The Schacht family, including, from left, Stephen, Jessica and Jeremy, are the brains and muscle behind the Cowichan Valley’s award-winning Ampersand Distillery. (File photo)

The Schacht family, including, from left, Stephen, Jessica and Jeremy, are the brains and muscle behind the Cowichan Valley’s award-winning Ampersand Distillery. (File photo)

Business notes: Ampersand Distillery takes Spirit of the Year in national competition

What’s happening in the Cowichan Valley business community

Cowichan’s Ampersand Distilling Co. was recently recognized among the best at the 2021 Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition when their limited-edition Nocino! won the coveted title, Spirit of the Year.

CASC is the only national spirit competition reserved exclusively for artisan distillers.

With an expanded set of categories this year, not only did Ampersand shine in the spirit of the year category, but the family-owned distillery also had a “gold sweep” with all their spirits winning a gold medal in their respective categories.

Nocino! is a limited-edition spirit beloved by fans, especially during the holiday season.

This bittersweet green walnut liqueur is made from green walnuts harvested in the height of summer in the Cowichan Valley and sweetened with local honey, fresh lemon peel, cinnamon and allspice.

For those looking to taste the seasonal, limited-edition, and now best in class, Nocino!, Ampersand is running a lottery for newsletter subscribers for a chance to win this year’s batch, and 50 lucky individuals will have a chance to purchase.

Nocino! can also still be found at select liquor stores and restaurants across B.C.


Ampersand Distilling is also one of three businesses in the Cowichan Valley who are among 40 finalists in Western Living Magazine’s 2021 Foodies of the Year.

The other two are Unsworth Winery and Maple Bay Hop Farm.

The magazine’s Neal McLennan said the 40 finalists in the 15th annual Foodies of the Year made life during the COVID-19 pandemic a little more bearable with their products.

“It’s been a tough year for most everyone in the hospitality industry across Western Canada, but despite the closures, restrictions and seemingly endless hurdles, the foodies of the west still managed to make their mark and do all of us proud,” he said.

“Please join us in raising a glass in honour of our 2021 Foodies of the Year finalists. These are 40 of the taste makers, innovators and damn good cooks that wowed our editorial team. Congratulations to each and every one of you.”

The top 10 FOTY winners will be announced March 10 on

They’ll also be featured with portraits and essays in Western Living’s March, 2021, issue.


The Chemainus and District Chamber of Commerce is providing people with an opportunity to connect with North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring on Feb. 18 at 6 p.m.

A statement from the chamber says it knows Siebring was really missing hosting his Coffee with the Mayor chats, so the chamber decided to have a virtual one.

“Wind down your day with a casual conversation with our mayor, hear updates on the latest projects occurring in our community and have an opportunity to ask questions, provide feedback and get involved,” the statement said.

“This free event will be hosted through Zoom. Meeting access details will be sent to you after registration through Eventbrite. We look forward to having you join in on the conversation.”


Cowichan Tribes has appointed Jodee Dick as its new acting general manager for three months.

Dick, a member of the Weiwaikum First Nation in Campbell River, has more than 30 years experience in federal land management, governance, negotiations and economic development.

She worked as a land manager for Cowichan Tribes from 1993 to 1995, and again from 2014 to 2020.

During this period, Dick also worked as an economic advisor to the Cowichan Tribes Economic Development Corporation and was promoted to CEO in 2020.

She has been given a three-month contract as acting general manager until the First Nation secures a full-time general manager.

“I am excited to be working with the Cowichan Tribes team and look to support our departments, our membership and our leadership over the next few months as acting general manager,” Dick said.

“I would like to thank Derek Thompson for his term and commitment as acting general manager and understand that continuity and the safety of our membership is of utmost importance during this COVID-19 pandemic.”


Vancouver Island University and North Island College are partnering with Tourism Vancouver Island for an engaging, informative and interactive virtual networking event.

CONNECT will take place March 3, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The goal of the event is to build connections between employers, industry professionals, students and faculty, while bringing together key stakeholders in the industry to share up-to-date information on research, support programs and the future of tourism on Vancouver Island.

“Tourism, as a vital part of the Vancouver Island economy, is being severely shaken through the pandemic,” said Dave Pinel, NIC coordinator, adventure guiding and Indigenous ecotourism.

“I’ve been impressed by the long-term vision and values-based leadership of Tourism Vancouver Island for supporting immediate sector needs while positioning where and how we land on our feet and recover with shared intention. I welcome this event as a chance to connect tourism students with respected industry partners while together learning and contributing to some of the TVI initiatives for destination recovery, development, and management in ways that work well for visitors and residents.”

Registration for the event is open now.

Visit VIU’s CONNECT webpage or NIC CONNECT for more information.


Due to the heavy snow last weekend, the Cowichan Valley branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association has had to reschedule its “Love Bubble Porch-Traits” campaign.

The good news is there is still time to book your Porch-Trait for this weekend, and the CMHA is accepting bookings for families, individuals and businesses for Feb. 20 and Feb. 21.

The goal is to capture images of the community’s diverse “bubble” groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want to create a fun and positive experience, while demonstrating our community’s resilience and raising funds for local mental health programming,” the branch said in a statement.

The suggested donation is $50 per session, and participants will receive an edited digital file and a five by seven inch print from Apple Press.

“We will supply props such as hearts, bubbles, balloons etc.,” the statement said.

“A digital slide show of final ‘Porch-Traits’ will be created and shared through CMHA networks. Participation in the slide show is optional.”

The branch said all COVID-19 safety precautions will be followed during the photo sessions, and the volunteers will wear masks, practice social distancing, and all props will be sanitized between sessions.

Check out for more details and to book a session.

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