Published: 06:00, 28 December 2020
| Updated: 14:35, 06 January 2021
When it comes to whisky, one of the key ingredients is time and patience and for the Medway distillery which has just launched its first vintage that has been in abundance.
It's been a long journey for boss Stephen Russell, distiller Abhi Banik and the team at Chatham-based Copper Rivet with the release of their Masthouse whisky a decade-long toil of love and hard work.
But as the old adage goes – as adopted by a certain brewing giant based at St James Gate in Dublin – good things come to those who wait.
And for Stephen, the company's managing director, he believes it's better than good and is delighted with the result and to have it released to the public.
"It’s something you don’t want to release until it’s ready," he says.
"We have very high quality and flavour standards – but now is the time for this expression. So, in short, it’s been years in the making and the timing of the launch is dictated by the whisky itself – when it’s ready – as much as it is by us.
"It stands out as an exceptional, characterful spirit. It is not trying to ape Scotland.
"The English whisky scene is beginning to come good – it’s a young category in the spirits' world. But the whiskies being made are being made by true whisky lovers – and there are some awesome products.
"There’s no baggage. We get to create the category according to how we want to make it – and in our case, that means taking the very best brewing, distilling and whisky-making practices from around the world and blending them all together in Kent. We can also innovate."
The first batch of the 2017 vintage has already sold out with a second bottling run due to be released in February.
The popularity of the eagerly awaited product is already paying off the idea which was born more than 10 years ago with distilling beginning in 2015.
Copper Rivet, based at Chatham Dockside, is most famous for its Dockyard gin but has been making whisky from its first days.
In the early days of the pandemic, the company started producing hand sanitiser for the Met Police from its own alcohol and was visited by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to see how the business had adapted.
Stephen says the company has been working hard from the outset to establish a "leading multi-disciplinary farm to glass distillery".
The main ingredient, grain, is grown in Kent and Copper Rivet works with the Burden Brothers farms on Sheppey to choose the varieties to be used, the field and controlling the malting process to ensure purity of the ingredient.
Stephen says: "You have to define a brewing process, figure out your approach to distilling (in both cases, for us, very much taking it slow and gentle), then we also have to choose the casks.
"I think my brother, Matthew, is one of the few English distillery owners to have travelled to the US to inspect the casks we intended to use. And then years of waiting and testing.
"Kent has amazing grain farming and English whisky is a new category with five or six of us at present.
"But I think when people get to try Masthouse Whisky, it will all make sense – it’s a very approachable and yet complex whisky. It's very easy drinking."
In a hugely competitive market, Stephen believes the growing English whisky scene is something which in time can rival the giants in Scotland, USA, Japan and across the world.
"I think the English whisky scene is really exciting.
"It’s a very young category – there are only about six or so whisky distilleries with finished whiskies right now.
"So we are at the stage where the producers are all deep whisky lovers and therefore intensely focused on flavour and making a great product.
"We don’t have a recent tradition of whisky making in England, so there’s no baggage nor meaningless orthodoxies and rules that we have to follow and without fear of breaking any rules – which is why it’s as good as it is.
"Yes, we’re going up against the Scots but also the Japanese, Taiwanese, Americans, Canadians, Swedes, French, Tasmanians and any other world whisky.
"This is an English whisky and one which stands on its own very Kentish feet and will sit really nicely with characterful, elegant whiskies globally."
The whisky has been received "amazingly well", Stephen says and when it was launched the website crashed to upgrade the ordering software to deal with demand.
"We have been humbled by the response. Distiller Abhi is very happy. It has been a near four-year gestation period for him, like having a new baby."
The single estate whisky is described as a "natural, unfiltered whisky, pot-distilled and matured in ex-bourbon and virgin American white oak barrels".
To accompany the spirit, the company has created its Invicta Whisky Charter which Stephen says is a "declaration of the high standards we apply to making whisky so that our customers can trust and appreciate the spirit".
Each bottle will detail the grain variety and the name of the field where it was grown and the barrel numbers from which each bottle was taken from.
Tasting notes from Mr Banik say the whisky, priced £45, has hints of green apple and ginger biscuit, tropical fruits and floral mid-notes, chocolate orange on the palate finished with malt and white pepper. For more visit the Copper Rivet website.