* Old London distilleries wiped out by rigid laws
* New whisky as yet has no name, must be aged 3 years
* Distiller says site will create "distinct spirit"
By Rollo Ross
LONDON, Dec 12 A Scotsman and an Englishman have
banded together to create a single-malt whisky they say will be
the first distilled in London since 19th-century laws wiped out
the craft in Britain's capital.
On Thursday, Darren Rock, the CEO and co-founder of The
London Distillery Company, and Andrew MacLeod Smith, his
Scottish head distiller, poured the first of their clear spirit
into oak barrels to age and pick up a tawny colour before being
bottled and sold.
They say it must be aged at least three years to be whisky
under British law, and they my choose not to sell it until 2017
or later - with a name yet to be chosen.
"London obviously has a very rich brewing heritage, but in
terms of distilleries everything subsided when licensing laws
became a bit more rigid down here," MacLeod Smith told Reuters
during a tour of the modern distillery in an old dairy building
on the south bank of the river Thames.
"The guys up north in Scotland were a little bit more
fortunate, because they were stuck out in the hills so the
taxman couldn't find them, and when they finally regulated the
industry again and started handing out licences, all these
distillers came out of the woodwork and said, 'Yeah, we'll take
one.' So they already had the industry set up."
The distillery has been using local ingredients that were
employed in whisky production in London more than a century
ago. Barley is sourced from Warminster Maltings, Wiltshire, and
yeast comes from Surebrew in Surrey.
"We're looking at heritage, so there'll be a lot more
flavour profile there, basically," Rook said.
"The world 'whisky' comes from 'Eau de Vie' - the water of
life - so it was that idea of the running of water. So it will
come off clear and then when you put it in a cask it sits and
the wood acts like a sponge.
"So the spirit absorbs in, it sucks out some of the colour
and sucks out some of the flavour so it's the contraction,
expansion and contraction of the wood drawing flavour and colour
in and out of the spirit, so in time the spirit will change
But it's not just the ingredients and distilling process
which dictate the flavour, distiller MacLeod Smith said.
"The composition of the spirit is sort of determined by the
environment that you create it in and this in itself used to be
an old dairy, a Victorian dairy, so who knows what weird and
wonderful bacteria and yeast are living in these walls?
"So that will give us a distinct spirit - something that
can't be replicated anywhere else."
And when can tipplers expect to taste a whisky distilled and
aged in London but which as yet has no name?
"Probably it's around 2017 - 2016 it will be officially
spirit, but we want to give it enough time that we feel happy
with it," Rook said. "It might be that it goes 12 years or 10,
but it will definitely be whisky in 2016.
"I can't tell you the name, if that makes sense - you know,
branding and all that - but we've got three years so you'll just
have to wait to be surprised."
The distillery says it produces different-sized casks of
whisky but on its website says overall production "is a fraction
of what even the smallest distilleries in Scotland produce".
(Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Larry King)