Founded in 2016, the Oxford Artisan Distillery produces whisky with heritage grain varieties that are grown using a sustainable agriculture technique called restorative continuous grain cropping, developed by expert farmer and archaeobotanist John Letts. It is the only distillery in the world that holds a licence to use Letts' grains – a proprietary mix of 30 to 100 varieties chosen for flavour rather than yield.
The Oxford Artisan Distillery was the first of the modern wave of English distillers to launch a rye whisky, with the first batch released in April 2021. To date, the company has released nine batches of its whisky, with bottlings including The Graduate rye whisky, The Tawny Pipe single cask rye , and a British corn whisky, which was the first instalment in an experimental series named Grain Stories. Meanwhile, its distillery tour is rated one of the top things to do in and around the city of Oxford by TripAdvsior.
The investment by Distill Ventures – which has supported distilleries including Stauning in Denmark, Starward in Australia, and Westward in the US – will enable the Oxford Artisan Distillery to expand and upgrade its production sites and develop its brand and visitor experience. As with all brands within the Distill Ventures portfolio, the founding Oxford Artisan Distillery team will retain majority ownership and control of the business.
Dave Smith, CEO of the Oxford Artisan Distillery, 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.”
Frank Lampen, founder and CEO of Distill Ventures, said: "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."