The English Whisky Company, est 2006
HOW YOU STARTED OUT
It was my father’s dream to open a whisky distillery. He was born into a farming family in Lincolnshire and had gone off and farmed all over the world, from Lincolnshire to Australia, from Russia to Norfolk. A bit of wanderlust, really, but the one thing that kept coming up was this desire to have a whisky distillery. When he turned 60, he brought it up again, and we said: “Well, why don’t you then?”
That was in 2005, and at the time we’d been looking at buildings and bonded warehouses for wine storage. We went a step further and applied for a distillery, something small as a retirement hobby for my father – to keep him amused and to keep his close friends in whisky. That was the grand plan, but Customs and Excise said there’s a rule stating a still’s minimum size is 1,800 litres. So in a moment of enthusiasm, my father said: “Fine, we’ll build a big distillery.”
And the distillery that’s built today, he drew up on an A4 bit of paper in an hour and that was it. Off we went and built the main distillery. We asked Forsyths to provide the kit and that’s where we came across Iain Henderson from Edradour, and persuaded him that he ought tohave one more distillery in him before full retirement. So we got one of Scotland’s greats to come down and fire it up for us and get us all trained up.
We are very privileged to have had a founder who set out to make whisky because he liked whisky and he just wanted to make a great single malt. There were no other demands – no funding demands, no investors, no return on capital.
I think it’s the right way to open a distillery, to set out and make top notch whisky, not set out to as a marketing exercise or a way of repaying investors.
WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT
The obvious unique selling point is that we were the only English whisky company. And these days, we’re the oldest. In reality, every distillery, regardless of where it’s located in the UK, makes a unique product. We use a very traditional double distillation pot still process, just as you’d find in the majority of Scottish distilleries. That was a very deliberate decision.
If it’s worked for all this time north of the border, it should work just as well down here. And we were acutely aware that in Europe, where they have moved more towards the column still style of distillery for making gin and genevers and that sort of thing, they don’t traditionally make great whisky.
My father only wanted to make great whisky, he wasn’t interested in making gin or vodka or anything else, and therefore, we have a set-up that is very close to our northern cousins in terms of kits and layouts and what we do, but equally as restrictive.
Because we aren’t owned by shareholders or banks or investors, we have no time limit – we have longer fermentation times, we can be very choosy because of our moderately small output, our cask types and cask quality. So the fact that it is entirely family-owned, without borrowing, and without any time constraints, allows us to make whisky slowly and correctly, and it means it stays in the shed until it’s ready to drink rather than because somebody needs cashflow next month.