For us, the word ‘liquor’ is a little bit naughty.
It conjures up images of a prohibition-era USA, with bootleggers and renegade distillers going underground to produce exciting, illegal and extremely small-batch concoctions to excite the palate.
Of course, this is a highly-romanticised image of a difficult period in US history, but somehow, East London Liquor Company has realised our liquor-soaked nostalgic dreams and successfully managed to bring such an image to life. In a forgotten part of London... in a glue factory...
Bringing spirits production back to London’s East End after more than a century, ELLC is part-distillery, part-cocktail bar, having taken over a well-known East London historical site in Bow Wharf.
Whilst the tall ceilings and wooden stable doors of the glue factory remain, the distillery has had quite the facelift. Exposed, dusty brickwork and an industrial miscellany of steel, wood and distressed metals frame a well-thought out bar space, where the light bounces off the distillery’s gleaming copper stills, visible through the glass of the back-bar. It’s very East London (in a very good way) and you quite forget you’re essentially in a car park in Bow.
And whilst the bar is undoubtedly cool, the cocktails are super creative (“Sec’sual Healing”, anyone?) and the team full of enthusiasm, passion and knowledge, it is the distillery’s produce, the ‘liquor’ that has us most excited.
The distillery produces handcrafted vodka and gin (and whiskey too – but more on that later) from two high-tech, specially made copper stills. The impressive stills give each of East London Liquor Company’s spirits a truly smooth feel and with two Gold medals from The Spirits Business in 2015, they really know what they’re doing.
The London Dry Gin is quickly becoming the House gin of choice in many London bars – with pre-orders before the distillery was even up and running proving that locally-made spirits were of real interest. The London Dry is intended as a classic offering. With an affordable price tag, this trusty gin uses the finest 100% British wheat, infused with a range of carefully sourced botanicals; from fresh lemon and cubeb berries to angelica root and Macedonian juniper berries.
The Small Batch Vodka is seductively smooth - the spirit passes from the still though a “six bubble-plate rectification column and a top mounted dephlegmator” (get your tongue around that!) to ensure any impurities are removed. Sensational for sipping, it’s also an excellent base in vodka cocktails.
But the talents of ELLC don’t stop there. Because when the distillery opened in 2014, founder Alex Wolpert had his eyes on a more long-term prize… Whisky.
Forward-thinking Alex ensured in 2015, that the clear grain spirit known in the trade as 'white dog' was given top treatment before being transferred into barrels and rested to age in the distillery’s cellars. Could it be that, in 2018, English whisky will slowly make its way into the consciousness of London drinkers, as East London Liquor Company takes on the Scots at their own game?
Only time will tell but its hugely exciting given that English whisky hasn’t been distilled in the capital for over 100 years. ELLC’s ‘English’ aged whisky will be a little more technical than cultural. The casking will happen in a number of different, smaller barrels – previously used to house everything from fine wine to sherry – to help age the whisky with the absence of the necessary climate conditions used for rye or Scotch. This will also impart a unique finish, with the resulting whiskies highly individualistic and varied from batch to batch.
And yet, it doesn’t stop there.
East London Liquor Company also blend and bottle an aromatic Rum on site, importing from Demerara Distillers in Guyana. And whilst we impatiently await their own whisky release, ELLC are importing Sonoma County’s Rye Whiskey - an incredible woody release that as a result of Sonoma County’s daily climate fluctuations, features warming notes of vanilla, allspice, and black pepper, followed by a nutty, dry finish. Delish.
So, it’s decision time:
A gold-award winning dry gin; smooth and sensual sipping vodka; toasty Guyanan/London rum or a visit to the East London Liquor Company distillery itself, where you can pull up a stool and watch the magic happen…