Three Mad Scientists Make Kent’s First Whisky
Two award winning local companies have made history by producing the first Kent Malt Whisky.
Anno Distillers of Marden and Westerham Brewery have formed a partnership to create malt whiskies which rival the very best from Scotland. They have just laid down their first batch of spirit which is now maturing in oak casks. However, it will be at least three years before it can be bottled as whisky. Those eager to own a bottle or two of history will be able to pre-order now for release from 2018.
Anno Distillers was formed in 2011 by two retired pharmaceutical scientists, Andy Reason and Norman Lewis. They marketed their first spirit, Anno Kent Dry Gin, in October 2013. Three additional products were released in October 2014. Since then they have received many awards, including the ‘Best Specialist Drink’ and ‘Best Food Product’ in Kent 2015. However, recognition for their spirits goes much further than the county as Anno Kent Dry Gin has just been awarded a Gold Medal at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the most prestigious international blind tasting drinks competition.
Westerham Brewery was founded by Robert Wicks in 2004 following early retirement from the City. As a biochemist he was well placed to follow his passion for brewing and has very successfully restored the proud history of beer making to the historic town of Westerham following closure of the Black Eagle Brewery in 1965. Robert has revived many of the much-loved flavours of the old brewery and also introduced outstanding new beers within their multi-award winning portfolio. Westerham Brewery was chosen as one of the 50 Food Stars in 2015 making it one of the UK’s top 50 food entrepreneurs. Their Scotney Bitter was also selected as the top drinks product in the 2014 National Trust Fine Farm Produce Awards.
The three entrepreneurs first met in 2012 when Andy and Norman were setting up Anno Distillers. Robert shared his experiences in setting up Westerham Brewery and the challenges of running a business. In those early discussions the idea of creating Kent’s first malt whisky was born and has now been delivered.
Robert used local water, which percolates through the Lower Greensand Ridge above Westerham, English barley malt and his own two strain yeast to ferment an 8.7% alcohol whisky wash which is like a strong un-hopped beer. The wash was then distilled by Andy and Norman in Patience, Anno’s beautiful copper pot still, to give a 35% ‘low wines’. The ‘low wines’ were then redistilled to give an 83% alcohol ‘new make spirit’ which was reduced to 63.5% cask strength spirit which is now maturing in oak bourbon casks for at least 3 years before it can be called whisky.
Robert Wicks of Westerham Brewery said: “We are very excited to be making history with these two brilliant scientists, Andy and Norman. My father was a whisky connoisseur. I just wish he had lived to sip the first dram of Kent Whisky. Creativity is at the heart of both of our businesses as well as bringing pleasure to our loyal customers. I hope this will be the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership.”
Andy Reason of Anno Distillers said: “Norman and I are both big whisky fans and we are really excited to have distilled the first Kent Malt Whisky. Making history with Robert and his team at Westerham Brewery has been great fun. Together we aim to make a range of whiskies which, just like our gin, will be amongst the best in the world.”
Robert Wicks – Westerham Brewery Co. Ltd, Grange Farm, Pootings Road, Crockham Hill TN8 6SA
Tel: 01732 864427
Andy Reason and Norman Lewis – Anno Distillers, Unit 4 Crest Industrial Estate, Pattenden Lane, Marden TN12 9QJ
Tel: 01622 833278