The Cowichan Valley distillery wows the world with its handcrafted spirits
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.
We can’t imagine a better reason to celebrate (responsibly, of course) than this: June 8 is World Gin Day, and all over the world, people are raising a glass to the juniper-scented spirit.
The first World Gin Day was held a decade ago in Birmingham, England; last year saw events in 30 countries, with 200 million people participating on social channels. This year, dozens of gin-soaked events are being held everywhere from London to Tokyo to Sydney and perhaps to your own back yard.
The Alchemist’s tasting panel searches for the best B.C. gin to enjoy with your tonic
Now that spring has finally sprung, we’re craving lighter sprits and fresher flavours. In other words, we’re craving gin, especially when it’s mixed with tonic water.
Our tasting panel comprising some of Vancouver’s top bartenders—Max Borrowman of Juniper Kitchen & Bar; Amber Bruce of The Keefer Bar; J-S Dupuis of Wentworth Hospitality (Tableau Bar Bistro, Homer St. Café); and Josh Pape of Gooseneck Hospitality (Wildebeest, Bells and Whistles, Bufala, Lucky Taco)—sampled nine B.C. artisanal gins, suggested the best cocktails to make with them, and then mixed them with tonic water to determine which worked best.
• Per Se Vodka
• Ampersand Gin
• Imperative Dry Vermouth
FRAGRANCE: Juniper and coriander. FLAVOUR: Juniper forward, floral, spiced finish. FEEL: Medium to high viscosity. FINISH: White pepper spice. BEST ENJOYED: In a Gibson Martini. THE BOTTOM LINE: Great value. Mix in citrusy drinks or a classic Martini. –Shaun Layton, July 2016
Per Se Vodka
FRAGRANCE:Light and creamy, almost vanilla. FLAVOUR:Same, familiar creamy, semi-sweetness of a wheat vodka. FEEL:Mildly mouth coating and pleasant. FINISH:A little heat on the back, but easy to sip neat and at room temperature. BEST ENJOYED:Chilled with not much else. Martini bound! THE BOTTOM LINE:Not surprised it was voted B.C.’s best vodka two years running. –Trevor Kallies, October 2017