Family businesses are usually built from tradition and a deeply entrenched passion.

The Ampersand Distilling Co. is no different. It was born out of Jeremy and Jessica Schacht’s love of craft cocktails, combined with Jeremy and his father Stephen’s engineering backgrounds. Jeremy’s formal education in chemical engineering complimented his parents’ love of organic farming. The result? A craft distillery that combines education with passion to produce top-notch spirits. Although the doors to Ampersand only officially swung open in October 2014, the Schacht family spent the previous three years putting the physical assets together for a distillery. And here’s where things get interesting and unique. They designed and built their equipment by themselves. Just a couple of engineers with a drive for invention and a vision. The business was searching for specific stills that basically didn’t exist. So they took matters into their own hands. When the dust settled, they had created a traditional 1,000-litre pot still and a one-of- a-kind 500-litre column still. The latter is unique in that it is a ‘packed column’ still, responsible for the purity of their spirits. Spotlight on Business spoke with Jessica Schacht about their unique distilling techniques and the craft distilling industry in beautiful British Columbia, Canada.

By John Allaire B asically, with the packed-column still, the difference is, it creates a lot of surface area so the liquid and the vapour spend more time interacting with one another. And we extract only the purest alcohol. Everything comes off the still at about 96.5% to 97%. So that’s the base spirit that we start with for our vodka and our gin.” These numbers are up from a traditional still that would clock in purity levels of between 92%-95%. But Schacht explains that it’s not just the equipment that contributes to their unique spirits. The secret also lies within the process. “We’re batch distilling, as opposed to con- tinuous distillation. When you use a continuous process, you’re constantly feeding low wines into the still. So it’s very hard to separate all the heads and the tails from the hearts. Because we use a batch process, we are able to remove the heads and the tails to use for biodiesel and other things. We collect only the pure tasting hearts. We are able to make really clean cuts with not only the technology, but also with our palettes, smells and taste as well.” While this all may seem pretty technical, it is, in a way, a dream-come- true for Jessica’s chemical engineer husband Jeremy, who is fortunate enough to combine his passion for cocktails and distilling with his formal education.

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