Accolades for Ampersand

The Cowichan Valley distillery wows the world with its handcrafted spirits

This year, the World Gin Awards awarded the distillery’s flagship Ampersand Gin “Canada’s Best Classic Gin.” Supplied photo

Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley may seem far away from just about everywhere, but that doesn’t mean the world isn’t taking notice. That’s thanks to an artisanal distillery named Ampersand Distilling Co., which is scooping up all sorts of awards for its carefully handcrafted spirits.

Earlier this year, for instance, the World Gin Awards awarded the distillery’s flagship Ampersand Gin “Canada’s Best Classic Gin.” It’s been made since 2014 from B.C.-grown wheat, eight botanicals and fresh spring water from the five-acre farm owned and operated by the Schacht family, Stephen and Ramona, their son Jeremy and his wife Jessica.

“For our gin, we were the Best Canadian Classic Gin. We were very excited,” says Jessica Schacht, Ampersand co-founder and author of a cocktail book to be published by TouchWood Editions in fall 2022. “It was a testament to the classic flavours of our gin—juniper forward, lemon, coriander—but with a twist. The fresh lemon peel is unique and I think that’s what made it win.”

She adds: “We are very honoured to be recognized on that scale.”

It’s not the first time the gin has been honoured—it was also named the province’s best gin at BC Distilled in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Meanwhile, Ampersand’s Per Se Vodka was named World’s Best Varietal Vodka at the 2020 World Vodka Awards. The wheat-based vodka is also the base for Nocino!, the green walnut liqueur named Spirit of the Year at the 2021 Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition, the first time a liqueur has won.

“We used to make it just for ourselves,” Schacht says, noting that the family uses  walnuts from friends’ trees to make the Italian-style liqueur. “And then we thought, ‘this is something others would be interested in.’ It’s amaro-esque. It’s mixable with gin, it’s nice in whisky cocktails and it’s a nice way to capture a bit of summer.”

Unfortunately for its fans, the liqueur is only available for a couple of months each fall—and in very limited supply. “There are only so many walnuts on the tree,” Schacht explains.

In the meantime, though, the Schachts have other delicious things in the works.

“We are gearing up for this year’s Imperative Dry Vermouth production with Rathjen Cellars,” Schacht says. They are also working on a sweet vermouth that was  delayed by Schacht’s pregnancy in 2019 and then the pandemic. “I want to say this summer, but I think I said that last year. I’m just happy vermouth is having a moment.”

Just like everything else from Ampersand Distilling Co.

Make Ampersand’s 50/50 Martini.

Ampersand Distilling Company

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