Resurrecting London Distilling
In a couple of week’s time, the London Distillery Company will produce its first batch of new make spirit. That will be the first spirit to be made in London in over 100 years, so quite a historic moment!
The London Distillery Company was started in 2011 by Darren Rook and Nick Taylor and occupies the site of a former dairy on the edge of Ransomes Dock in Battersea. This is the first distillery in London in over 100 years and the first who have been granted a license to distil alcohol. We were fortunate to be able to visit the distillery back in October as part of London Cocktail Week.
Since April 2013 the distillery has been using their beautiful and shiny still named ‘Christine’ (after Darren’s Wife) to produce small batches of gin called Dodd’s. Dodd’s Gin is testament to the legacy left by Ralph Dodd, an engineer and entrepreneur (he built the Chelsea Bridge) who in 1840 founded the London Distillery Company. Ralph set about selling shares and bringing on board investors for his distillery, but sadly he never got the permissions from the region to make Gin. Apparently a few distillers in Kent made complaints about Ralph and his plans and he was forced to either close the company or go to prison, naturally he chose to close the company and sadly never a drop of gin was made.
Each run in Christine takes around 4-6 hours and uses approximately 140 litres of pure natural grain spirit. This is brought in from an organic spirit maker in Yorkshire at around 93% proof. Before distillation, flavour is added including juniper (which is required by law) and honey from the London Honey Company. This undergoes a cold maceration process for around 24 hours.
Flavour is something that Master Distiller Andrew MacLeod Smith has been playing around with having previously carried out some experiments when in the USA, he has brought back these recipes and we can expect a variety of expressions of Dodd’s Gin to be available in the future.
London’s first whisky
The main reason we paid the distillery a visit was to hear about their big plans to start producing London’s first whisky. In addition to Christine, they also commissioned a 650 litre pot still which they have affectionately called ‘Matilda’, named after Darren’s Grandmother (who was a bit of a whisky fan). Matilda will be used specifically for the production of new make spirit. The long swan neck of the still will hopefully produce a light whisky similar to that of a Speyside malt.
Small batch production
I’m not going to bore you with how Scotch whisky is made (as I’m sure you have heard that many times before!), however here are a couple of facts about the process being used to make this unique spirit.
Usually a Mash Tun is used in the production of Scotch, but the London Distillery Company have decided to use a Lauter Tun. The Lauter Tun is predominately used in the production of Japanese whisky and some beers. In order to keep the whisky as ‘London’ as possible local tap water will be used (though there is a spring at the back of the building which they are currently trying to get access to) and they will be using Maris Otter barley from near Bristol. So this truly will be a local whisky.
The final output of this process will be small batch whisky, as each fermentation tank takes 3 runs in Matilda and therefore resulting in only 1 hogshead of precious Whisky!
So, as the first spirit will soon be safely tucked away in a cask somewhere in London, I for one am looking forward to having a wee dram of this historic whisky in years to come.