The Schacht family, including, from left, Stephen, Jessica and Jeremy, are the brains and muscle behind the Cowichan Valley’s Ampersand Distillery. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Cowichan’s Ampersand Distillery has a secret

Family-owned business has won numerous awards since 2014

The Cowichan Valley’s Ampersand Distilling Company has a secret.

They are creating a new beverage to add to their award-winning gin and vodka product line, but the company is remaining mum on what it is until it’s revealed at the Duncan Farmers’ Market and local Christmas fairs in the coming months, but many of its ingredients will come from the Valley.

“It’s still a work in progress and we wanted the new product to retain some mystery before it’s finally released,” said Jessica Schacht, one of the distillery’s co-owners.

“We’re always testing new recipes but we want only our best products on the market and we thought we’d keep this one a secret until we begin marketing it to make it more fun.”

For the second year in a row this year, Ampersand has taken home top honours as “Audience Favourite” in both the gin and vodka categories at BC Distilled 2017, the province’s premiere festival of B.C. spirits.

The distillery’s flagship product, Ampersand Gin, also received a silver medal at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and was voted 2015 Local Beverage of the Year by EAT Magazine readers.

The honours cement Ampersand Distilling’s spot as one of the top distilleries in B.C.

The family owned and operated distillery, which opened for business in 2014, makes craft spirits from organic B.C. wheat and their own spring water.

Ampersand currently markets just two products, it’s flagship product Ampersand Gin and Per Se Vodka, and produces approximately 500 bottles a week, about twice the output from last year.

Though trained as engineers, father and son duo Stephen and Jeremy Schacht have used their knowledge of science and traditional distilling techniques to create the hand-crafted distillery.

Despite being busy with other businesses, Stephen and his wife Ramona moved to the Cowichan Valley in 2007 to start an organic vegetable farm.

Jeremy, fascinated with the technical aspects of distillation, set out to find an innovative way to put his degree in chemical process engineering to use.

The distillery is a result of that innovation, leading to a new family business.

Stephen said, despite the multitude of awards the distillery has received, the most important objective for him is to keep the distillery’s loyal customers happy.

He said that’s largely accomplished by producing the most pure products of any distillery in the world, but how that’s achieved is a trade secret.

“We’ve developed a new technique to refine alcohol to make it as refined as possible, but we haven’t patented it because we would have to divulge the technology and then competitors would work hard to try and replicate our processes,” Stephen said.

“But I can say we use pure water in the distilling process that we take from a spring that’s just 50 feet from our front door.”

Jennifer said Ampersand used 60 tonnes of grain to create its products this year, and the spent grain went to local farmers for animal feed.

“We’re not surprised at all that we have developed such good products here, but we’re delighted others see it the same way,” she said.

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