If you have read any of my articles in the past, you will know that I am a huge fan of British Columbia's burgeoning craft spirit movement. With almost 65 distilleries and more opening every week, the craft spirit scene in BC is amazing.

Distilleries are making the usual vodka and gin along with many obscure spirits and liqueurs. We have akvavits, whiskies, fruit liqueurs from the Okanagan, honey spirits from the island and amari and vermouth are now hitting the shelves. We have had a few vermouths released from Odd Society to start, Devine was close behind but the latest from Ampersand; really caught my attention. Light, floral and applicable to many spirits, it is now the house vermouth at Pagliacci's.


With the gin craze currently surging around British Columbia and the world at large, it was only a matter of time before someone set out to create a BC craft dry vermouth. Ampersand Distilling Co., makers of award winning Ampersand Gin & Per Se Vodka, have teamed up with Rathjen Cellars on the Saanich Peninsula to do just that.

Imperative Dry Vermouth is made from organic Ortega & Auxerrois grapes from the Saanich Peninsula and fortified with Ampersand’s Per Se Vodka, made from organic BC grown wheat. The botanicals include wormwood grown on Ampersand’s farm, and roasted dandelion root, chamomile, marjoram, and orange peel.

The idea behind Imperative builds on Ampersand Distilling Company’s ethos of bringing things together. “We love finding new ways to collaborate and bring delicious new spirits that will inspire people’s creativity,” says Jessica Schacht, co-founder & recipe developer at Ampersand, “It’s about bringing great ingredients together in classic ways. I want to create something that’s going to be a staple on the bar.”

Ampersand Distilling Company is a family founded craft distillery making organic spirits in the Cowichan Valley. For the past three years they have been voted BC’s Favourite Gin as well as BC’s Favourite Vodka at BC Distilled, the province’s premiere distillery festival.

Rathjen Cellars is a new farm-based winery on the Saanich Peninsula committed to working with 100% Vancouver Island fruit. They bring under-utilized farmland back to health and into production, drawing inspiration from old world traditions to create wines that reflect their origins and pair beautifully with local foods.

Juggling the launch of this new collaboration with a new winery has been a fun challenge for Mike Rathjen, owner & winegrower at Rathjen Cellars. “When Ampersand approached me about providing base wine for a dry vermouth, it couldn’t have been better timing,” states Mike, “We recently took over farming several established vineyards on the Peninsula and in the near term have an excess of wine grapes. This collaboration not only gives us a better option than selling off surplus grapes, we also get to work alongside the talented Schacht family in bringing this exciting new product to market.” Rathjen Cellars’ wines are currently available through local private liquor stores and the new tasting room is set to launch mid-summer.