Wednesday 23 January 2019

East London distillery banks on growing appetite for English whisky

East London Liquor Company hopes to release its first batch of London Rye this year.

Alex Wolpert is the founder of East London Liquor Company (PA)
Alex Wolpert is the founder of East London Liquor Company (PA)

By Kalyeena Makortoff, Press Association Chief City Correspondent

An East London distillery is banking on global appetite for local English whisky as it embarks on a £750,000 crowdfunding campaign meant to help fuel its international expansion.

East London Liquor Company, which already distils its own gin and vodka in a former glue factory in Bow Wharf, is expecting to release its first batch of London Rye by year-end, making it the first whisky to be produced in the capital’s East End in more than 100 years.

Founder Alex Wolpert said half of the prospective funding through its Crowdcube campaign had been earmarked for ramping up its burgeoning whisky production, with hopes of boosting the profile of English liquor among aficionados.

He said “inquisitiveness and a willingness to try something new” would drive initial interest, but Mr Wolpert said he had no illusions about displacing well-known Scotch varieties.

“Even if we ramp up to what we hope to do in a couple of months, we will still be a fractional percentage of production compared to the Scotch distilleries so we’re not taking the Scotch distilleries on in any sense.

“We’re looking to just carve our own little groove in the whisky market and stick to what we believe is an important base on our production methods.”

Mr Wolpert, a former bartender, said his company seemed to have “really galvanised some local support” and said craft breweries had undoubtedly paved the way for home-grown distilleries.

We’ve got carte blanche to reset the scales, to reset the barometer of what good whisky is in London. East London Liquor Company founder Alex Wolpert

“We’ve got carte blanche to reset the scales, to reset the barometer of what good whisky is in London,” he said, noting that East London Liquor Company is one of only three distilleries in London preparing to launch whisky into the market.

“There’s some great whisky distilleries in England,” he said, but explained that urban sites tended to be rare, given that property tended to be at a premium and more space was needed to leave barrels of liquor to mature.

“We may well have to start storing some of our whisky off site because we’re running out of space.”

Since its launch in 2014, East London Liquor Company has logged £4.25 million in sales and sold 327,764 bottles of spirits in the UK alone, though targets are now set at selling 592,000 bottles per year internationally by 2022, and pushing annual revenues of £9.8 million.

Those figures will be propelled in part by international expansion to the US and further afield.

“We seem to have really galvanised some local support, but also this micro-concept has really kind of expanded to global – to 20 markets now, across the world where we export to.”

California is already on the books for later this year, marking its first foray into the US, while Mr Wolpert is eyeing China as its next major market .

The brand is also gaining domestic traction, having clinched an agreement with Waitrose that will see its gin sold on the shelves of five of its London stores from the end of May.

“I don’t want to squander this opportunity.

“If we can fundraise successfully then we’re in a position to scale up from next month, basically,” Mr Wolpert said.

Press Association

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