Couple aiming to produce whisky galore

15 August 2017. Chris Jaume and his fiance Abbie Neilson. Picture: Tony Johnson.
15 August 2017. Chris Jaume and his fiance Abbie Neilson. Picture: Tony Johnson.
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England could be on the verge of a craft distilling revolution off the back of the explosion in popularity of craft beer, according to a start-up looking to establish a micro whisky distillery in Yorkshire.

Chris Jaume and his fiancé Abbie Neilson are both self-building a distillery in Sutton-on-the-Forest and hope to establish the site as a destination for whisky and gin lovers.

15 August 2017.  Abbie Neilson looks at the Cooper King family history. Picture: Tony Johnson.

15 August 2017. Abbie Neilson looks at the Cooper King family history. Picture: Tony Johnson.

The couple were inspired by their travels around Australia, where in Tasmania they discovered a burgeoning craft whisky distillery scene.

Mr Jaume, whose business is called Cooper King Distillery, told The Yorkshire Post that Britain was at the height of craft brewing.

“We’ve got micro breweries popping up everywhere and actually an awful lot in Yorkshire,” he said. “It just seems the natural course of things that craft distilling follows.

“Gin has exploded but also as far as whisky distilling goes three or four years ago there was just three or four distilleries making whisky. There’s now 16 of us.”

15 August 2017. The family crest. Picture: Tony Johnson.

15 August 2017. The family crest. Picture: Tony Johnson.

The reason for this demand for craft spirits is because “people are beginning to care about where their products come from”, says Mr Jaume.

Cooper King itself will be using quite a few botanicals and ingredients grown on site for its gins and when the firm does start to cask its whisky this winter it will use Yorkshire barley.

Mr Jaume said: “We’re going to use Yorkshire botanicals. We’ve got things like lavender, honey and apple blossom that we are actually growing here, which we’ll put into the gin.”

Mr Jaume, who trained as an architect, has strong historic family ties in the region dating back to the year 1030.

15 August 2017. Chris Jaume and his fiance Abbie Neilson. Picture: Tony Johnson.

15 August 2017. Chris Jaume and his fiance Abbie Neilson. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Cooper King will not start filling its first whisky casks until just before Christmas and Mr Jaume says the plan is to leave the spirit to mature for five years meaning that the first Cooper King whisky won’t be available until 2022. In the meantime the business will be selling gin and running events and tours at the distillery.

Mr Jaume said: “We’re going for a really full robust rich whisky. It might not be to everyone’s taste, lots of people will like a much more lighter, crisper style of whisky but ours is full-on, rich and robust.”

The start-up has just ordered its whisky still and that will be shipped from Tasmania in the next couple of weeks, says Mr Jaume. He said: “It’s essentially a giant kettle and that’s really key to the character of the spirit and how your whisky turns out.

“We tasted lots of spirit that was made by the same Tasmanian still maker as the one we’ve gone to and the character of the spirit off this still is absolutely fantastic.”

The couple’s travels Down Under aren’t the only thing playing a role in shaping Cooper King Distillery. Bill Lark, who Mr Jaume calls “the Godfather of Tasmanian whisky”, has been providing advice to the duo.

Mr Jaume and Ms Neilson, who is a scientist by background, hope to win the title of world’s best whisky with Cooper King.

“An English whisky has never won that before,” says Mr Jaume. “That for ourselves and the English whisky industry would be absolutely fantastic.”

A fresh look to industry

The reason for the whisky boom in Tasmania is because of the fresh outlook distillers have brought to the craft.

Chris Jaume said: “In Tasmania lots of them didn’t come from Scotland or from the industry so they can really look at making whisky with a fresh outlook.

“They’re much more experimental, using different types of casks, different barley types and pot stills.

“Through that innovation and experimentation, they’ve produced some absolutely fantastic whiskys that have knocked the world industry off kilter and it’s really changed the direction of things.”