Lonely Planet Writer

Whisky is being produced in London for the first time in over a century

Is whisky set to replace gin as the drink du jour in London? Two pioneering distilleries, The London Distillery Company and East London Liquor Company, have each released the first whiskies to be produced in the capital for over a century.

Matilda, the copper pot used for distilling at The London Distillery Company. Image by The London Distillery Company

Travellers to London will know that gin is still very much having ‘a moment’. The UK gin industry is in the midst of a renaissance, with new distilleries popping up across the country. And the increasing versatility of flavours on the market allows gin to enjoy a variety of dance partners other than tonic, making it more accessible than ever. Still, one year, a drink is ‘in’; the next, it’s time for another contender to steal its thunder. And it seems that whisky is ready to take centre stage.

The last whisky producer in London was Lea Valley Distillery in Stratford, which closed down in 1908. When it shut up shop, whisky wasn’t produced in the capital until The London Distillery Company (TLDC) opened in 2011, followed by East London Liquor Company (ELLC) in 2014. Both companies focused on producing gin, while behind the scenes they quietly worked on distilling their own whisky. The reason why? Distilling and maturing whisky is a lengthy process that takes a number of years, whereas gin can be sold straight after the distilling process.

East London Liquor Company launched its first whisky in November. Image by East London Liquor Company

ELLC, based in Victoria Park, released its London Rye Whisky in November. Unrestricted by the rules that govern Scotch, the company said it seized the opportunity to experiment with casks and char levels.

“The great thing about producing our whisky in London is that we have a clean slate to be creative,” said its whisky distiller, Andy Mooney. “We’ve put a lot of attention and care into our first release of London Rye – from the char levels of the barrels, to the exact ABV of the final product; perfect to drink neat the minute you crack open the bottle.”

London is producing its first whisky in over 100 years. Image by Getty

The inaugural London Rye release has a mash bill of 42% rye and 58% extra pale malted barley, is a combination of pot and column distilled, and has been carefully matured for just over two years. The company says that it offers aromas of “toffee, coffee, tobacco, dark chocolate, leather, fresh ginger, sarsaparilla and fruit candies.”

Meanwhile, TLDC, based in the Bermondsey Beer Mile, is struggling to keep up with the demand for its Rye Whisky LV-1767 Edition (54.3% ABV), which is currently sold out on its website. Only 251 bottles were released when the whisky was launched in October. Aged in new English oak barrels, the four-year-old, twice distilled whiskey is made from 100% rye and boasts an attractive dark, oaky, burnt toffee liquid.

Both whiskies are available from specialist retailers. See The London Distillery Company and East London Liquor Company websites for more details.