An Introduction to English Whisky Distillers – Part One

Alongside the rise of new Scotch distillers there is a rumbling south of the border. In fact, England’s number of distilleries has increased 413% over 6 years. England, like Scotland, has a history of producing whisky. Alfred Barnard recorded four English distillers in his book The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom (1887): Lea Valley Distillery (London), Bank Hall Distillery (Liverpool), Bristol Distillery and Vauxhall Distillery (Liverpool). Unlike Scotch however, production of whisky in England ceased in 1905 with the closure of the Lea Valley Distillery. Thankfully, this near-century silence ended in 2003. Now there are more distilleries than before and more on the way! Yet again, we have listed them for you alphabetically. 


Established in 1872, you may have seen a can of Adnam’s beer in your local shop. However, what
you may not know is that in 2010 Adnams branched out and built Adnams Copper House Distillery. Unlike some of the other whisky distillers here, Adnams has a rich heritage. Beer has been brewed on the site of the Adnam brewery and distillery for around 672 years. Adnams can trace their lineage back to Johanna de Corby and 17 other ‘ale wives’ who were charged for breaking ale assizes. The Adnams enter the scene in 1872, when brother Ernest and George Adnam – with the help of their father – bought the Sole Bay Brewery. Country life in Suffolk didn’t suit brother George and he moved to South Africa, where he was unfortunately eaten by a crocodile. No joke, he was actually eaten by a crocodile.

The Copper House Distillery is the most energy-efficient in the U.K. and also generates water and steam for the brewery. Adnams employs a full time environmental manager and follows a four-pillar approach to sustainability; carbon, water, waste and biodiversity. So far Adnams is the only brewery to complete a full carbon lifecycle assessment on their entire beer range as well as a full water lifecycle assessment to reduce their water usage. Alongside this they are zero to landfill and provide habitats for an estimated 240,000 honey bees.  

Bimber Distillery

A London based distillery, Bimber was founded in August 2015 and released their first vodka bottling in early 2016. Bimber may sound more like a dwarf from Tolkien’s universe! That is not where this distillery takes it name from. The name Bimber draws its name from the Polish, meaning moonshine, in honour of the founders heritage. 

At this present time, Bimber is currently home to two Alembic copper pot stills ‘Doris’ – 1000 litres –  and ‘Astraea’ – 600 litres. Now, you may think those two names are entirely random but both have meaning. Now, unless you’ve done some ancient history during your time in education or are a hellenophile you may be forgiven for not knowing that Doris was a Greek god. The name Doris is an amalgamation of doron – meaning gift – and zoros –  meaning pure. Get it? Doris is giving us the gift of a pure alcohol! Astraea is another Greek goddess. Astraea was the goddess of innocence and purity. The still Astraea will be used to refine Bimber’s new make. 

Bimber received their license to distill whisky on 16th May, 2016. The spirit was distilled and laid down in a number of casks. Bimber will be using ex-Bourbon casks from Woodford Reserve, Virgin American Oak, ex-Pedro Ximenez casks, and ex-Ruby Port barrels. The whisky will be left in the barrels for 3 years and 1 day. In the mean time, you can taste their gins, vodka and fruit-infused creations.   

Cooper King Distillery

The smallest whisky distillery in England, established by former scientist and architect Abbie and
Chris. In 2014, Abbie Neilson and Chris Jaume decided to leave the hustle and bustle of life in the U.K and headed for Australia. It was during this time that they visited Tasmania’s eight distilleries and were inspired to established their own. Educated by godfather of Tasmanian whisky, Bill Lark, I think we can allow for high expectations for Cooper King distillery. The Cooper King distillery will be located 10 miles north of York, in the small village of Sutton-on-the-Forest, between the Howardian Hills and the Yorkshire Dales. Such a location promises some breathtaking scenery. The distillery and warehouses will be situated in a renovated stable block accompanied by a tasting room and well-stocked store.

You may think that Cooper King is an odd name for a distillery. The name is inspired Charles Cooper King, born in England in 1843 and a Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Marine Artillery. Charles Cooper King was also Chris Jaume’s great-great-grandfather. In 1885 Charles documented the Cooper King family history in a handwritten volume and traced the family to almost every English county. Cooper King was able to trace his ancestry back to 1030, linking to the Pigot family of Yorkshire. Interestingly, the Pigot family’s coat of arms can be seen throughout Ripon Cathedral.

Like many other distilleries, Cooper King is aiming to be as sustainable as possible. To achieve this aim Abbie and Chris are looking into numerous methods. They plan to to compost their food waste, feed it into a bio-plant that will turn it into electricity for homes. As well as this, they aim to run their distillery on 100% green energy.

The Cooper King distillery will produce whisky, gin and a plethora of liqueurs and flavoured spirits. Abbie and Chris will be receiving support from a brewing consultant and a Tasmanian distillation consultant. With their support and guidance, Abbie and Chris plan to produce a whisky entirely English and distinctly different to whisky produced north of the border. The whisky will use Yorkshire barley, a unique copper pot still handcrafted in Tasmania and will use oak casks coopered by Alastair Simms of White Rose Cooperage – the last master cooper in England! We can expect Cooper King whisky to arrived in 2020! Cooper King gin will be a blend of their own malt spirit with premium English wheat spirit and carefully selected botanicals.

                                                                                                                                                Part Two  >

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