Giving spirits

Jessica Schacht
Jessica Schacht is interviewed by Jeff King of CHEK news at the Ampersand property in the Cowichan Valley. Photo credit: Jennifer Palmer.

Jessica Schacht is used to quick changes. She trained in theatre production and management, earning a BFA from the University of Victoria in 2010. She then went from stage manager to entrepreneur after founding Ampersand Distilling Co. in 2014 with her husband, Jeremy, and his parents.

Ampersand makes gin and other craft spirits, so when the emergence of COVID-19 lead to shortages in hand sanitizer, Schacht and her team quickly joined the distilleries around the world helping to increase supply.

Schacht, who grew up in Victoria and resides in Duncan, says the team started with guidelines on local production of hand sanitizer published by the World Health Organization.

“With that recipe in hand, the biggest challenge was acquiring ingredients, as things like glycerin and packaging were almost instantly out of stock,” says Schacht. “Thankfully, many other craft distilleries banded together to help secure supplies, and we had donations of bottles from other local companies.” It wasn’t what they expected to be doing with their award-winning Per Se vodka, she jokes.

Ampersand has produced more than 3,100 litres of sanitizer, of which close to half have been donated. “Public response has been overwhelming, she says. “We have had so much so support and are glad we've been able to donate it to frontline workers, nurses, doctors, community organizations, remote communities and immunocompromised people.”

It was a challenge to shift gears and figure out distribution, but the team is happy to contribute in this time of need, she says. Meanwhile, Ampersand has launched a new vermouth in collaboration with Rathjen Cellars and just started up an online store. Find out more here: