Award Winning Canadian Artisan Gins

By / Wine + Drinks / April 5th, 2021 / 8

The Canadian Artisan Spirits Competition, the only national judging of Canada’s artisanal spirits producers, is judged by experts from coast to coast, and has grown steadily since its inception three years ago. Here are 5 Gold Medal winning gins from the 2021 awards.  

Gin Royal, Compass Distillery (Gold Medal and tied for Best in Class in Contemporary Gin category), Halifax, Nova Scotia, 45% abv, $43.48 at the distillery.

This strikingly bright blue Gin gets its colour from an infusion of butterfly pea blossom. Distilled from Nova Scotian wheat, on the nose it shows attractive juniper, lots of citrus fruit and a mix of other botanicals. Although entered in the Contemporary category, it smells pretty classic. This translates to pleasant herbal flavours, a smooth palate, and a rather soft finish, low in acidity and bitterness, but with good length. The softness comes from an addition of royal jelly and local honey.  The bee on the label pays tribute to the pollinators of the botanicals used in Gin. One dollar from each bottle sold is donated to the Nova Scotia Beekeepers Association.

Gin Thuya, Distillerie Fils Du Roy (Gold Medal in Classic Gin Category), Petit-Paquetville, NB, 45% abv, $30.79 at ANBL.

The first modern Gin to be made in New Brunswick, Thuya is unique for its use of Canadian Cedar (Thuja Occidentalis), which Acadian history explains was used by indigenous healers to cure Jacques Cartier and his men from scurvy in the early 1500s. This has a classic London gin nose of juniper and citrus, which continues on the palate, is forward, full bodied and full flavoured, with just a touch of sweetness and a long, juniper-y finish. Excellent in G&Ts and Negronis.

Navy Strength Gin, Patent 5 (Gold Medal and Best in Class in Classic Gin Category), Winnipeg, Manitoba, 57.1% abv, $64.95 at distillery

This intense Gin, in aroma and flavour as well as proof, has loads of juniper on the nose, as well as a menthol note and lots of green herbs and citrus peel. Diluted for tasting, it shows pleasant gin flavours, and is smooth and clean, with a fresh, long juniper finish. Note: it develops a slight haze when water is added.  The distillery recommends serving with Elderflower soda and a lemon wedge.

Noteworthy Gin, The Dubh Glas Distillery – Navy Strength (Gold Medal and Best in Class with Distinction in Contemporary Gin Category), Oliver, BC, 57.1% ABV,  $34.96/375ml at distillery

Another Navy Strength Gin, this is noteworthy for its forward, pleasant lime peel nose, followed by a rather round palate, with lime flavours and a touch of juniper and menthol. It is made from 100% British Columbian grown barley and distilled three times in the distillery’s German copper pot still.  While a bit soft and easy on the finish, and not particularly long, it is super clean and perfect for a G&T. Note: louches when diluted with water.

Botanical Garden Gin, Bruinwood Estate Distillery Inc. (Gold Medal with Excellence in Terroir distinction in Contemporary Gin Category), Roberts Creek, BC, $100. Limited production sold at the distillery and farmer’s markets.

This limited edition, very dear Gin is a partnership with Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden, and half the price of each bottle is donated to the garden, where all the botanicals are sourced. The nose starts with forward herbal notes, suggesting anise or fennel, as well as juniper. The palate is clean, fresh and has very nice Gin character, while finishing with elegance, both delicate and fairly long. It hits all the right points and is fresh and tasty.


Craig Pinhey discovered good drink circa 1985 at Ginger’s Tavern/Granite Brewery in Halifax and has been writing about beer, wine and spirits for 25 years. A Certified Sommelier and BJCP judge, Craig lives in New Brunswick where he runs his own writing and consulting business and is the beverage columnist for Brunswick News. He is the only person to have judged all of the national wine, spirits and beer awards of Canada.

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