We believe that life is for living and should always be enjoyed; just like good food and drink, a well-made spirit can also be one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Like all good stories, ours started with discovering a loophole in an archaic law, that prevented craft distilling. That’s where Dr John Walters comes in, a former Oxford scholar, with a background in biochemistry and the pharmaceutical industry, who was looking for a new challenge.
After listening to a Radio 4 feature about French eaux de vie, Dr John was left inspired to try his hand at distilling and set about defiantly building a four litre still for personal use, which launched him onto a new epicurean adventure.
Using his ingenuity, he picked some grapes off the side of his house, which he set about fermenting and distilling to produce his first spirit, a brandy, which was surprisingly much tastier than a nice bottle he had recently bought.
Encouraged by the results, he tried his hand at more spirits, being continuously delighted with the delicious outcome, soon enough he had an epiphany. Imagine if more spirits could be enjoyed neat, tasting this superb without the burning sensation?
In John’s opinion everyone deserves the best, and so he set out to share his pioneering spirits with the world. So in 2011, English Spirit was officially born, when John opened Cambridgeshire’s first distillery at the Old Salt Depot in Dullingham. At the time there were only four small-batch distilleries within the UK, with the rules and regulations being a little more relaxed: the interview with the HMRC officer to obtain the necessary licences to commercially produce was held in the car park, sat on deckchairs!
Five years later, English Spirit Distillery expanded to a new site at Great Yeldham in Essex, adding twenty 200 litre stills to the operation, designed and custom built to John’s specifications.
By then the variety of spirits distilled included the UK’s first rum, as well as vodka, gin, single malt, and sambuca. To which John applied his simple quality standard that ‘a good spirit shouldn’t burn if you drink it neat.'
Since that first unaged brandy, John has accumulated more than 30,000 hours of distilling experience; ‘turning’ the stills an average of 10 times a day, 5 days a week, for over a decade. Within that time his efforts have been well received and our distillery has produced an extraordinary number of awards from prestigious international competitions, including the World’s Best Rum, Vodka, Gin, Sambuca and many more. Even so, many of the processes are still performed by hand; ensuring the quality of the product remains unrivalled.
We are proud of our journey over the past decade, and are humbled by the customers that have joined us along the way. We are looking forward to the next chapter of the English Spirit adventure, seeing where it will take us, and to how far we can go with what started in 2011 as just another experiment.