Brewdog has recently unveiled its project of entering the spirits industry with the Lone Wolf Distillery – and as I was keen to know more about their plans, I started browsing the web for some information…
Obviously landing on the official website to this statement:
“We want to stretch the boundaries of what a distillery can do – and what a distillery should do.
Starting with our own all-grain distilled vodka, through our bespoke gins and whiskies and a range of other spirits besides – we can’t wait to make this natural progression for BrewDog and make as big an impact on the spirits industry as we did on the beer industry.”
Yes, that sounds promising – but how can BrewDog achieve that? Not that I don’t believe in BrewDog’s excellent/provocative communication and marketing skills and thus capacity to make a name for its future spirits (I got faith in that!) – but there are so many questions that kept popping up in my head while going through their blog piece, starting with the obvious: WHAT, WHERE, HOW, WHEN?! Let’s find out!
Steven Kersley, Master Distiller for The Lone Wolf Distillery, kindly agreed to answer my 7 questions!
(Psst! This article is released under my partnership with The Craft Whisky Club, a new Scotland-based spirited start-up aiming at showcasing the best of what craft producers have to offer – delivering artisan spirits and delicacies straight to your doorstep!)
First of all, could you please tell us a bit more about yourself, where do you come from, career background – and how did you end up working for Brewdog’s new distillery project as a Master Distiller?
Hey Anne Sophie,
I’ve been in the spirits industry in different capacities now for the last 10 years.
It all kicked off in my home town of Oban where I was a tour guide at the Oban distillery in between university semesters.
That distillery set the hook and since then it’s been a bit of a journey through the industry. I studied brewing and distilling at university and then looked after a few distilleries across the north of Scotland; Linkwood, Teaninich and Benrinnes notably.
I came to BrewDog after a meeting with Martin Dickie at the end of 2014. We had a chat, a few drams and he set out his aspirations for the Lone Wolf distillery. After that chat I came on board and the last year has been about designing and building the Lone Wolf Distillery.
I’m curious, why “The Lone Wolf” Distillery? where will the distillery be based? Will it be open to the public for tours? If yes, what will make it special/unique in terms of visitor experience?
Lone Wolf because we’ll do things our way, we’ll make spirits that we love and on our terms. We’ll be experimental and unafraid of challenging the status quo, with innovation and quality in the roots of everything that we create. We’ll also be fully independent and non-reliant on purchasing neutral grain spirit.
Anne Sophie, when you’re next in Scotland stop by Ellon. Lone Wolf Distillery is located at BrewDog HQ and will definitely be open to the public in the near future. The tour will include a look at everything Lone Wolf and BrewDog. Visitors can check out the distillery but also the awesome brewery that will create all of our wash. Afterwards you can grab a drink at our Tap room located on site.
Let’s talk spirits! The Lone Wolf Distillery is said to produce vodka, gin and whisky – from grain to glass – could you tell us more about the raw ingredients used (where will you be sourcing the water? the grain? What types of grain are you planning to use? yeast? botanicals for the gin?), production capacity of this new distillery and maturation strategies (any special cask experiments?) – Will you be producing different types of vodkas/gins/whiskies?
That’s correct, the Lone Wolf Distillery will create all of the liquid that we bottle and we will do this from scratch.
This is so important, being custodians of the liquid’s creation at every level is a vital part of crafting its flavour.
Lone Wolf will release a gin and a vodka in the coming months and both will be produced from an all grain mash.
I’m currently developing grain bills which will suit each style of spirit: malt, rye, and wheat are the grains being explored currently.
Yeast will be an important focus of ours now and in the future especially with our whiskies.
We’ll be one of the few distillers not concentrating on yield when it comes to our yeast performance and we’ll solely put emphasis on flavour.
This fits in with our wider philosophy which is about stripping back the distillation process and identifying where we can impact on flavour and maximising/controlling this to create incredible spirits. In short: f*ck yield, flavour wins.
I guess that brings us onto maturation and wood. Staying true to our philosophy, our maturation and cask ageing programme will be extensive, innovative and inquisitive.
I’m very interested in how different environmental conditions effect a spirit’s character, specifically; pressure, temperature and humidity.
Accompanied with a varied and eclectic cask selection our warehouses will be hubs for experimentation, research and awesome whisky.
When can we expect the first spirits to flow from the distillery and hit the shelves? Will the spirits be available only in the UK first or are you planning exportations to other countries?
Right now the distillery is in the final few stages of commissioning and over the next two months we’ll be able to steadily increase our production.
Our plan is to have both our vodka and gin on shelves across the uk in the next few months, with select international markets later in the year. (Hopefully you’ll find it in France)
According to you, what will make the Lone Wolf Distillery (and its spirits) stand out from the crowd?
Wolves don’t lose any sleep over the opinions of sheep.
So my focus isn’t really on the crowd. We’ll craft our spirits from scratch and put the best possible liquid into the bottle, if that separates us from a crowd, cool.
Our drive to experiment and innovate particularly in the Scotch whisky category will separate us from the rest.
Scotch is not immune to challenge, if distillers think their whisky can stand still and forever rest on the laurels of it’s fortuitous location on Caledonian soil then they are either naive or stupid.
Can the The Lone Wolf Distillery be described as a craft distillery? There’s been many fierce debates over the craft question lately, how you personally define the “craft” spirits industry and how would explain craft spirits have become so popular since a few years in Europe?
Another good question and one that will hang around for a while.
‘Craft’ in the spirits category has been bastardised to mean small batch and small batch only.
It was borrowed from beer but craft in the brewing sense and distilling sense are not the same, the two are mutually exclusive and shouldn’t be mixed up.
Lone Wolf’s focus is on making spirits our way which means crafting 100% of our spirits from scratch.
This was a deliberate choice as I believe capturing the terroir of your distillery in the bottle makes it unique and impossible to replicate.
If others want to call themselves ‘craft’, ‘handcrafted’, ‘artisanal’ or whatever and redistill GNS so be it, it’s just not how Lone Wolf will do it.
How do you see the future for The Lone Wolf Distillery? How would you picture the distillery in 5/10 years time?
With a warehouse full of incredible whisky, with a few more stills and with a team of humbled and ever improving distillers.
This article is released under my partnership with The Craft Whisky Club, a new Scotland-based spirited start-up aiming at showcasing the best of what craft producers have to offer – delivering artisan spirits and delicacies straight to your doorstep!