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Diageo invests in Oxford Artisan Distillery

English rye whisky producer Oxford Artisan Distillery has secured a minority investment through Diageo drinks accelerator Distill Ventures.

The distillery’s latest release has been finished in a single 30-year-old Tawny Port pipe

Founded in 2016, The Oxford Artisan Distillery produces whisky using biodiverse populations of ‘heritage’ grains grown through an approach to grain farming known as Restorative Continuous Grain Cropping (R-CGC).

The investment will support the next stage of the company’s growth by enabling the upgrade and expansion of its production sites, and the continued development of The Oxford Artisan Distillery brand and its consumer experiences.

Dave Smith, The Oxford Artisan Distillery CEO, said: “Over the last few years we have seen the industry take major steps towards addressing the climate crisis, but we have a responsibility to do more in tackling sustainable farming and grain production.

“With Diageo and Distill Ventures’ support, we believe we can use whisky to further a revolution in the field. We have been blown away by the team’s belief in our mission and could not be happier to be entering the next stage of our journey with them alongside.”

With ultra-premium whisky growing at 11% in the UK over the last five years (IWSR, 2017-2021: by volume), the brand’s vision is to grow a modern and scalable whisky brand centred on restorative agriculture, driven by its forward-thinking approach to sustainable farming.

Frank Lampen, founder and CEO of Distill Ventures, added: “Grain is becoming an important part of how whisky producers are continuing to innovate and develop new styles and flavours, and the heritage grains used by Oxford Artisan Distillery, together with their ground-breaking approach to farming in a sustainable way, make this one of the most exciting distilleries in the English whisky scene, and we’re delighted to be able to support them in their development.”

Latest release

The distillery’s first English rye whisky was released in April 2021, with a second batch revealed shortly after.

To date, The Oxford Artisan Distillery has unveiled a further nine batches of whisky, including its latest release, which is finished in a single 30-year-old Tawny Port pipe.

Master distiller Francisco Rosa said: “Through a long standing relationship with Portuguese coopers and winemakers, I was very lucky to be able to obtain a cask of this age and quality. Tawny pipes are the oldest casks being used in Port, so the wine has had decades to soak deep into the wood and leave its character; they are full of big oxidised sweet Port flavours.”

The single cask rye is the oldest whisky to be bottled by the distillery so far. It is described as fragrant and velvety with a combination of sweet and savoury notes, showing a deep interaction between the distillery’s sustainably-farmed heritage grains and the exceptional single Port cask.

Oxford Rye Whisky, The Tawny Pipe is bottled at 56% ABV and priced at RRP £95.00 (US$112.59). It is exclusively available through Master of Malt and Master of Malt Trade.

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