BC Gin Round 7 – Victoria (Champ) VS Spirit Bear

Victoria Gin is that you? In the new 2016 bottle and a slightly lower ABV (42.5% now, 45% before), is it still as good as the last tasting? It may have a tough time in fighting off the Spirit Bear from Kelowna. Let’s get to it.

1) Victoria Gin – Victoria Distillers – 42.5% ABV – 750ml., Sidney, BC, $47 CAD (5/2018) @ BCLiquor

  • 10 botanicals including: juniper berries, coriander, angelica, orris root, star anise, orange & lemon peel, cinnamon, and rose petals. (…and the 10th one?)
  • 2016 Winner, Vancouver International Spirits Competition
  • 2016 Gold, Beverage Testing Institute Awards


2) Spirit Bear Gin – Urban Distilleries, 40% ABV – 750 ml., Kelowna, BC, $51 CAD @website (5/2018)

  • 10 botanicals, including juniper berry, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, lemon zest, orange zest, angelica root, hop flowers, lavender, and apple.


Nose: Hmm.. first impression of the post-2016-42.5% ABV VG is that the nose is very underwhelming. I get a bit of plasticky alcohol and not much else. At least it isn’t overly aggressive or offensive. SB has a huge lemon balm and lavender notes but is mixed with a more stinging alcohol presence. Spirit Bear definitely noses better.

Taste & Texture: VG, what happened to you? I remember you being clean and finishing nicely with a star anise exhale. Gone is the serenity and replaced with a more aggressively alcoholic front, distracted juniper mids, finishing with star anise and a persistent alcohol and slight rose background. Maybe it was the fact that my previous bottle was old so that the alcohol was less harsh, but I can tell you than a new bottle of VG isn’t as smooth as it should/could be. Anyhow, SB tastes just like the nose, big on lavender, soapy citrusy apple notes, juniper in the mids along with alcoholic heat, coriander herbal finish. Spirit Bear why you so soapy? You leave a astringent bite-into-a-bar of soap kind of mouthfeel at the end of every sip. Man, VG ain’t as super great as the extinct 45% version, but still I prefer it over SB. VG takes it in R7.

Final Notes:

  • Victoria Gin, or V+ is the updated moniker, is still decent, but the juniper, star anise, and rose notes are more muddled and cloudy. Good, but not great.
  • Spirit Bear has a very distinct lavender, tangy lemon balm, and apple notes, but is quite soapy, hence it’s more suitable in a cocktail.
  • Victoria Gin is $4 cheaper ($47 vs $51 CAD -BCL/@website)

Verdict: Victoria Gin, ugh, not that Spirit Bear is bad; It’s just that Spirit Bear is more of cocktail-specific kind of gin in that it can really make something magical when paired with the right ingredients. In this BC Gin battle however, I’m looking for that all-arounder Gin. Unfortunately this new 42.5% isn’t quite as good the the ol’ 45% pre-2016 one, but it’ll have to do. I expect it to be dethroned in the upcoming rounds though.

Razz Cider – Scenic Road Cider Co. (Kelowna, BC, Canada)

TL:DR – “just sweet, not complex enough flavour”

Razz Cider (apple cider with raspberries) – Scenic Road Cider Co., 6.9% ABV, 500 ml., (Kelowna, BC, Canada) (*local BC craft cider*)

on the front-right label:

“This cider is made exclusively with local dessert apples and raspberries including apples grown by us. Our craft ciders are hand blended in small batches. Authentic, artisanal, always. From our backyards to your bottle.”

  • Style: (flavoured – raspberry) Apple Cider
  • Taste: Cloying authentic basic raspberry-apple light sour acidic
  • Where I got it : High Point / Vancouver
  • How much: $9.40 (after 20% off) – 500 ml., October 2017
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Recommended: no
  • What made an impression: hidden ABV, but basic boring flavour

Visual: Pours rosé pinkish-orange, clear as water, no head or retention, several steady slow micro streams, micro bubbles along the perimeter.

Nose: very clean raspberry, red apple backdrop, bright fruity acidity. (lvl-7)-pungency.

Attack: crisp-tart, light CO2

Mid-palate: sustained tartness, (lvl-6-sweetness), tangy medium-sour raspberry, background basic apple juice

Finish: residual apple acidity, compounding cloying sugars, red apple exhale

Summary: Its sweetness and one-note, low-depth raspberry-apple flavour profile make this one drink more like a cooler than hardcore craft cider. It comes across as basic yet drinkable, hence forgettable. Too bad since the nose was rather appealing. Well-hidden ABV at least.

Joy (Sparkling Mead) 2008 – Meadow Vista Honey Wines (Kelowna, BC, Canada)

Joy – Sparkling Honey Wine 2008 – Meadow Vista Honey Wines, 12.2% ABV, 750 ml, (Kelowna, BC, Canada) (*local BC mead*)

-Best Winery @ Winefest 2010 Edmonton & Calgary

printed on the back of the bottle:

Crisp bubbles and elegant fruit flavours with just a hint of honey are a joy to savour. It is the beverage environmentally savvy Champagne lovers choose to celebrate their joyous occasions.


  • Style: (sparkling) Mead
  • Taste: Lively CO2 off-dry tart blackberry-apple mild honey
  • Where I got it : Hotel Eldorado / Kelowna
  • How much: $39 CAD – 750 ml., Summer 2010
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to mead aficionados: yes
  • What made an impression: easy sipping, great meal companion

Visual: (cellared for 7 years). Twisty steel top with real cork. Pours light straw yellow with a very, very lively Champagne-like CO2 activity.

Nose: tangy blackberry-apple preserve, rich. (lvl-8)-pungency

Attack: lively crisp, bright acidity

Mid-palate: (lvl-2-sweetness), tangy-tart green apple, mild honey

Finish: blackberry, burpy, dry tart

Summary: This has a very generous, fizzy-bright entry that is very welcoming to the palate. The alcohol is stealth-like and compounds like interest with every sip. Moderate berry notes with honey providing a decent backdrop. The body at the finish could be bolder.

Sper…itz 2011 – Sperling Vineyards (Kelowna, BC, Canada)

  • My Rating: [C]

Sper..itz 2011 (very lightly sparkling aperitif white wine), 7.9% ABV, 375 ml., Kelowna, BC, Canada (*local BC wine*)

on the back label:

“A refreshing one syllable wine with a light spritz… from Sperling Vineyards. Made from a heritage ‘Moscato’ planting, these grapes are gently vinified to produce naturally lower alcohol, elegance and finesse.”

  • Style: (frizzante, aperitif) White Wine
  • Taste: Cloying acidic soft sour muscat grape sticky light tart non-smooth
  • Where I got it : Kensington VQA (now gone)
  • How much: $13 CAD – 375 ml., December 2012
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to sparkling wine aficionados: nah

Visual: (cellared for 4 years) Screw top cap. Pours light yellow with no head nor activity, bubbles clinging to the side of the glass, barely frizzante but let’s call it that.

Nose: muscat grape-peach/apricot. (lvl-5)-pungency

Attack: virtually flat, incoming tart acidity

Mid-palate: tangy-medium sour, soft acidic, (lvl-4-sweetness), prickly muscat grape, mild peach, a touch of minerality

Finish: cloying dense acidity, thickened saliva, grape exhale.

Summary: Nothing too distinguishing. It doesn’t come across as bright and lively as moscato grapes usually do – this one is a jumbled mix of cloying acidity and grape stickiness. There are far better moscatos out there.

Wards Picker’s Hut Winter Spice Cider – The View Winery (Kelowna, BC, Canada)

 Wards Picker’s Hut Winter Spice Cider – The View Winery, 6.0% ABV – 650ml, (Kelowna, BC, Canada)

printed on the back of the bottle:

“As harvest comes to an end and snow flakes begin to fall, at Wards Cidery our thoughts turn to cozy gatherings around the fire with hearty food and spicy handcrafted cider. Pickers Hut Winter Spice is made with apples grown on our family’s fifth generation orchard in the Okanagan Valley. Fruity aromatics with a touch of soul warming spice are followed by a crisp, medium dry finish. Enjoy chilled, or for a real treat, heat and serve steaming hot with a cinnamon stick.”

  • Style: (flavoured – winter spices) Apple Cider
  • Taste: Cloying sticky soda sweet apple-ginger ale cinnamon-nutmeg
  • Where I got it : Liquor Bard /N. Bby
  • How much: $7.25 (after 10% off) – 650 ml., December 2015
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to cider aficionados: more for casual drinkers

Visual: Pours very light straw yellow with big soda-like CO2 bubbles clinging to the side of the glass, clusters of active streams, no head.

Nose: apple juice-Canada Dry ginger ale hybrid, cinnamon (lvl-5)-pungency

Attack: fizzy, immediate sweet

Mid-palate: sticky (lvl-8-sweetness), ginger ale, elderflower, background apple juice

Finish: lingering apple-white grape, cinnamon, nutmeg, tart sticky gums.

Summary: A pleasant and soda-like sweet flavour (if you like soda which I do) with decent complexity, but the sugariness and cloying texture feel cheap and unsophisticated.

Bliss (Cherry honey wine) – Meadow Vista Meadery (Kelowna, BC, Canada)


Bliss – Cherry Honey Wine, 12.2% ABV, 500ml, (Kelowna, BC, Canada) (*local BC mead*)

printed on the back of the bottle:

“Like you, we love the outdoors, good food and awesome wine. That’s why only 100% pure honey and real fruit go into making our cherry sparkler, Bliss. And now it’s easy to take on your next picnic, back country trip or join us for extreme bocci at the Farm this summer!”


  • Style: (sparkling, cherry flavoured) Mead
  • Taste: Dense fruity bubbly cherry plum alcoholic honey wine med sour-acidic-tang
  • Where I got it : BC Liquor Stores
  • How much: $15 CAD – 500ml., June 2015
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to mead aficionados: yes, and to wine drinkers

Visual: Bailer top. Pours coral pink with clusters of fast activity.

Nose: strawberry-cherry candy, background mead (lvl-7)-pungency

Attack: crisp-fine bubbly fizzy

Mid-palate: dense sugars, (lvl-7)-sweetness, CHERRY, PLUM, light tart, medium acidic-sour tang

Finish: light alcoholic honey wine heat, alcohol zingy bitter, fruity exhale.

Summary: Drinks like a hybrid fruit-honey wine, nice touch with bubbly mouthfeel, good structured body and delicious flavours. Solid.

Broken Ladder Cider – BC Tree Fruits Cider Co (Kelowna, BC, Canada)


Broken Ladder – BC Tree Fruits Cider Co, 5.2% ABV, 473ml, (Kelowna, BC, Canada) (*local BC craft cider*)

printed on the can :

“After nearly eight decades of growing the finest fruit on earth, it was only a matter of time before we turned our hand to making a truly extraordinary cider. At the BC Tree Fruits Cider Company, our cider is hand crafted from 100% fresh crushed BC apples. Broken Ladder honours the growers who have harvested our Okanagan Valley orchards from the tops of the rickety sixteen-foot ladders and serves as a toast to their sure-footed pursuit of perfection.


  • Style: Apple Cider
  • Taste: Fruity red apple acidic tart tangy cloying
  • Where I got it : BC Liquor Stores
  • How much: $12.65 CAD – 4x473ml., Summer 2015
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to cider aficionados: no

Visual: Pours almost colourless/very pale yellow with no head, many clustered fast streams, big bubbles.

Nose: red apple, fart, tangy-tartness. (lvl-5)-pungency

Attack: tart-fruity, fizzy bubbles

Mid-palate: (MAIN) tangy red apple juice + (lvl-6)-sweetness -> fizzy, acidic

Finish: tart cloying sugar-fruity finish.

Summary: Decent structure and flavour but not a whole lot of complexity – pretty basic red apple flavour upheld with plenty of acidity and sugar. Not dry at all (as advertised on the can). It doesn’t go well with food at all; the weak apple flavour can’t hold up to any external influence.

Jumpin Jack India Pumpkin Ale – Tree Brewing (Kelowna, BC, Canada)


Jumpin Jack India Pumpkin Ale – Tree Brewing, 6.5% ABV, 650ml, (Kelowna, BC, Canada) (*local BC craft beer*)

printed on the back:

“Crafting a brew that brings together the classic flavours of a full bodied India Pale Ale and our Pumpkin Ale resulted in our newest IPA – Jumping Jack India Pumpkin Ale. This unique brew displays classic aromas and flavours of citrus and grapefruit that marry seamlessly with the flavours from real pumpkins used in the mash. Full bodied and dry, with a snappy bitterness, combined with subtle pumpkin pie spice and a clean finish make it a perfect fall brew. We hope you enjoy our new interpretation of an IPA as much as we enjoy brewing it.”

  • Style: (pumpkin, spices = Pumpkin IPA) Spiced Ale
  • Taste: Caramel malt biting wormwood grapefruit bitter hops pumpkin cinnamon
  • Where I got it : BC Liquor Stores
  • How much: $5.75 – 650ml., September 2015
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to beer aficionados: if you like curious pumpkin beers

Visual: Pours cloudy copper brown with a smallish head, ringed and thin layer of retention, suspended micro sediment, only a few bubbles here and there.

Nose: brown sugar malts, hints of honey. (lvl-4)-pungency

Attack: malty bittersweet hopped crisp bite

Mid-palate: light tingly throughout, (lvl-3)-sweetness, (MAIN) caramel malts, wormwood, grapefruit, pumpkin dept + cinnamon

Finish: lingering biting bitter dry hoppy, more cinnamon, malt finish, hints of nutmeg exhale.

Summary: A pretty interesting spin on a pumpkin ale and IPA. Good depth and flavour; still and IPA at heart, but with an augmented layer of complexity. The spices really come out at 18°C.

Grapefruit Radler – Tree Brewing (Kelowna, BC, Canada)


Grapefruit Radler – Tree Brewing, 2.5% ABV, 500ml, (Kelowna, BC, Canada) (*local BC craft beer*)

printed on the side:

“Radler (German for cyclist) is popular in Europe as a thirst quenching mixed beverage. Our radler is a refreshing blend of beer and fruit juice. At 2.5% alcohol, you’re likely not to fall off your bike anytime soon…Enjoy!”

Ingredients: 50% beer; malted barley, hops, water and 50% grapefruit juice, Sulphites.

  • Style: (grapefruit juice + beer) Fruit Beer
  • Taste: Tangy-juicy yellow grapefruit citrus mild malt lemon squash bitter peel
  • Where I got it : BC Liquor Stores
  • How much: $12 – 4x500ml., Summer 2015
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to beer aficionados: not crazy

Visual: 4pk cans. Pours translucent light yellow without any head, very thin ringed retention, slow steady streams.

Nose: pressed yellow grapefruit juice, tangy citrus, very bright and fruity. (lvl-5)-pungency

Attack: citrus-fruity sweet, fizzy-crisp-tingly, (lvl-5)-sweetness

Mid-palate: tangy bite, medium-sour, peel bitterness,  (MAIN) yellow grapefruit, sweet barley malt;

Finish: bittersweet grapefruit oils & peel, long “lemon squash” off-dry exhale.

Summary: Much more tangy than Stiegl which I had side-by-side; I prefer this. A good juice-beer blend. Refreshing, don’t dilute with ice otherwise you’ll lose the subtle bitter peel flavour. Drink in a chilled glass.

Knox Mountain Brown Ale – Tree Brewing (Kelowna, BC, Canada)


Knox Mountain Brown Ale – Tree Brewing, 5.8% ABV, 650ml, (Kelowna, BC, Canada) (*local BC craft beer*)

printed on the back:

“Occasionally, brewing in somebody else’s shadow can actually be somewhat inspiring. Located just North of downtown Kelowna and overlooking our Brewery, sits KNOX MOUNTAIN PARK ~ our City’s largest natural park. Known for the annual KNOX MOUNTAIN HILL CLIMB and its incomparable views of our city, Okanagan Lake and the surrounding mountains, our Brewers were inspired to craft this Limited Release brew in recognition of this amazing natural space. Displaying a subtle roasted malt aroma, and a nutty, caramel flavour, the beer finishes well balanced with a dry, pleasant, mild hop finish.”

  • Style: Brown Ale
  • Taste: Malty brown sugar toasted hopped soft bitter
  • Where I got it : Liquor Barn @ Hastings/Burnaby
  • How much: $6 (after 10% off)– 650ml., January 2015
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to beer aficionados: not crazy

Visual: Pours light cola brown with a small lasting foamy head, 1mm layer of retention, several spread out singular steady streams.

Nose: light toasted malts, toffee caramel. (lvl-6)-pungency

Attack: crisp, incoming sweet malts

Mid-palate: (lvl-7)-sweetness, (MAIN) brown sugar, toasted malts, nutty -> hopped bitterness

Finish: lingering soft hopped malty bitter finish.

Summary: Quite balanced and pleasant, though not really limited like they claim. Although their 6-packs are only 5.6% ABV where as this bomber is 5.8%, could be that.