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Victoria Whisky Festival returns, with Canada's oldest aged whisky

Celebrate all things whisky from 50 distilleries from 11 countries at the Victoria Whisky Festival at the Hotel Grand Pacific, Thursday to Sunday.
Michele Tucker and Frank Hudson with Canadian Club Chronicles whisky at the Strathcona Hotel Wicket Hall. The Whisky Festival returns after three-year hiatus at the Hotel Grand Pacific. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Celebrate all things whisky from 50 distilleries from 11 countries at the Victoria Whisky Festival at the Hotel Grand Pacific Thursday to Sunday.

This is the 17th year of the four-day event, after a three-year hiatus, with whisky lovers eagerly anticipating sampling and savouring the very best whiskies from across the country and around the world. This year Finland and Switzerland will join Scotland, Ireland, England, Canada, the United States, Japan, Taiwan, India and France with their country’s offerings.

Events at the festival include grand tastings, masterclasses, consumer tasting and a tasting and movie event. An expert tasting panel will confer gold, silver and bronze medals at the Canadian Whisky Awards, with awards presented to the best whiskies and distilleries.

“The industry has come a long way in the last few years and it’s reflected in both the calibre of submissions and the range of expressions,” said Davin de Kergommeaux, chairman of the judges. “In addition to their core range of whiskies, distilleries are producing small batches and limited releases, offering an amazing range of regional profiles. The world has noticed and Canadian whisky’s global fan base is growing.”

One of the highlights at the show is the Canadian Club 45-year-old Chronicles No. 5 (also known as The Icon) - Canada’s oldest aged whisky.

“Canada is not generally known for its aged whisky, so this is an extra special treat for whisky lovers,” said Michele Tucker, representative with Beam Suntory Canada. “This single-grain whisky was barrelled in 1977 and is the fifth - and final - release in the annual Chronicles series.”

She said a 750-millilitre bottle of the 100-proof whisky sells for around $460 locally.

Demand for tickets, which became available last November, has been very strong.

“We are seeing more out of town attendees than ever before. People have been looking forward to this festival for three years and they are ready to come back. It’s an opportunity not only to try a variety of whiskies, but also to find out more about how it’s made and what distinguishes it from other distilleries,” said Frank Hudson, festival co-organizer. “We’re extremely excited to be back with one of the best festival lineups ever.”

He said news of the Canadian Club 45-year-old showing up at the show was exciting.

“It shows that Canadian whisky is finally coming into its own on the world stage,” he said.

Attendance at the volunteer-run event is capped at 475 tickets, with some masterclasses already sold out. A limited selection of festival packages are available through The Strathcona Hotel’s Dram Association. Membership in the club is free and tickets may be purchased online.

Tickets range from $45 to $195. The event runs Jan. 19-22 at the Hotel Grand Pacific, 463 Belleville St. For more information on programs and times, go to Net proceeds of the volunteer-run event are donated to charitable organizations.

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