Distillers revive London whisky after 100-year drought

Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:39pm EST
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By Rollo Ross

LONDON (Reuters) - A Scotsman and an Englishman have banded together to create a single-malt whisky they say will be the first distilled in London since 19th-century laws wiped out the craft in Britain's capital.

On Thursday, Darren Rock, the CEO and co-founder of The London Distillery Company, and Andrew MacLeod Smith, his Scottish head distiller, poured the first of their clear spirit into oak barrels to age and pick up a tawny color before being bottled and sold.

They say it must be aged at least three years to be whisky under British law, and they may choose not to sell it until 2017 or later - with a name yet to be chosen.

"London obviously has a very rich brewing heritage, but in terms of distilleries everything subsided when licensing laws became a bit more rigid down here," MacLeod Smith told Reuters during a tour of the modern distillery in an old dairy building on the south bank of the river Thames.

"The guys up north in Scotland were a little bit more fortunate, because they were stuck out in the hills so the taxman couldn't find them, and when they finally regulated the industry again and started handing out licenses, all these distillers came out of the woodwork and said, 'Yeah, we'll take one.' So they already had the industry set up."

The distillery has been using local ingredients that were employed in whisky production in London more than a century ago. Barley is sourced from Warminster Maltings, Wiltshire, and yeast comes from Surebrew in Surrey.

"We're looking at heritage, so there'll be a lot more flavor profile there, basically," Rook said.

"The world 'whisky' comes from 'Eau de Vie' - the water of life - so it was that idea of the running of water. So it will come off clear and then when you put it in a cask it sits and the wood acts like a sponge.   Continued...