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The Oxford Artisan Distillery

On 27 July 2017 The Oxford Artisan Distillery opened its doors, and in doing so marked the very first time that legal distillation had taken place in the ancient city's long and illustrious history. It was established by former music mogul Tom Nicolson with a commitment to a genuine grain-to-glass ethos and an ambition to craft handmade spirits such as gin, absinthe, vodka and rye whisky in a unique way that would reflect Oxford's artistic and imaginative personality.
In order to do so, Nicolson enlisted the help of the award-winning master distiller Cory Mason, who arrived with a Masters degree in distillation, a cult following and the track record of having helped create expressions with brands such as Silent Pool and Dark Matter. Mason was joined at The Oxford Artisan Distillery by George Bennett, an organic farmer at Sandy Lane Farm in Thame, who now grows the unique type of rye the distillery uses to create its neutral spirit (which the distillery then prepares on site). Bennet introduced Nicolson to Canadian archaeobotanist John Letts, who spent over 20 years researching the science behind the ancient heritage grains that were commonplace in Britain in the Middle Ages before the rise of industrial agriculture and the monocultures grown today. Now these genetically diverse populations of rye, wheat and barley are sustainably grown exclusively for The Oxford Artisan Distillery.
Cultivating an individual neutral grain spirit is only part of the process, however. With the help of South Devon Railway Engineering, The Oxford Artisan Distillery designed and built its own stills. The historical, industrial-style influenced coppersmiths, lead by Paul Pridham, worked using a design inspired by a bootleg rum distillery Mason’s brother observed in Haiti, which makes its spirit in old steam engines. Two stills: Nautilus (2,200 litre) and Nemo (500 litre), were produced and named after Jules Verne’s fictional submarine and its captain, which were then accompanied by two five-metre tall 40-plate copper distillation columns.
For the foreseeable future an 18th century Grade II-listed threshing barn will house The Oxford Artisan Distillery’s casks and grain, although plans have been mooted for the construction of a new barn. Current releases from The Oxford Artisan Distillery available here include its very own Oxford Dry Gin and Oxford Rye Vodka
We’ve previously covered The Oxford Artisan Distillery in this wonderful blog which has plenty of info as well as interviews and pictures and everything!

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