," he said.

That is not to take away anything from these island-based producers, especially since they have all beat international competitors at some of the world’s biggest competitions.

"We’re getting recognition from every angle here on Vancouver Island," said Bradshaw. "We have a lot to be proud of with our local scene."

Palmer says she knows she's in good company, and says the key to Vancouver Island's beverage success is the community that has built around it.

"Massive shout-out to all the other local producers who have won really prestigious awards," she said.

"If you foster this incredible, supportive, welcoming community, you’re going to bring incredible people in who are especially passionate about what they’re doing," Palmer said.

"I think that’s really translating through in the products we are creating." 

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