Richard is one of the busiest, most passionate whisky people I know. He is the founder of the Croydon Whisky Festival and English Whisky Festival and runs tastings locally in South London. So in a timely post (me? plan something? Don’t know what you mean…), please take five mins to meet Richard.
Rich, tell my amazing readers how you are involved in the whisky industry.
I run ‘Exploring English Whisky’ and the ‘English Whisky Festival’ (as well as local tastings
and the ‘Croydon Whisky Festival’ in South London). I’ve been involved in whisky for around
5 years now, but only in the past 18 months has it become my main occupation.
Back in 20I7 I started working at a content studio where Diageo were my client. We’d do
shoots for Johnnie Walker and their single malts range, so I’d get to try all these whiskies
and learn the stories behind them. I became intrigued with the depth and breadth of a
product I’d never really given much thought to before then.
Then, when I moved to Sydenham in 2018 I started running whisky tastings at Ignition
Brewery as a hobby*. It was really an excuse for me to buy and try whiskies I wanted and
get other people to pay for them (!).
These took off and then during lockdown we ‘pivoted’ to online tastings and I decided to do
an English Whisky tasting for St. George’s day. We had 5 distilleries join the Zoom and 50
people sampling 8 whiskies and spirits. It was such a success and there was so much love for English Whisky that we started a membership organisation and put on two online English Whisky festivals – before finally bringing 24 English distilleries and brands together under one roof last year for the first in-person event in Birmingham.
I also run the Croydon Whisky Festival (big promo!! it’s 1st April at Stanley Arts, South Norwood) , which features craft brands and independent bottlers from around the world and is in just its second year, so please come and support us if you can.
*Ignition is a not-for-profit employing people with learning disabilities to brew, bottle & sell great beer!
(comment from Claire: I can attest to how good this festival was, so do see the link at the bottom and grab a ticket. I do have an involvement in the show myself as a brand ambassador).
So, what is your first choice of dram, and why you have chosen it?
I remember a bottle of Bowmore 12, possibly an 18th or 21st birthday present from my
parents, but it didn’t impact hugely on me at the time. I also chose a bottle of Ben Riach on a work trip to Scotland that my colleague offered to buy for me (I was too polite and went for one of the cheaper bottles in the shop!). But I think the first whisky that made me really sit up and appreciate what was in my glass was Johnnie Walker Green Label.
There was half a bottle left after a photo shoot and me and some colleagues drank it
together at the end of the day. Not only was it delicious, but learning about the Johnnie
Walker story and the unique aspect of this being blended malts really got me excited about
the category. I suddenly wanted to learn more about and understand what made this such
an enjoyable dram.
And your second whisky, and why you have chosen it:
It has to be an English whisky really, doesn’t it!
My first English Whisky was Cotswolds Odyssey Barley, back in 2019. I hosted a Six Nations
tasting night with a bottle representing each country and Cotswolds bagged the win for
England with almost blanket votes from the assembled attendees (Puni Alba came a close
second from Italy, interestingly).
Cotswolds distillery has done so much to promote and elevate the English Whisky category
and this bottle will undoubtedly be remembered as the whisky that (I believe) turned the tide for English Whisky and brought it into the mainstream. Dan Szor and the team’s single-
minded determination to create a whisky available in supermarkets the length and breadth of the country deserves the gratitude of many English whisky drinkers today who might
otherwise not have discovered the category.
And finally, your last dram, what is it?
Being relatively new to the industry there are often whiskies that surprise me, add to my
understanding of the category, and challenge my preconceptions of what whisky can be. A
lot of these have been blends (probably because you can get a decent age blended whisky
for less than a comparative single malt) and I’d like to shout out one that really sticks in my mind for a couple of reasons; Yula 21yo from Douglas Laing. I was given a sample of the 20 year old Yula as my secret santa present at work and when I left the role my colleagues hunted far & wide, finally locating a bottle of the 21 (travelling to Mayfair on my last day to get the last bottle).
This blend was divine. It was competitively priced (though now no longer available – I’ve
looked!) and as someone who isn’t a “peat-head” I fell in love with the nuanced peatiness
this dram delivered, alongside toffee & BBQ notes that still make me salivate to this day.
If someone reading this were to take one thing away about whisky, I hope it’s that blends are fascinating, skillful and delicious and to never, EVER overlook them if you’re new to whisky and want to explore great liquids without the crazy price tag!
FINALLY… Thanks Claire for the chance to share my story, I love what you’re doing with
What 3 Whiskies and I’m honoured to be in such esteemed company as your other
interviewees, many whom I know personally, but all of whom I respect professionally and
would happily share a dram with anytime. Sláinte!
(yes I left that comment in, as well, it’s nice to hear.)
You can follow Rich and Exploring Whisky / Exploring English Whisky at the following links.
Social media handles:
FB/IG: @exploringwhisky / @exploringenglishwhisky
Twitter: @exploringwhisky / @explorengwhisky
Company website: http://www.exploringenglishwhisky.co.uk /
Croydon Whisky Festival tickets can be found here: https://croydonwhiskyfestival.com/