A LONDON distillery has announced plans to break into the lucrative global whisky market by producing the first malt in the capital for more than a century.
The London Distillery Company (TLDC), set up by a former employee of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, aims to produce a “light and floral” dram using traditional barley strains that it hopes will give the malt a flavour unique to the city.
The whisky aficionado behind the venture said he has been on the receiving end of jokes about using “Peckham spring water” – a reference to an Only Fools and Horses episode where Del Boy bottled and sold tap water.
However, he told The Scotsman there is a place in the market for a London malt, although he would be “crazy” to try and directly compete with the industry in Scotland.
The initiative is the brainchild of 30-year-old Darren Rook, a former manager of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in London, who hopes to commence production on the whisky before Christmas after more than two years of planning.
It will be the first time the city has boasted a working malt whisky distillery since the demise of Lea Valley in Stratford. At its late 19th century peak, the site employed around 40 people and produced nearly 155,000 gallons of malt a year, but its fortunes began to suffer, and it eventually closed in 1910.
England has a proud history of whisky production. Until the end of the 19th century, the art of producing spirit from malted barley thrived in other locations such as Liverpool and Bristol.
“The English whisky industry isn’t anywhere near as well documented as the industry in Scotland, but the history is fascinating,” Mr Rook said. “We’re looking at the history of whisky production in London, and we want a product that’s light and floral.
“It would be crazy to even try and compete with Scotland, but we hope our product will have its own flavour and profile. We want to create something that’s distinctively English and captures the personality and spirit of London.
“We have access to natural spring water, and we’ll use a commercial source depending on how much we can pull from the spring. It’s hard water, which lends itself to the likes of Highland Park and Glenmorangie.”
Based in Battersea, the distillery will be partly powered by solar panels and will use organically produced grains.
On hand will be John McDougall – a whisky expert who has worked at the likes of Balvenie, Laphroaig, Tormore, and Springbank – to ensure the finished product meets his exacting demands.
Production in the 1,300 sq ft distillery is scheduled to begin around November, and Mr Rook intends to release a limited edition of 100ml bottles to gauge the product, before issuing around 200 to 300 bottles within a few years. The final product could take three years or more to mature, but he said the company will make a “judgment call” when it is ready. The distillery will also be producing an organic London dry gin.
Already, TLDC has received provisional wholesale orders from independent retailers, and it hopes to make use of new technological outlets such as smartphones in order to attract custom.