Updated: May 17, 2022
23rd May 2021
This months' CopperedWrench Q&A is with a new independent bottler called Waxhouse Whisky. London-based, the three guys behind the company have to-date (at the time of this interview), released 4 bottles, and have a few plans afoot. One of their bottles was even CopperedWrench's Whisky of the Month for May 2021.
We got under the bonnet of Waxhouse to find out who they are and what makes them rev...
Who are you?
I’m Jamie. I got into whisky about 10 years ago which eventually led to me setting up the St. Albans Whisky Club in 2016, and then Whisky Adventures on Facebook a year later. I think I must like being the centre of attention or something…
I'm Dan. I have been a bit of a whisky fan for about 15 years with brief affairs with a number of other spirits and when I responded to a call from Jamie to meet up and join St Albans Whisky Clubb I think I found my spiritual home. I am also a self-confessed Sherry pervert so the crossover into whisky aged in Sherry casks was a natural progression.
I’m Paul. I’ve been into whisky for over 20 years but only become properly into it for the last 7-8 years. My interest and knowledge accelerated hugely since Jamie began the St Albans Whisky Club.
So, creating an independent bottling company and getting it off the ground is really easy, right?!
Jamie - So it would seem if you look at the number of indie bottlers popping up recently. And I do think it has become easier with some of the cask brokers being more open to selling to individuals. There are a lot of hoops to jump through, and not just the obvious ones around licensing. It really helps to make friends in the industry and make sure you have a good reputation. For me, it’s absolutely key that the brand reflects the passion of the founders.
What have been the highs and lows since you started?
Paul - Finding the right cask - the one we all agree we must bottle. That’s always a special moment. We pretty much look at each other’s faces and know instantly. Seeing Release 001 go live on sale was also a massive high for us, a culmination of nearly 2 years of work behind the scenes. The lows? Every sample of casks we tried with high hopes, based on all the data and paperwork but then are massively disappointed when we try them and they’re just not good enough for us. Getting a label wrong once and having to reprint the entire batch of 350 labels, during Covid lockdown was also a bit of a low point. Set us back 3 months but each day is a learning day!
Has the journey been a big learning experience with a few unexpected events along the way?
Jamie - Getting to work directly with The Cotswolds Distillery has probably been the biggest surprise to date. It’s not often that distilleries will work directly with indies, and as Cotswolds have seen so few indie releases I was delighted that they chose us to do a collaboration with.
How difficult was it to get your foot in the door with the first distillery & bottling?
Paul - It’s not easy. You need to be prepared for disappointment, for doors to be firmly shut and you need to preserve with the patience of a saint. Particularly with your first release – it’s make or break time and you don’t want to get it even the least bit wrong.
Is the competition within the indie bottler arena a tough battlefield to be in, and difficult to get noticed?
Jamie - I think it depends on what you are trying to achieve. I perhaps rather naively assumed that because I had the makings of a reputation on the whisky social media scene it would help carry us along – and to some extent, I think it has. There seem to be new indie labels popping up every month and, like anything, some will go on to carve out a place at the table and others will be a flash in the pan. The ones that are seemingly the most successful are the ones that have strong and social media savvy people behind them. That’s the differentiator.
What do you think sets Waxhouse Whisky apart from the rest?
Jamie - We come from a slightly different place than a lot of the other indies. Firstly, none of us come from a whisky/alcohol industry background (unlike a lot of the better indies). We are quite literally born of the enthusiast community. I think that gives us a unique angle – maybe as the plucky underdog. We make sure every whisky we bottle is something we would be proud to share with friends.
I’ve also always been keen to keep us away from industry tropes and stereotypes. I think that’s reflected in our impactful, modern branding.
Did creating your Facebook group “Whisky Adventures” spark the idea for creating your own company?
Jamie - It was more the St. Albans Whisky Club that prompted us to start. Dan and Paul had put their hands up to help me run the club after doing it by myself for a couple of years. I think most clubs talk about ‘a club bottle’ at some point. We just took it that step further….
Whisky Adventures is a great community to have – but I’ve always been mindful that it is independent and not a vehicle for our brand. I set it up really to shine the torch into all the more exciting, niche, and interesting areas of the industry, and obviously if members want to buy what we bottle I’m delighted.
When do you think you’ll start appearing at whisky shows?
Dan - For the number of bottles for each release, the price of appearing at shows is a little too prohibitive at the moment. We never say never though.
What bottle are you most proud of to-date?
Jamie - Tough one. Edition 001 marked the culmination of a LOT of hard work and got us on to the scene. But if pressed, I would say our latest release as it really is a coming of age release for us in that such a terrific distillery in the industry has directly trusted us with their spirit.
Paul - That’s a mean question. It’s like asking which child of yours is your favourite… But I’m up for that. 002 for me, so far (and I’m going to caveat that with 004 not yet released as I write this). 002 was a much more expensive whisky and we sold out within 5 weeks. Says we were doing something right and the reviews from people were fabulous.
Dan - Most proud of, probably Release 001. It was the culmination of something that i wasn't actually sure we would ever achieve. Unlike Paul and Jamie, I think my favourite release was actually 003. I have heard people in the industry refer to a 'well-balanced whisky' and when I tasted this one I thought 'ok, now I know what people were talking about'. But we don't always agree, no drama, different strokes for different folks.
What would be your ultimate bottling to be able to do?
Jamie - I reckon we will all have different opinions here – I personally would love to create a signature blend that we could do batches of, like Compass Box. I’d also love to do a series of Glenallachie Octave releases with different finishes.
Paul - I’d love to work with Billy Walker on a release… he just seems to be a whisky magician.
Dan - I am really looking forward to the day that we have enough aging stock that we are able to think about blending something or when we bottle something that we have finished ourselves in a different cask. When we can take the fun up a notch level and one that has a bit more of a personal stamp on it. For now, it is about sourcing some cracking casks. We are on it........
Any exciting news you can share about the company?
Jamie - Well, we are starting to look at spirits other than whisky – but only if they still meet the criteria of being something we would be proud to share with our friends.
What other IB’S do you think are exciting and doing things differently?
Jamie - I really admire what Iain at North Star does with his blends (Vega, Spica, Sirius, etc). All of the ones I have tried have been excellent. Little Brown Dog has burst on to the scene in great fashion – and I love their bottles!
What do you guys do outside of Waxhouse Whisky?
Jamie - When I’m not being Dad to my 2 kids (8 and 5) or tied to the day job (The less I talk about my day job the better…) you’ll probably find me tinkering around with my guitars or synths. I also like to punish myself with long runs at the weekend – although I love them as they are the only real ‘me’ time I get and are when I do my best thinking…
Paul - I work as a Finance Director. Outside of work, I am a husband, father to 3 kids (12 year-old boy and 9 year-old twin girls), football coach to 13 boys, whisky club organiser and member. Then I have all my hobbies…..
Dan - I spent 25 years in the gambling industry so had a bit of a heads up on licensing issues/objectives although I will leave it to Jamie and Paul to vouch for whether that was a help or a hindrance to us. After a 2-year work break and some travelling/rethinking, I have more recently been working in the Housing Needs department for my Local Authority. I don't like to punish myself with long runs at the weekend.......
Thank you guys!
Check out the CopperedWrench's reviews of the Waxhouse Whisky releases here