British Columbia

Ampersand Distilling draws ingredients from own backyard in Duncan, B.C.

Father and son engineer duo designed and built the equipment for Ampersand Distilling Company, which is displaying their gin and vodka for the first time at an annual fair in Victoria.

The craft distillery is showcasing their craft gin and vodka at the annual Out of Hand fair in Victoria

Father-and-son duo Jeremy and Stephen Schacht designed and built the equipment they use to distil craft gin and vodka in the Cowichan Valley. (Ampersand Distilling Co./Facebook)

When Jeremy Schacht and his family set out to open a craft gin and vodka distillery on Vancouver Island a few years ago, he had some specific resources and skills to his advantage — an organic farm to supply fresh ingredients, and a degree in chemical engineering.

"He studied distillation, but as it pertains to petroleum instead of alcohol," laughed Jessie MacLeod, who, along with the Schachts runs the Ampersand Distilling Company in Duncan.

"His parents are entrepreneurs of course and it just seemed a good way to fit their organic special farm and his chemical engineering degree together."

MacLeod, Schacht and his father Stephen Schacht are at the Out of Hand artistan fair in Victoria November 28 to 29.

They are one of seven distillers and winemakers at the fair for the first time, thanks to changes in provincial liquor laws.

Distillery built from scratch

Jeremy said he and his father, who is also an engineer, designed and built the custom equipment in the distillery, such as the large mash tun used to soak grains which produce sugars that later become alcohol.

He said he even had to learn how to weld.

"We made everything right from scratch," he said.

The distillery has now been in operation for just over a year, making craft gin and vodka.

Some of the ingredients used in the vodka and gin come from the family's five-acre organic farm in the Cowichan Valley.

The water used for the spirits comes from a freshwater spring that the Schachts discovered on their farm.

"We knew there was a spring in the general area but we weren't entirely sure how much water there was, or the quality," Jeremy said.

"[We] sent it out for testing and it came back just absolutely pristine — pure spring water. Incredibly lucky on our part, for sure."

Lemon peel to coriander

MacLeod said their signature gin recipe includes ingredients such as juniper, coriander, fresh lemon peel, cardamom, angelica and grains of paradise, a pepper-like spice.

"We make it from organic B.C. wheat and organic and wild harvested botanicals from around the world," she said.

"We designed the recipe to be great in cocktails and also stellar on its own."

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Craft distillery in Duncan, B.C. uses organic ingredients and B.C. wheat in its gin and vodka


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?