East London Liquor Company began as a project in late 2012. Founder Alex Wolpert dedicated almost an entire year to finding the perfect location to house the distillery’s impressive set up, knowing that finding the right space would be paramount to its long-term growth.
Before founding The East London Liquor Company, Wolpert had been working across various projects in the drinks industry. In his early years, he worked in the restaurant at Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen, then moved on to acclaimed gastropub the Wenlock & Essez in Angel before taking over the Barworks and Diner Group drinks training and purchasing operation. Having spent seven years launching and managing operations for an extensive portion of the group’s venues, Wolpert’s attention became fixed on opening a distillery in London where he could pursue his passion for small batch spirits.
Incidentally, Barworks is one of a small number of stakeholders who are sharing expertise, resources and investment to help continue to make Alex’s vision a long-term reality.
In 2013 Wolpert found an old pub situated on the site of the old glue factory in Bow Wharf, near Victoria Park (look out for the dead horse reference on the bottle label) and enlisted an expert team to help transform it into a working distillery. For those of a historical disposition, it’s just a few miles from the site of the Lea Valley Distillery; one of the last places Whiskey was distilled in England (over 100 years ago) before the modern craft revival.
Converting the space, knocking down walls and transforming cellars into something fit to house ageing barrels of whisky, as well as functional enough to use as storage space for the bar was no mean feat – and this was only the start – the gin itself needed to be created!
To create the gin, Wolpert enlisted the aid of Jamie Baxter, a distilling consultant who’s renowned for his experience in opening distilleries and spirit development (other projects of Baxter’s include Chase Gin, City of London Distillery and Burleigh’s Gin).
While waiting for the arrival of the stills they had commissioned from manufacturers, Arnold Holstein, they decided to begin the development of the East London Liquor Company’s Gin offering. Baxter began the product development on small alembic stills at his company’s base in Leicester, focusing on three distinct directions for their gins.
Over a year after construction had all begun, in May 2014, East London Liquor Company finally took delivery of their custom-made copper stills and patiently waited for Customs & Excise to rubber stamp their application. By July, the first batch of ELLC Gin was being made onsite.
At the time of writing (Jan 2016), there are three gins in the ELLC core range. Their flagship gin is indented to have a more traditional profile, suitable to be used as a “house” gin for many bars with the two others being more adventurous in both flavour and botanical structure. All three gins are made on their 450lt still, using a one shot method now overseen by head distiller Tom Hills. They don’t macerate the botanicals prior to distilling, so once the still is loaded with ingredients and their 100% British wheat base, it’s gently heated up and the process is underway. Each batch makes around 500 – 600 bottles.