The BCL annual summer spirits release is June 17, and while we wouldn’t normally reveal our choices so early, this year there is a draw for numerous bottles that you need to enter by June 3… so we figured we’d do the whole shebang right flipping now!

For starters, it’s not a great release. There are tonnes of bottles that are exclusively bottled for the BCL and, without commenting on how good they are (or are not), no one gets excited about exclusive BCL bottles. It’s like having the principal sign your yearbook.

Another issue—as we reported earlier, The Macallan already did their own mini-release, and given how sought-after their whiskies are, their absence leaves a big hole. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t gems lurking in the government weeds. To wit:

The Essential Guide to the 2023 BCL Summer Spirit Release

The Only Bottle We’re Entering the June 1-3 Lottery For

Ardbeg Heavy Vapours, $196

This Saturday is Ardbeg Day, where the distillery lets people try a sample of their upcoming limited release. Ardbeg has easily the most dedicated fan base in all of whisky, so it’s not a PR stunt: it’s a real gathering of serious whisky nerds. This year’s release is called Heavy Vapours, and its alleged bonkers flavour profile—Ardbegians like their whisky BOLD—will make it almost a certain sell out, so I’d 100% get my ballot in for this.


Okay, Make That 2 Ballots

Glenmorangie Palo Cortado 12 $100

I absolutely love the label redesign at Glenmorangie, and this bottle may be the steal of the release—it retails for £75 in the UK (that’s about $126 CAD). And if the Ardbeg is all brawn, this is all smooth finesse, with the caress of  Sherry casks welcoming and warming the drinker. This whisky is also truly new—I can’t find it available anywhere else in Canada right now.

The General Release

The Coolest Collab in BC History

Green Spot x Quails Gate, $100

Green Spot Irish Whisky is easily one of my faves, and I’ve followed the brand’s resurgence with pride, even as the price creeps up each year (it’s still a good deal). And I’ve liked their collabs with legendary winemakers like Bordeaux’s Leoville Barton and Napa’s Chateau Montelena. So you can imagine how psyched I was to hear that their third ever collaboration would be with none other than our own Quails’ Gate—talk about a badge of approval. I’ve tried this whiskey and it’s truly wonderful—some nice warm summer fruits, a dash of vanilla and the tiniest tinge or red wine structure. A bottle every local wine lover should have in their bar cart.

The Good Can Con Category

JP Wiser’s Black Walnut,$50

Two things are true: the Canadian whisky category has never been stronger, and they are the worst marketers of their great spirit. This bottle from Wiser’s is trying to change the latter with a series of wood-based expressions that are showing some real reach. I wish it was actual casks of Black Walnut they were using, instead of wood inserts into oak-aged spirit, but the sense of adventure is still there. And the price is such you could buy a few expressions—like Hickory—for the price of most other bottles in the release.


The I Love it, But Don’t Tell Me it’s Rare

Port Charlotte Barley 2013, $127

This is a cool bottle, with a good pedigree of smoky, dark chocolate-y profile that I love. But don’t give me that one-bottle-limit guff. I can buy the same bottle right now at Craft Cellars in Calgary for $17 less. Just level with me, BCL, and we’ll be fine.

The Cool Kids Bottle

Sotol Flor del Desierto Sierra, $96

The sotol revolution started in Mexico City, and has been slowly migrating north for the past few years. It’s made from the desert spoon plant in Chihuahua, was illegal in Mexico until 1994 and has a taste that’s earthy, grassy and almost vegetal, making it a fave of bartenders wanting to make a savoury or umami-heavy cocktail. Awesome that the BCL is bringing this niche spirit in.


What About the Bourbon?

Team, I’m sorry. The worldwide bourbon crush (headscratching to me as it is) means that there’s nothing the BCL has secured that I think is worth the hassle. There’s nothing wrong with the selection, but nothing worth lining up or putting a ballot in for, IMHO.