It’s no secret that craft distilling has taken off in the last decade. Driven by the resurgent popularity of craft cocktail recipes, enterprising creative types from all sorts of diverse backgrounds have found themselves gravitating towards the business of small-batch booze. And while it’s taken a while to catch up to some other parts of the world, the UK is fast becoming a hub for some of the most exciting craft spirits in the world.
Read more Food & Drink features.
Naturally, many have gravitated to the native spirits of Great Britain and Ireland: gin and whiskey. But nearly all have developed new takes on those classic recipes, utilising botanicals, barrels, and other ingredients that are anything but ordinary. Others have branched out into categories less common in the Isles, like rums, liqueurs, and even vermouth.
We’ve come up with a list of 15 craft distilleries from England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland that deserve your attention. Some have already made a name for themselves at home and abroad, but most are just getting started—and as far as we’re concerned, that’s the best time to get to know them.
East London Liquor Company (London, England)
East London Liquor Company is one of the only UK distilleries we’ve found that produces a Demerara rum, and touts itself as the first vodka, gin and whisky distillery in the East End in more than a century. Though they’re still fairly new, their vodka and gins (both barrel-aged and regular) are impressive, and we’re excited to see the first bottles of their London Rye Whisky come on the market in 2018.
Eden Mill (St. Andrews, Scotland)
Eden Mill’s products are an exercise not just in great spirits, but phenomenal packaging design as well. For now, they’re primarily focused on beer and their line of gins, including Golf Gin, made with botanicals found around Scotland’s legendary courses; Hop Gin, made with the same hops they use in their beer; and Love Gin, a pale pink spirit with notes of hibiscus and spiced berries. They also have a line of whiskies underway, but they won’t be ready until sometime in 2017.
The Lakes Distillery (Newcastle, England)
The Lakes Distillery, situated in the north end of Newcastle, is one of the most awarded distilleries on this list. All three of their product lines—including The Lakes Vodka, The Lakes Gin, and The ONE, a blended British Isles whisky—have earned medals at competitions as highly regarded as the International Wine and Spirits Competition and the International Spirits Challenge. The proof that they earned that silverware is in the bottle.
Masons Gin (Yorkshire, England)
Yorkshire based Masons Gin is a relatively straightforward distillery, crafting a vodka and a line of three gins. Their gins include a Dry Gin, a Lavender Gin, and a “Tea Edition” Gin, all of which are fairly self-explanatory—but each is made with hyperlocal Yorkshire ingredients, including juniper berries grown on their very own bushes. They’re a bit secretive about the rest of the botanicals in their recipe, but that only adds to the allure.
Chase Distillery (Herefordshire, England)
Chase Distillery in Herefordshire has an impressively large line of vodkas and gins, sold under the Chase and Williams brands, respectively. In addition to a standard vodka and extra-dry gin, they offer several unique varieties like smoked vodka, and sloe and mulberry gin.
They also have some elegant liqueurs, all made in a “field to bottle” process from their own harvest of potatoes and apples. While their packaging can err on the frilly side (a number of their bottles are literally adorned with Union Jack bow ties), Chase’s spirits have earned the right to some flair.
Sibling Distillery (Cheltanham, England)
Sibling Distillery, located in Cheltenham, is the only single-product distiller that made this list. Their gin is made in a contemporary style, using botanicals like lemon, orange, vanilla, and even blueberry in addition to the traditional juniper. The result is a soft, clean spirit that puts a new twist on any number of classic cocktails, and it’s wrapped up in a gorgeous bottle you can show off on your home bar.
Dà Mhìle Distillery (Ceredigion, Wales)
Dà Mhìle is one of the few craft distilleries in Wales, and their creative recipes have marked a resurgence of locally-made spirits in the region. They offer a standard gin, a seaweed-infused gin (yes, you read that right), an oak-aged citrus liqueur, and an organic single-grain whisky—the first of its kind, according to the distillers.
Winchester Distillery (Hampshire, England)
Winchester Distillery’s Twisted Nose brand is one of the more adventurous we’ve come across in the UK, ranging from Wasabi Vodka and Oak-Aged Gin to an Extra-Dry Vermouth. The Hampshire-based distillers utilise local botanicals, such as watercress, strawberries, and peppermint, depending on the variety. The best part is, you can mix and match their products to make damn near any Martini imaginable, and probably some that haven’t been invented yet!
City of London Distillery (London, England)
City of London Distillery, situated on the banks of the Thames, has earned a reputation around the world as one of the foremost craft distilleries in England. They make five gins—three standards, an Old Tom, and a sloe gin—most of which have earned at least one major international award, including a gold medal at the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition for their Square Mile London Dry.
Shortcross Distillery (Downpatrick, Northern Ireland)
Shortcross Distillery draws from their local forests and gardens to craft a quintessentially Irish gin, using wild clover, green apple, and elderflowers alongside more traditional botanicals like juniper, coriander, and orange. Shortcross Gin has won numerous international awards, helping to put Northern Ireland back on the map of world distilling.
Jensen's Gin (London, England)
Jensen’s Gin is located in Bermondsey, London (just southeast of Tower Bridge), and prides itself on a traditional approach to making gin. Founder Christian Jensen based his dry and Old Tom gins on vintage recipes from long-lost London distilleries, prompting the tagline, “Gin as it was. Gin as it should be.” It’s hard to argue when the spirits are this compelling.
Dark Matter Distillers (Banchory, Scotland)
Dark Matter Distillers make exactly one product, but it’s not what you might expect from a Scottish distillery: spiced rum. Their marketing describes Dark Matter Spiced Rum as “the taste equivalent of warping into a liquid black hole but without every atom in your body being crushed to an infinitely small point.” While we can’t exactly attest to that, it was awarded a gold medal at the 2016 Rum Masters, one of the most prestigious rum competitions in the world.
Sipsmith Distillery (London, England)
Sipsmith is probably the most widely known distillery on this list, having won numerous accolades for their London Dry and V.J.O.P. (“very junipery over proof,” a cheeky play on V.S.O.P. brandies) gins. They also offer a straight vodka, a London Cup—in the style of classic gin cups like Pimm’s—a sloe gin, and a damson-infused vodka, all of which are excellent.
Durham Distillery (Durham, England)
Durham Distillery is best known for its vodka and a gin that utilises creative botanicals like celery seed, elderflower, and pink peppercorns. They also have a series of seasonal products, most recently a Summer Fruit Cup infused with raspberries, blackberries, and cherries. Situated on the outskirts of Durham City, this is a fabulous northeastern distillery.
Spencerfield Spirit Company (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Spencerfield Spirit Company, located in Edinburgh, is probably best known for their line of Sheep Dip malt whiskies. The blended malt category is fairly small (aside from a few well known brands like Monkey Shoulder), which makes this a particularly interesting brand. Spencerfield is also responsible for Edinburgh Gin, several gin liqueurs, Pig’s Nose Scotch, and The Feathery blended malt, all of which are more than worth a try.
Bevvy helps people discover, track, and share great drinks. With a living catalog of cocktails and spirits, the ability to track every drink you’ve ever tried, and interviews with some of the brightest minds in the booze industry, Bevvy inspires people to taste, buy, and enjoy the best cocktails and spirits in the world.