Based inside the historic Pump House No. 5 at Chatham Maritime, the Copper Rivet Distillery is one of a kind. Launched in October 2016, this artisan distiller is one of only a few in Britain which owns the process of brewing and distilling spirits from grain to glass on site.
The idea for the distillery was a long-held family dream. In 2005 the Russell family, already owners of a successful Medway business, drew together all their research and experience and started to have serious discussions about establishing a distillery. Eleven years later it became a reality.
A chance visit to Upnor Castle proved the key. Looking across the River Medway to the opposite bank they had their first glimpse of the distinctive red bricked Grade II listed building, that, would in less than three years be well on its way to wide acclaim as an exceptional range of totally distinctive and unique luxury spirits.
The perfect location to reach new markets
“There is a lot of amazing ‘distilling’ going on all over the world and we felt there was space to create spirit products in a way that very few other distilleries are doing,” recalls Stephen Russell, one of the founders of Copper Rivet.
“And for us that means doing it from scratch, using locally grown wheat, barley and rye. We finally opened our doors in October 2016, so we’re a very young business, but we’ve gained a lot of traction, very quickly, particularly in our home market here in Kent.”
“Kent’s an amazing place to start a business, particularly in the food and drink space. It’s a big market in its own right, so it’s a great place to seed your business,” Stephen added.
“It’s also a county, which is right on the doorstep of London, one of the biggest cities and metropolitan areas anywhere and we have great access to that market here. We have great transport access, which makes it really easy for us to attract buyers, who are based in London to come and see us.
“Medway is also a special place, and especially Chatham’s Historic Dockyard, a site of absolutely extraordinary history and artisanship and craftmanship. It’s one of the things – among many – which has inspired a lot of things that we’re doing here.
“For bar teams – who are hugely selective and have access to all the spirits from all over the world – we’re able to offer them somewhere unique – a distillery and a visitor experience. They can see what we’re doing, and it only takes 30 minutes to reach us from London. That’s been hugely important for us.
“Local authorities and local organisations like Locate In Kent and Visit Kent have been hugely supportive. We’ve also got fantastic universities, an important source of talent.”
Copper Rivet diversifying to build on success
Copper Rivet started out making Dockyard Gin and Vela Vodka. Their product range now includes Son of A Gun, their own unique grain blend, with an eagerly awaited new whisky brand, Masthouse whisky set for launch in 2020.
“You can now find us all over Kent. We’re starting to penetrate London in quite a significant way. We’re in Selfridges and Harrods. We’re now in Tokyo, in Osaka, in Singapore. We’ll soon be in China. We’re really excited about how things have gone, but even more so about the future.
“We’re incredibly proud to fly the flag for Kent as a food and drink destination,” Stephen added, “it’s an amazing time to be part of the sector.”