Ampersand Distilling Co. Handcrafts Their Award-winning Gin, Down to Peeling their Lemons

By Lauren Edwards

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We believe in supporting Canadian products, not for the sake of it, but because our nation boasts some of the most top-notch brands and designers in the world. This week, a distilling company making award-winning spirits.

After Jeremy Schacht gained interest in distilling through his degree in chemical engineering, he teamed up with Jessica Schacht to create Ampersand Distilling Co., a distilling company making award-winning Ampersand Gin, Per Se vodka, Imperative Dry Vermouth, and Nochino! Vermouth, based on their farm (with Jeremy’s parents) on Vancouver Island. 

The parameters for creating a gin was that it had to make as good of a Martini as it did a Negroni, which is Jessica and Jeremy’s favourite cocktails. According to Jeremy, an excellent version of the Negroni is made with gin Campari—an Italian bright red bitter and sweet vermouth. 

Jeremy’s and his father spent months year calculating, designing and building, ensuring quality, functioning equipment was the result. 

The spirits are made in a 1000L pot still and a 500L packed column still, fondly referred to as Dot & Dash by the Schachts. Using this technology on a large scale makes Ampersand stand out from commercial companies who use a continuous distilling process rather than a batch—and are not able to remove all of the impurities by association. 

Instead of a plate still, where there’s a single exchange between the vapour and the liquid, a packed column bubbles up onto the next plate and is constantly rising. The highest alcohol is condensed and collected, which results in a higher alcohol rate.

Another notable difference is their first product’s—Ampersand Gin—juniper and citrus tastes. Their ingredients are sourced from Vancouver Island or internationally. Along with local walnuts and grains, the list of earthy botanicals includes juniper, coriander, fresh lemon peel, cardamom, citrus fruits, orris root, and more. 

Ampersand Distilling branched out from gin to offer multiple products, based on their curiosities, mixed with their interests in cocktails and spirits. This way, the company offers cocktail components to both bartenders and customers. 

“We’ve liked making classic ingredients and staples people can use to make their own excellent cocktails, be it at the bar or at home,” Jessica says. 

“There’s something nice about having a staple product that you can confidently make consistently and well, and [it can be used] in a lot of different cocktails,” Jeremy adds.

Jeremy and Jessica Schacht with his parents

A popular venue for the distilling company is farmer’s markets where they’re able to interact with customers and host gin tastings. Initially, people are intimidated to sip gin neat. “They’re often surprised by how clean it tastes,” Jessica explains.

During a tasting, she says the “gin is a take on a classic London Dry. We wanted that juniper to be forward and not be hidden by other ingredients. At the same time, we focused on it being balanced. 

Upfront, you get juniper. We have quite a sweet tone towards it—this sweet juniper smell with coriander because as we get a fresh lemon peel, you get quite a nice hit of citrus on the nose. Then as you sip it, you get that juniper again and citrus coming through bounced out with spice from grains of paradise. Then it sort of rounds out and finishes with those earth botanicals, with notes of Angelica, orris root and calamus.”

The idea of distilling their own alcohol and developing recipes was part of the fun, and crafting their own spirits is the art of distilling. For the duo, that means hand peeling the fruit because to take a shortcut makes the lemons bitter.

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