IoD Essex learn of the success of a second career entrepreneur

An informative and enjoyable evening was had by IoD Essex members and guests thanks to the generous hospitality of Dr John Walkers and his team at English Spirit Distillery, located in Great Yeldham, Essex.

A former biochemist, Dr John founded English Spirit seven years ago and in this time they have expanded from one still in a large shed to over twenty copper stills working around the clock. During this time, they have invented and concocted new and delighting spirits to suit all tastes with Dr John utilising his vast experience as a biochemist, along with his passion for cooking and knack for matching flavours.They were one of the first UK distilleries to produce their own vodka; the first to make their own rum from scratch, (and still the only distillery in England making it the old fashioned way, with molasses) and the only UK distillery to make sambuca.

Master Distiller and Founder Dr. John Walters graduated from Oxford with a doctorate in biochemistry. Having owned and sold several businesses, latterly a pharmaceutical company, the former Oxford biochemist was looking for a new challenge. He decided to start his own distillery after listening to a radio talk show that stated eau de vie production in England was impossible. Taking to the internet, he set about researching and trying to prove the theory wrong, which ended up becoming the catalyst for his distillery’s actualisation. “We had some grapes growing on the side of the house so we kicked off with a brandy. We made a grape wine, fermented it and distilled it twice and tried it. At that stage we were drinking a cognac we’d bought, and ours was better. So we made other things, an elderberry eau de vie and some vodka and they were better than you can find [commercially]. I looked at the numbers and thought ‘this will work, there’s plenty of scope here for making superb spirits, but offering them at a price people can afford’.”

The bulk of the business, 85%, comes from making bespoke alcohols for commercial clients. “I really do see ourselves as the only Michelin-star-equivalent contract producer for anyone in the world who wants that service. And locality is very important to people now. They like to know where things come from and who’s doing it, if they can.”

Following an interesting talk and Q&A, we were delighted be given a tour of the distillery, producing the world’s widest variety of scratch-distilled spirits and liqueurs under one roof and and concluded the evening by tasting the small batch spirits and liqueurs produced.

Our thanks go to English Spirit for the hospitality and for such an interesting and informative evening,

Join IoD Essex at our next event on 28th February where our panel of experts will look at alternative ways to fill skill shortages in your company. Please contact John Granneman for further information on [email protected] or 07527 769 532.

Better directors for a better world

The IoD supports directors and business leaders across the UK and beyond to learn, network and build successful, responsible businesses.
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