There is something inherently romantic about a distillery: the effervescent glow of bubbling copper stills, the exacting standards of the master distiller, and the holding out — with all the impatience of a young lover — for the perfect moment for maturation. Last year, 361 distilleries were recorded to be operating in the UK, and without a doubt the most romantic among them are the micro and boutique operations — freckling the British countryside, and drawing their inspiration from the disparate pockets of this green and pleasant land.
However, it has been well documented that too much choice can do bad things to a man, and a growing market can make it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff in the world of artisan spirits. With this in mind, we’ve done the hard work for you and curated a list of the best boutique distilleries in Britain — it’s a hard job, but someone’s gotta do it.
Aber Falls Distillery, Abergwyngregyn, Wales
Situated in the heart of North Wales, Aber Falls Distillery is one of only four distilleries in the country, and the first in its region for over 100 years. Located just a stone’s throw from Rhaeadr Fawr, the famous Aber Falls waterfall, the whisky here is distilled, bottled and matured within the distillery, using specially crafted Welsh ingredients from the surrounding area.
Having operated as a slate works in the 19th century, a margarine factory during the world wars, and more recently a drinks wholesaler depot — this distillery has been lovingly restored and refurbished, proving the ideal place to create spirits and demonstrate the passion and skill of Welsh craftsmanship. The distillery offers a premium portfolio of gins and liqueurs, using sustainably sourced ingredients and Welsh-inspired botanicals.
Why we love them:
Aber Falls has been embraced by the local community, and is working to establish strong links and partnerships with other Welsh businesses, with the goal of improving sustainability and driving the local economy and tourism trade.
Aber Falls Distillery
Cotswold Distillery, Stourton, England
Somewhat remarkably, The Cotswolds – despite its bountiful land and booming tourist industry, had no distilleries in all of its 787 square miles until 2014 when Cotswolds Distillery was founded. Set in five acres of rolling Warwickshire countryside, the company set out only to use the best possible kit, traditional methods and highest quality raw ingredients. This year, it recorded a 350% increase in export sales since 2015 — so it’s fair to say that it spotted a lucrative gap in the market.
Today, the distillery produces Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky, made from 100% locally-grown barley, and Cotswolds Dry Gin, which includes nine carefully-considered botanicals including lavender from nearby Snowshill. The gin is unique, since it transforms into a pearlescent cloud when ice or tonic is added. A number of small batches and liquors are also available.
This year, the distillery have added to their string, winning Best English Single Malt 2019 by the World Whisky Awards for their Founder’s choice Single Whisky, and Best of International Gin 2019 by American Distilling Institute for its Dry Gin.
Why we love them:
The Cotswold Distillery is keen to give guests an immersive experience when they journey into the Warwickshire countryside — offering everything from daily tours and tastings, to gin and whisky blending masterclasses.
Isle of Harris Distillery, Outer Hebrides
The Isle of Harris Distillery, or ‘Social Distillery’ as it is often referred to, opened in October 2015, in the small harbour village of Tarbert. The distillery was the vision of Anderson ‘Burr’ Bakewell, who wanted to create a place which would provide employment for generations to come and support the fragile local economy. A team of over 30 full time staff now help create the beautiful spirits and welcome visitors from all over the world, and the distillery provides secure employment in Harris.
First and foremost a whisky distillery, Harris Distillery is now busy creating a beautiful spirit for an Isle of Harris dram. This historic single malt whisky will be called ‘The Hearach’, and the first legal whisky to be made in the Isle of Harris, maturing in ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso casks at the shore-side warehouse in the nearby village of Ardhasaig.
The award-winning Isle of Harris Gin is the distillery’s inaugural spirit, and it is the inclusion of Sugar kelp that marks out this spirit. Sustainably harvested by a local diver from around the seas of the Outer Hebrides, the Sugar kelp creates subtle coastal notes.
Why we love them:
Every drop of Isle of Harris Gin is distilled in Tarbert in a small copper gin still, known affectionately as ‘The Dottach’, after a similarly fiery and feisty local woman.
Isle of Harris Distillery
Lakes Distillery, The Lake District
Taking inspiration from The Lake District UNESCO World Heritage Site, the state-of-the-art Lakes Distillery has been built within a 160-year-old farmstead on the banks of the River Derwent. Established in 2011, it nestles on the north shore of Bassenthwaite Lake where each year, more than 100,000 visitors get a glimpse behind the scenes and enjoy tours and tastings of award-winning whisky, gin and vodka.
Newly released on 7th September, The Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1 is The Lakes’ first widely available single malt whisky and is described as ‘an artistic exploration of maturation and blending; of flavour evolution and defining a sherry-led house style’.
With individually numbered bottles at cask strength, 60.6% ABV, it is a full-bodied expression, matured in the finest, meticulously sourced PX and red wine casks, comprising American, Spanish and French oak. Non-chill filtered and bottled at the natural colour, the nose is rich and vibrant with vanilla, chocolate and wood spice, layers of dry fruits, ginger and orange on the palate and a long, warming finish.
Why we love it:
Unusually, the Lakes Distillery whisky maker is actively involved at every stage of the whisky-making process, to ensure every flavour possibility is achieved.
Isle of Raasay Distillery, Inner Hebrides
The first legal distillery on the Inner Hebridean Isle of Raasay began distilling in September 2017 and its inaugural Isle of Raasay Single Malt, the first in Scotch whisky history, can now be ordered in time for Christmas 2020. Situated on the Isle of Raasay, an island off an island in north-west Scotland, the state-of-the-art distillery, visitor centre and luxury accommodation boast breath-taking views across to the Isle of Skye’s Cuillin mountain range.
Visits to Raasay Distillery include a tasting of the independent bottling, Raasay While We Wait 2018, a peaty yet fruity whisky that represents the flavour profile of the future Raasay Single Malt. Whisky aficionados can also own a part of Raasay history by purchasing a 30l or 190l cask which are stored at the island warehouse.
“We have set out to create the finest Hebridean single malt and a unique whisky destination that fully encapsulates the Raasay experience for our visitors, with arguably the best view from any distillery in Scotland,” says co-founder Alasdair Day. “It is these memories that we want our guests to recollect with every sip of their Raasay While We Wait drams when they return home from the island.”
Why we love them:
For an unforgettable experience, stay overnight in Borodale House. This Victorian-era villa incorporated within the distillery has been beautifully restored into a luxury whisky hotel, executive lounge and visitor centre.
Isle of Raasay Distillery
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