Alex Wolpert – East London Liquor Company
Having enjoyed a career in the drinks trade that saw him working both behind and managing bars, when it comes to the rise of small batch spirits Alex Wolpert has seen it from every angle. We caught up with the charismatic mastermind behind the East London Liquor Company to find out what day to day life is like with a burgeoning portfolio of gins under one’s command.
Gin Foundry: So, Alex – What does a typical day look like for you?
Alex Wolpert: Coffee, kids to school, at the distillery for 9am and then all hell breaks loose.
What got you into distilling and the idea of founding ELLC in the first place?
There wasn’t, and still isn’t anyone on our scale making gin at our price point in the UK – the idea was to make an excellent gin, and not be greedy about the margins – make a Londoners gin which everyone can afford. The whisky aspect is a lot of fun, and we can’t wait to start releasing our London Rye in 2018.
That’s true, your London Dry Gin is remarkably well priced and almost no-one has achieved that. What was the biggest obstacle for you in the early days?
Customs and red tape!
Did you have a “breakthrough” moment when it came to making your gin?
We had several, but the main one was when we scaled the concept recipes into our stills during our first six months of production and Tom, our head distiller adjusted everything to suit our equipment. That’s when we realised just how good the liquid was.
Must have been a fun six months too, scaling up is tough but also very exciting. What advice would you give craft distillers looking to start their career and begin a project?
Be patient…don’t sell the first batch, batch 17 is always going to be better!
You’ve got a range of three gins now – in today’s crowded market, what do you feel sets them apart from other distilleries?
They all fulfil three very different functions in a bartenders toolkit. The idea was always to be able to furnish bartenders with a variety of gins, from our juniper forward Gin & Tonic gin, to the contrasting premium gins: Batch No. 1 being our aromatic dry martini gin, to Batch No. 2 aimed firmly at Negronis!
And what a Negroni it makes! What’s your favourite part of the job?
The human aspect of interacting with all sorts of people on a daily basis, and standing behind something which I believe in.
Have you got a favourite out of the three to drink yourself?
Batch no. 2 in a Negroni
Last October – you did a really interesting collaboration with Death’s Door creating Collaboration Gin. How did the project come around?
Brian (the CEO of Death’s Door) and I met in Manchester, and got talking over a few months and the idea of collaborating came about. I’ve always been a massive fan of his gin, ballsy and simple so it was a real privilege to work with him last year.
Have you got anything else like this (inter distillery collaboration) in discussion for this year?
Yes we’ve a few in the pipeline, one with Gotlands Brewery and Distillery in Sweden and hopefully another in the States too. We are also collaborating with Adam at Sonoma County Distillery by using his barrels for a barrel aged gin collaboration to be released shortly.
Talking of which, you have a barrel aged gin programme at the distillery too. They are more transient releases as opposed to a consistent flavour made permanently available. What can you tell us about both the wider concept behind the programme as a whole, and the next bottling due to be launched?
The idea is to release a new expression every 6 to 8 weeks, as much for our learning and development as to share this really interesting category with bartenders and customers who are keen to try a slightly different take on gin. Its been hugely popular with our first release selling out immediately.
Looking back – What’s been some of your favourite highlights along your journey?
Distilling with Brian from Death’s Door was pretty fantastic, as was firing up the stills for the first time!
And forecasting ahead – what can gin enthusiasts look forward to from the distillery over the next 18 months?
Our London rye whisky and some great barrel aged gin expressions!
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