During the last decade the rise of craft and artisan distilling in the United Kingdom has been nothing short of remarkable. The gin boom led the way, but despite that bubble bursting, other spirit styles have followed.
No new distillery in the UK has quite captured the public imagination like Bimber. Each new batch of its single malt whisky sells out in minutes, with many reappearing on whisky auction sites at vastly inflated prices.
The rarity and small batch or single cask nature of the brand’s releases has created interest, desirability and huge demand.
Bimber, which translates as ‘moonshine’ from Polish, is located in west London with all barley coming from a specific farm in Hampshire. The distillery produces just four barrels of spirit per week and follows traditional whisky-making practices.
The first whisky was released in 2019 and has recently been joined by a peated malt in late 2022.
Housed in an old boat shed on the shores of Lough Erne in Northern Ireland’s County Fermanagh is the award-winning Boatyard distillery.
When founded in 2013, it was Fermanagh’s first legal distillery since 1890. It also became the first distillery in Ireland to be B-Corp certified in early 2023. The goal was simple: to make a gin for the perfect martini.
Boatyard is a farm-to-bottle operation and uses only organic barley grown in the local area. The range centres around the Double Gin. This sees the spirit exposed to juniper berries twice during distillation: once directly in the still and again in a special vessel the spirit vapour passes through before condensation.
Expect a big juniper hit and zesty lemon twist.
When you think of brandy you maybe think of the famous French regions of Cognac, Armagnac or Calvados. But north-east London? The founders’ mission is to unlock the potential of brandy with none of the restrictions and laws imposed elsewhere. Part of this is to use unorthodox grape varieties and wood types to create complexity of flavour.
Burnt Faith is the UK’s first legitimate brandy house. It distils and blends its own brandies using traditional Charentais stills – the double distillation is long at 12 hours for the first run and 14 hours for the second.
Hot off the press is Burnt Faith Brandy Batch 001. Expect notes of orange peel, caramel, raisin, milk chocolate and cherry.
Nestled in the heart of Scotland’s Speyside region is the Glenrinnes distillery, home of Eight Lands. The area is home to over 50 Scotch single malt distilleries but Eight Lands bucks that trend. There is no whisky in sight. The name refers to the fact that you can see eight counties when stood at the top of nearby hill, Ben Rinnes.
The family-owned and organic brand has diverted its full attention to the production of gin and vodka. The award-winning Organic Gin is juniper heavy and features several botanicals, two of which are foraged from the family estate: wild sorrel and cowberry.
The Organic Vodka meanwhile is deliciously sweet, creamy and full of flavour. Superb.
Lochlea sits in the rolling Ayrshire countryside of the Scottish Lowlands and is one of the most talked about new whisky distilleries. Founded in 2017, all barley used in production is grown and harvested on the farm where the distillery is built. This farm was once owned and operated by none other than Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet.
Lochlea’s first single malt was released in early 2022 and the brand has already snaffled some significant awards from global spirit competitions. Its core product is Our Barley, which is joined by several small batch, single cask or cask strength editions.
Expect a typical Lowland whisky style with notes of barley sugar, malty biscuits, dried grass and vanilla.
A bit of a curve ball for our list as Storywood is born out of two countries – Mexico and Scotland. This premium barrel-aged tequila is a combination of the two cultures.
The tequila is distilled, matured and sourced in the Jalisco region of Mexico, as all tequila must legally be, before being transferred to Scotland and matured further in ex-Scotch whisky casks.
Most tequila is aged in ex-bourbon barrels so the founder of Storywood wanted to push the boundaries and expand the flavour profile. By using ex-sherry casks that have previously held Scotch whisky, he has achieved this.
Try the Speyside 14 Añejo, which has 14 months resting in such casks. It is earthy, nutty, oaky and fruity – perfect for sipping neat.
Edinburgh’s Talonmore is a family-run brand that produces an alternative alcohol-free spirit that replicates the look, feel and taste of a regular dark spirit.
Founded in 2020, the beverage is brewed rather than distilled and uses root- and plant-based ingredients, including fresh rosemary and bitter oranges, to create its complex set of flavours.
The founders wanted to create something different in the non-alcoholic category which they felt was filled with uninspiring, often sweet, and unhealthy options.
Talanmore is designed to be sipped neat, on the rocks or mixed in an alcohol-free cocktail. Why not try it in a highball? Pour some into a tall glass over ice, top with tonic water and garnish with citrus peel.
Two Drifters is an award-winning rum distillery near Exeter airport in Devon. The founders, a husband and wife team inspired by tasting rum on their honeymoon in St.Lucia, have two goals: to show that British-made rum can compete with the best rums in the world; and to show that it can be done without impacting the planet.
The distillery is operated on 100% renewable energy and all packaging is recyclable and carbon neutral. Everything is done in house – fermentation of molasses, distilling, ageing in casks, bottling, labelling, and shipping.
Its range features the Signature Rum, Pure White, Lightly Spiced and the stunning Overproof Spiced Pineapple – sip this one over ice for a real treat.