The top distinction of double gold medal was awarded to a liqueur infused with a Smithers-area farm’s berries at the 2015 World Spirits Awards held March 19 in Koje, Denmark.
Participants from 25 countries put their best spirits to the test, and Haskap Liqueur came away with the award in its first year of production.
The slightly sweet liqueur with a zing was made from berries grown at Elaine and Randy Rodgers’ Northern Jewel Farm west of Smithers by Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery out of Vernon. Okanagan Spirits also won distillery of the year.
“We’re super excited for the simple fact that we are a northern B.C. fruit production that’s going into something like that. You just don’t hear that kind of thing up here.
“It’s really exciting to grow a crop that’s new to the market, have it grow in northern B.C., and work with somebody that knows how to do something with that crop,” said Elaine Rodgers.
The liqueur was sold at Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers and out of Kelowna and Vernon.
“It went over very well and sold out very quickly,” said Okanagan Spirits’ Rodney Goodchild.
Northern Jewel was the only source of the anti-oxidant rich haskap for the unique dark purple drink. The berry is also high in vitamins A and C.
Goodchild said the Haskap caught the eyes of visitors to the company’s taste testing rooms at their Vernon and Kelowna distilleries.
“There was a period of time there where it was ‘what’s a haskap?’ People are keen to try the Haskap because it’s so unique, they never had it before,” said Goodchild.
Only a couple hundred bottles were made, but Rodgers hopes to have a larger crop this summer.
“I’m anticipating a crop of about 2,200 pounds this year. That’s just about triple the volume,” said Rodgers, adding all those berries would be hand-picked.
“They’re worth spending the time on.”
Rodgers is also experimenting with new products made with haskap, including jams and chutneys.
This year is the fifth that the Rodgers have been growing the blue honeysuckle plants which bear the haskap berries. They received plants from the University of Saskatchewan, which is growing varieties to introduce to North America.