Setting a high standard

La Dolce Vita: A column by Lorne Eckersley, publisher of the Creston Valley Advance, a Black Press publication

Obsession isn’t necessarily a bad thing, despite its common association with what can be a debilitating disorder. It can be an asset that leads to all kinds of unanticipated benefits.

The scene? The 2013 World Spirit Awards, held in Klagenfurt, Austria last month. Okanagan Spirits master distiller Peter von Hahn has entered 10 spirits made from BC fruit.

The result? He walks away with a double gold medal, four gold medals and five silver medals for his liqueurs, eaus de vie, fruit brandies, aquavit and absinthe. Black Currant Liqueur, the double gold winner, earns a 97.7 score, the highest in the history of the competition. It also wins the Spirit of the Year award.

Does it get any better? Yep. Von Hahn and his team also walk away with the distinction of being designated as North America’s only World Class Distillery.

Can it possibly get better than that? Yep again. Okanagan Spirits is named the Distillery of the Year.

Wow! When we visited the tasting room and distillery in Kelowna (the original is in Vernon) last year we were highly impressed with every aspect of our visit. Superb products, great service, lovely room. And we left, purchases in hand, knowing that BC has a very special treasure in Peter von Hahn, whose unstinting commitment to quality and his unwavering belief in BC fruit have put Okanagan Spirits on an upward trajectory since the first drops of alcohol emerged from those gorgeous copper stills.

“This level of recognition puts us along side a very elite group of world class distillers who are the superstars of the industry,” von Hahn said in a press release. “It was an amazing honour a few years ago, when we became Canada’s only Master Class Distillery, but to surpass that this year with becoming North Americas only World Class Distillery, and being named the World Spirits Awards Distillery of the Year is simply astounding.”

Okanagan spirits is a craft distillery, producing in relatively small batches, so its bottles aren’t found on every store shelf. Too bad, because each of the 25 different types of alcohol are made from 100 per cent BC fruit and grain, making the distillery a great example of how well this province does with its tiny (a couple per cent) proportion of aerable land.

When I got the news about the recent awards, I was immediately transported back to last spring, when Tabletree Black Cherry Juice was named the best pure fruit juice in the world. Clearly BC entrepreneurs have no need to take a back seat to anyone, anywhere.

Most surprising to me is that Okanagan Spirits won these accolades without even having entered some of my favourites. Last year I created the “Tabletreeni” in honour of the Tabletree award. It consisted of Pear Vodka and Sea Buckthorn Liqueur, both from OS, and the honoured Black Cherry Juice. The Pear Vodka, which I think sold out within weeks of its release, was incredibly smooth and aromatic.

For the record, the OS gold medals were for Absinthe Classic, Aquavit, and Cherry and Raspberry Liqueurs. Silver medals went to Pear Williams Yellow, Bradshaw Plum, Plum Wood Aged, Apple Wood Aged and Cherry Staccato.

Last words to von Hahn: “I had previously stated that we needed to dream big to achieve success at an awards event of this caliber, and I guess that big dream came true, placing us directly on top of the world stage of craft spirit production.”