An Introduction to English Whisky Distillers – Part Two

Alongside the rise of new Scotch distillers there is a rumbling south of the border. 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. 

Copper Rivet Distillery

In 2005, the Russel family began planning to build a distillery. Copper Rivet Distillery is the realisation of Bob, Matthew and Stephen Russel. In 2012, the Russel family recruited their head distiller. The family had always known that they would need guidance to create a premium spirit and looked to enlist help. What better place than the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling in Edinburgh? It was there that Stephen was introduced to Abhi, who was teaching brewing and distilling to postgraduates. Once they began talking, it obvious that Abhi was who the Russels were looking for. The next question was where would the distillery be? 

As the years past the family considered a number of locations and both London and Scotland were strong contenders. There was only one place that the family truly had set their hearts on – Kent, particularly Medway. Sites at Fort Amherst, Rochester High Street, Chatham and the Isle of Grain were all considered but suffered from irreparable issues. It was only when Matthew Russel stumbled across Pumphouse No.5 whilst on an outing with his family. Once it was discovered that the Pumphouse was for sale, Copper Rivet Distillery had found its home. 

Copper Rivet will release their Masthouse whisky in 2020. Their single malt will be aged in ex-sherry cask, sweet wine barrels and ex-bourbon casks. In the meantime, you can enjoy their Dockyard Gin or Vela Vodka.

Dartmoor Distillery

Dartmoor Distillery began with a visit to Islay. Founders Greg Millar and Simon Crow were
determined to start their own distillery after working in one of Islay’s own. Devon offers the perfect conditions for a whisky distillery. The land and climate offers great barley, the granite geology purifies the water and that salty sea air should provide some extra flavour to whisky ageing in the barrels.

The Dartmoor Distillery will be based in the Bovey Tracey Town Hall. The Town Hall is a grade II listed building, built in 1866. Over the last 150 years, the Town Hall has served as the council chambers, the fire station and the cinema. As the council plans to move to a new civic centre, Dartmoor distillery plans to give the Town Hall a new purpose and will maintain its heritage.

Dartmoor Distillery will use a 1,400 litre copper pot still that Greg and Simon had sourced from Migeul D’Anjou, a cognac master distiller from Pons, in the Cognac region.  Once the new make has passed through their specially selected still, it will be matured in three different barrel types; American Oak bourbon barrels, French oak wine barrels, and Spanish oak sherry barrels.

Dartmoor’s distillation is overseen by master distillery Frank McHardy. McHardy is an industry veteran of 54 years. Throughout those years McHardy has worked Invergordon, Tamnavullin, Bruichladdich, Springbank and Bushmills. From his years of experience McHardy should be able to propel Dartmoor distillery forward into a prestigious institution that can take pride in the quality of their spirits.

East London Liquor Company

Another addition to London’s spirit scene. The East London Liquor Company is bringing back distillation to London’s east end and, alongside Bimber, are bringing whisky back to London after a century. The E.L.L.C began as a project in 2012, under the leadership of of Alex Wolpert. Prior to the E.L.L.C Wolpert worked across the drink industry; in restaurants, bars and the training and purchasing operations of the Barworks and Diner Group. However, after years of working throughout the industry Wolpert decided to go his own way. 

The first step was to find the perfect location. It was in 2013 that Wolpert found an old pub on the site of the abandoned glue factory in Bow Wharf. Interestingly, the home of E.L.L.C is just a few miles from Lea Valley Distillery – the last distillery in England to produce whisky for 100 years.  

With the location decided and renovation and construction underway, it was time to formulate the gin. Wolpert enlisted the aid of distilling consultant Jamie Baxter. Under the tutelage of Baxter Chase Distillery, City of London Distillery and Burleigh Gin have all come to fruition. Whilst work was being done on distillery and the Holsteinn stills were still being developed, Baxter began concocting E.L.L.C’s gins. The development of these gins took place in Leicester, using 3 small alembic stills. Baxter’s time developing and experimenting resulted in three distinct gins: E.L.L.C London Dry Gin, E.L.L.C Batch 1 Gin and E.L.L.C Batch 2 Gin. In July 2014, production finally began on-site.

< Part One

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