New London distillery ready to start

This will become the gin still room at the London Distillery

This will become the gin still room

A well-known figure in the whisky world, Rook’s worked for the likes of Scottish Malt Whisky Society and Master of Malt, but who is the man behind this imaginative project and what brought him to this place?

Rock-climbing enthusiast Rook returned to hometown Newcastle in 2006 to study. Combining evening social life with earning some cash, he started working part-time in a cocktail bar.

“I met a rep from Bowmore and we built up a spirits range. We did a whole pile of stuff and he invited me up to Bowmore. It was fantastic; that was my first proper introduction to whisky and the whisky community. I met Colin Dunn, now the Diageo ambassador, though he was working for Suntory in those days. I love Japanese whisky.”

He returned to Newcastle hungry for more. Things just seem to happen in Rook’s life and, like a magician, he transforms them into good things. “The manageress of the cocktail bar became pregnant and went back to Sicily so I ended up running it.”

After a lottery-funded renovation closed the bar, he was offered a new job by Canadian-born private chef Nicole, who was later to become his wife.

“Nicole and I worked really well together. There was an old-style Victorian bar upstairs. I said: ‘We should build a whisky bar up here’. And we did, but then one of the owners passed away and he’d been the glue that held it all together.”

After moving to Canada for a spell and marrying, they returned to England eight months later. Rook called the Scottish Malt Whisky Society looking for a job. As luck would have it, and Lady Luck does play a big part in Rook’s life, someone had just left. Rook landed on Tuesday, interviewed on Wednesday and started work in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Then an opportunity came up in the London branch. He stepped into the breach and after a two-week trial asked for the job permanently. And got it.

“It was 2009 and that was when this really started. I’d knocked around the idea that it would be cool to have your own distillery but never thought I’d build my own distillery, and never in central London.”

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