Cooper King Distillery Tour & Tasting

About Cooper King Distillery

Cooper King Distillery with Co-Founder Chris (Right)
(photo credit: MacComms)

Self-built. Independent. Sustainable. Cooper King Distillery are doing craft gin and whisky their own way in the heart of the Yorkshire countryside. The distillery was founded by a young couple – one scientist and one architect – who quit the 9-5 rat-race in 2014 to seek a life of adventure in Australia. From there, they discovered the booming Tasmanian whisky scene, fell in love with the authenticity of craft spirit production and made it their mission to bring the Tassie ethos back to UK.

Growing Orchard

Chris and Abbie spent the next couple of years sourcing local ingredients and building a 100% green energy distillery from the ground up in Abbie’s parent’s back garden. The inaugural product, Cooper King Dry Gin was released in May 2018. This is hand-distilled using innovative cold-vacuum distillation and uses honey from the distillery beehives, locally grown lemongrass and lavender. They also pledged to donate 1% of sales to the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust to plant trees in the local area, have a growing orchard on-site and have a bottle refill scheme to reduce waste.

The first batch of Single Malt Whisky went into production in 2019 and is currently sat barrels crafted by England’s last independent master cooper, with a projected release date of 2024. It is made using a Yorkshire brewing barley and distilled in a unique copper pot still shipped from Tasmania – the only one of its kind in Europe. It is non-chill filtered, naturally coloured, single cask and single malt.

Tour

We were kindly invited to tour the Cooper King distillery by Ellie from MacComms. Tours are available every Saturday for £10 and take approximately 1hr 15mins. You can book a tour from their website.

The Cooper King distillery is situated about 10 miles outside of York in the beautiful countryside of Sutton-On-The-Forest. We were lucky to be having the tour on the last day of summer and enjoyed a tipple from the bar in their outdoor seating area, over-looking the orchard. Co-founder Chris was our guide for the day, and his enthusiasm was contagious. He had a story behind every piece of equipment and told us the meaning behind every step of their process. They are truly a small-batch, eco-friendly craft distillery.

We were taken through the bar into the distillery. One corner is dedicated to gin production, which is where Abbie’s science background shines through, with glass vials and laboratory equipment on every bench top. They use cold-vacuum distillation, which requires less energy and reduced water consumption compared to traditional methods.

Gin Production at Cooper King Distillery

The centre-piece of the room is the 900 litre Tasmanian copper pot still – the only one of its kind in Europe. Whisky production started just this month and they are carrying out mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation all under one roof.

Whisky Production at Cooper King Distillery
(photo credit: MacComms)

What is refreshing about this distillery compared to others is Chris’s laid back attitude and approach to craft spirits. They are enjoying the process, sourcing the best local ingredients and working with local business. They place a heavy focus on the quality and sustainability of their products as oppose to the quantity they are pumping out. They have no solid date for when their whisky will be bottled, as Chris said “we won’t release it until it’s ready”.

Tasting 

At the end of the tour we got to sit out in the sunshine and sample a few of their products, along with some treats from a local bakery.

Dry Gin

This was their inaugural product.
42% ABV with notes of cardamon, honey, lemongrass and lavender.

Herb Gin

40% ABV with fresh and dried basil, lemongrass, cloves and fennel.

Skosh Smoked and Spiced

My personal favourite! This is a limited edition bottling in partnership with the Michelin award winning restaurant in York, available only from the distillery or the restaurant.
41% ABV with notes of black cardamon, nori and mandarin.

New Make

Now sold-out bottling from the very first spirit run.

47% ABV with a surprisingly silky mouthfeel, almost like a tequila. Slightly malty, with notes of lemon, powdery black pepper, toffee and sourdough bread. If this is anything to go by, then I am extremely excited about their whisky.

You can support Cooper King Distillery by signing up for one of their Founders Club packages here.

Talisker Classic Distillery Tour

Approximately five years ago, in a quiet student bar a few miles south of Manchester City Centre, my attention was grabbed by a tall bottle of amber liquid on the back shelf, and so I asked the bartender for a taste. It was like nothing I’d ever tried before: the smoky aroma, the smooth texture, the maritime taste and the slow burn. That was the moment that I really discovered Scotch. That was the very start of my whisky journey. One quick sip by the bar became one glass, and then searching the internet for a bottle. My gateway dram? Talisker Single Malt.
Isle of Skye
Talisker Distillery produce some of my favourite whiskies and will always hold a special place in my heart. Based in Carbost on the Isle of Skye, it is no small mission to plan a visit. We drove from mainland Scotland, across the Skye Bridge over Loch Alsh, and then an hour through the narrow and winding roads of Skye to reach the Distillery. Skye itself is well worth exploring (I recommend wild camping on the North Eastern coast), as it is essentially the coastal equivalent of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. I’d say you can taste the rugged coastal landscape in the whisky produced here.
In true adventuring spirit, we did not book tickets for the tour in advance. We rocked up to the distillery and hoped for the best. Once we had finally found a place to park the Bumble Camper in the small car park, we were told that all Classic Tours were booked up until the late afternoon. We were in no rush, so booked onto the next available tour and took the time to explore the coast and have lunch in the local pub just a few minutes walk from the distillery.
Entrance Fee: £10
Tour Length: 45mins
There were about 10 people on the tour with the delightful Gordon, who had a good sense of humour was incredibly knowledgeable. We had some trouble-makers in our group, but Gordon was very patient and made sure they did not disrupt the tour too much for the rest of us.
Talisker Distillery
The tour itself was somewhat generic. It started off with information about malting barley. As Talisker is characteristically peaty, we were given some peat to pass around, then peated and unpeated barley to smell and taste the difference. This part was no doubt interesting for the whisky novices in the group, and as a Talisker fan I was happy to taste the barley that goes into the spirits.
We were then taken through the still room and saw the majestic copper stills: 2 wash stills and 3 spirit stills, and we were given a brief explanation of the spirit safe which was cordoned off about 5-10 metres from the public. This was disappointing as the spirit safe is one of my favourite parts about distillery tours! Next, it was outside to see the wormtub condensers. This was the first time I’d seen wormtubs in person as not many distilleries still use this method. We were then taken through a corridor with a glass panel on the wall revealing the warehouse, where we could see barrels of Talisker whisky, but sadly we were not allowed inside. Again, disappointing as I would have loved to have smelt the aromas of my favourite whisky maturing! Finally, we were each handed a dram of Talisker Dark Storm and had a somewhat hurried tasting session before being ushered back to the gift shop and bar.
 
The Warehouse
Overall, the distillery and surrounding land was beautiful to see but the tour itself was not particularly special as it focused more on the production of whisky in general than the things that make Talisker unique. They do offer a Whisky and Chocolate tour for £30 or a Talisker Masterclass tour for £45, which are longer tours with guided tastings of 3-5 additional drams, respectively.
Talsiker do have an exclusive bottling available at the distillery which is available to buy at the shop or taste at the bar. You can find my tasting notes on that here.