They threw seven-figure sums at the project to build a new visitor centre and upgrade the existing farmhouse and cottages to a level of luxury accommodation not found outside the Perth metropolitan area.
Ampersand Estates sits snugly, romantically even, in the rolling green lushness of the region at Peerabeelup, just west of Pemberton. It is some of the most beautiful country you’ll find in WA. If a hobbit came strolling out from behind a tree, you might question the meds you’re on, but then it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise either.
They got to make that vodka, but the spirits which have garnered the most attention are the gins.
Cleverly they branded their portfolio of spirits Rainfall. At a time when retailers and consumers are looking for brands with authenticity, environmental values and a sustainable backstory, Rainfall Gin – made from the purest rainwater collected on their vineyard – struck a chord.
How did they manage the virtually impossible, from zero to hero in less than a year?
“I think the extraordinary community support in the southern forests region is a key reason,” Scheepers said. “The number of locals who have their fingerprints all over the growth of Ampersand is amazing. Every time someone at Crown Towers tries our gin they are supporting 11 local farmers down here. Our marketing and PR strategy has in turn put this remarkable story in front of buyers and big hotel companies.
“Our local partners have created a lot of momentum for the brand. We’re very privileged to have them as a part of our team.”
The base spirit for Rainfall’s gins and vodkas is made from potatoes “supplied by many local farmers,” as are the herbs, spices and aromatics for the gins. Currently Ampersand produces 144,000 bottles of Rainfall spirits and 30,000 bottles of wine per year.
Bell said from the outset, Ampersand was as much a visitor experience as it was a booze producer, hence the luxury accommodation fettled from the farm’s houses and cottages. The rooms include rich, country fabrics, high-end toiletry brands and, if you request it, a fridge full of local farm produce and meats.
“There are not a lot of businesses which bring all these components together. Modern travellers appreciate this. They want experience beyond just a cellar door. Events, great accommodation, a place to eat well and be treated with great hospitality, that’s what the modern traveller wants these days,” she said.
“They also want to know about our products. Is it clean? Is it environmentally responsible?
“In that sense we’re selling Pemberton and the southern forests as much as Ampersand. There’s a pristineness to this region, an untouched part of the world. Nearly 85 percent of the region is national park. The water quality is unprecedented in Australia and people are buying this sense of space and wonder. Our brand values align very closely with the region.”
“We’re negotiating with a large luxury hotel brand to bring their guests to Ampersand, probably by helicopter, for the full experience and we’re working on taking Rainfall Gin internationally,” Scheepers said.
You just know they’re going to do it too.
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