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East London Liquor Company

Alex Wolpert East London Liquor Company
01/06/2014
Written by Gin Foundry

East London Liquor Company are now merely days away from distilling, having begun installing their Arnold Holstein stills on Friday 30th May. Situated on the site of the old glue factory in Bow Wharf, near Victoria Park, East London Liquor Company’s founder Alex Wolpert and Distiller Jamie Baxter are now waiting for the final sign off from Customs and Excise before being able to switch on their stills.

The project began over 18 months ago and it took Alex almost a year to find the perfect location to house his impressive set up. Having found an old pub (formerly a glue factory before that – watch out for the dead horse reference on the bottle label!), the team set about converting it, knocking down walls and transforming cellars into something fit to house ageing barrels of whisky and to use as storage space for the bar.

The bar itself is now up and running and is well worth the visit, even if the stills aren’t firing yet. Serving cocktails alongside craft beers, grilled sandwiches and more, it’s already got charm and character which will no doubt develop further in time. Once the stills are running, they’ll also be offering intimate tours of the micro distillery and spirit tastings so stay tuned for details!

So what kind of spirits will they be making? The distillery will produce handcrafted spirits from two copper stills, 450-650 litres at a time. There will be two premium gins, a cheaper London Dry Gin alternative, an artisanal vodka made on the smaller still, and a whisky created on a second still which will then be aged on site for a minimum of three years.

While the final spirit hasn’t been decided on – or even made yet – at an exclusive early tasting Alex talked through some of their ideas for their gins. Given it’s all subject to change as they will fine tune the recipe on the 450 litre German-made still, all we will reveal from what we tasted at this stage is that a strong grapefruit hit and soft underlying tannins from Darjeeling tea have combined to make a well rounded, softer gin. This gin will no doubt improve as they move to bigger stills too. To date, Jamie Baxter has been doing the product development on small alembic stills at his company’s base in Leicester and while the recipe should be replicable on a larger scale, each still will impart its own character and so, further testing will be needed before the final botanical line up can be announced.

Their premium gin aside, Alex is adamant on proving that it is possible to make a craft “pouring” gin at an affordable RRP of under £18. This seems quite a big task to take on given competition presented by other producers working in the lower price brackets, but listening to the plans, it does seem possible. They will have to battle the considerable overheads smaller producers have to contend with given their batch sizes are several thousand litres smaller than established brands such as Beefeater, Tanqueray, Gordon’s etc…  and no doubt it will be a huge undertaking for it to pay dividends. That said – we hope they crack it as the category needs fresh blood in this section and if those new entries have true Craft pedigree, it will have a huge effect to further boost the continued resurgence of craft distilleries in the UK.

With paper work flying, stills being tested and a few teething problems to sort before the gin is ready to be released – expect to see East London Liquor Company on shelves mid July, and a post on Gin Foundry all about it shortly after… Exciting times are ahead gin fans!