When The London Distillery Company starts producing whisky this autumn, it will be part-powered by solar panels and use organically produced grains. There will be mobile spirit tanks handcrafted in Germany. And on the mezzanine level, there will be a fold-out wall for lab set up and office space “like a little Japanese house”.
And, while all of these elements make TLDC distinct, it is of course the fact that a new whisky distillery will open its doors in London for the first time in more than 100 years that really helps the company stand out.
Darren Rook – aka: the Whisky Guy – is a well-known figure in the world of whisky. Having worked at the manager of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in London, appeared on the Village of the Drammed online vodcast, worked with many whisky companies and run a very popular blog, Darren is in a rather laudable position to take up the reins of a new venture. At the age of 30, he’s doing it before many people even know what they want to do with their lives.
“If I didn’t do it, someone else would have. And why not have someone really passionate with the right people on board?” he told me in an exclusive interview.
But it’s not only the constituent parts of the distillery – which will be located in part of a quirky artist and foodie co-op near Battersea – that are unique. Even the funding method was done in a non-traditional way.
In order to raise the capital, Darren turned to new investment structure Crowdcube. The basic premise behind the company is to allow global investors the opportunity to read about and decide on new companies to invest in. By getting lots of little investments, the Crowdcube funding method works in a similar way to Living Social or Groupon (although, with more credibility) – if lots of people invest, the overall individual cost decreases and the company reaches its fundraising goals without having to find one major investor to show the pennies.
“It took me six weeks to raise £100,000,” said Darren. “We were one of the first companies that used it as [at that point] only 180 companies had been funded through it globally.”
The success of it, added Darren, comes from the fact potential investors can speak to the company in question through a forum, which keeps everything in the open and ensures clarity from the start.
After the money was raised, it was time to get a team together. This is still a work in progress, but Darren could tell me that John McDougall, who is one of the only master distillers to have worked in all the regions of Scottish whisky distilling, will be on-board to oversee production and quality control, while newcomer Andrew MacLeod Smith will be taking on research, innovation and education.
There are big plans afoot for the 1,400 square foot distillery, including the launch of a whisky school (London’s first) which will include three-day and one-week courses in the art of distillation, and a cask club, which will allow people to sit down to develop their own bespoke whisky with Andrew. Darren said they also plan to play around with making barrel aged cocktails and, in the summers, will look to produce gins because the whisky will only be made in the winter when the lower air pressure can create a better product.
Importantly, everything they produce, they’ll find a way to use.
“We’re small and whatever we make is not a mistake – it will be an experiment. If it comes out terrible, we’ll present it to people,” he added.
And, at the end of the day, one of most important things to Darren is to revive London’s rich whisky distilling heritage.
“A lot of people don’t realise there was a history here other than for gin. Whisky has a heritage and that was lost because London’s distilleries were bought by the Scots.
“But people want local spirits now.”
To learn about more information on the London Distillery Company as it happens, follow @Londonwhisky on Twitter.