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It's what happens when you're not constrained by a bunch of old rules.
What is an “alt whisky”? Well, in some ways it’s the most local way to craft spirits: it eschews the strict guidelines from the old world (“Scotch whisky shall…”) and instead lets a curious distiller pick and choose their grains and techniques and improvise.
In the case of Devine Ancient Grains ($72), it means there’s barley, spelt and then some really esoteric grains, like emmer, khorasan and einkorn. The result is like no whisky you’ve ever had—and that’s the point. This isn’t some single-malt wannabe, it is its fully formed own thing. I was on the blind tasting panel for the Canadian Artisanal Spirits Competition that awarded this whisky gold medals in both 2020 and 2021—medals it earned for its uncommon civility given its young age and lively cereal notes. It tastes just like… itself.
Devine Distillery is a bit of craft legend. The Saanich-based operation was until not that long ago where distiller Ken Winchester—the OG craft distiller who created, amongst other thing Victoria Gin in 2007—hung his apron. He recently retired and passed the reigns to Kevin Titcomb and all appears to be chugging along wonderfully with a line-up that includes the sells-out-very-quickly Glen Saanich Single Malt, craft rum (still a bit of a rarity in the endless sea of craft vodkas), an excellent vermouth and on-point fruit-based brandies. But it’s the Ancient Grains above all else that screams “B.C.”. Very crafty, indeed.