Whisky Connosr

The London Distillery Company

By Dominic Roskrow

There are two very big reasons why any fan of whisky should be excited by the news that London is to get its own whisky distillery later this year, bringing the total of English distilleries to five.

Firstly, because as recently as five years ago our industry was cynical about wannabe distillers who claimed that they were definitely gaining to build a distillery and produce whisky, particularly when they were asking people to invest in the project.

I started to ask why London didn't have a distillery

But here we are and a number of Englishmen have quite literally put their money where their mouths are and have gone way beyond the talk and are now in the distilling business. And secondly, because the willingness of the Inland Revenue to accommodate craft distillers in the United Kingdom suggests a sea change in attitudes from yesteryear - and Britain is now better placed than ever before to follow America down the craft distilling route.

In Autumn England will have five distilleries - more than Ireland and knocking on the door of Japan.

The latest to join the English whisky spirit party is the London Distillery Company, which should, all being well, be producing malt spirit by October. According to founder Darren Rook, everything is in place for a London single malt whisky soon.

"We have got the money in place and we have had our stills made in Germany," he says. "The site is down near Battersea Park in South London right down by the river, and we have had our licence pre-approved by the Inland Revenue. We've also taken on someone to work with me distilling from September.

"We're just waiting on planning permission but we're in an industrial area and London is more suited to craft distilling than perhaps the Lake District or Norfolk is, so it shouldn't hold us up."

Darren's journey to becoming a distiller is a strange and convoluted one, but in essence it stems from a desire to combine his love of the outdoors and particularly climbing, his need to earn money, and a series of fortuitous meetings. He has worked in bars, been employed with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and retail company Master of Malt, and caught the whisky bug from the likes of Colin Dunn, one of our leading whisky ambassadors and now with Diageo, but back then with Bowmore.

"He took me to Islay and I just got in to it," he says. "And in conversations with the likes of Neil and Joel at Caskstrength.net I started to ask why London didn't have a distillery. It went from there."

Darren was introduced to Nick Taylor, who is his business partner in the company and who was dial for seeking finance - though some of the money has been put up by whisky enthusiasts.

The new company has taken on John McDougall, a whisky distilling expert, former distiller and author of Worts, Worms and Washbacks, as a consultant. It all adds up to another exciting phrase in the whisky distilling story.

"Hopefully the distillery will survive and do well," says Darren. "I'd love to reach the point where we're bringing distillers from other countries over to work on ideas and projects with us and we work in other places in return. It makes for very exciting times."

Indeed it does - watch this space to follow the distillery's progress.

Random Irrelevant Fact

The last London distillery to make malt spirit was in Stratford in East London - just where the Olympics athletic stadium is situated. There were several malt distilleries in England at one time - but most of it went to Scotland for blending.