A day in the life at Greensand Ridge Distillery, Shipbourne
PUBLISHED: 11:52 08 May 2017 | UPDATED: 11:52 08 May 2017
Will Edge on leaving a safe desk job for a full-time career in brewing and distilling. Pictures by: Manu Palomeque
Tell us about you
I grew up in Sevenoaks, attending Solefields and Sevenoaks Schools. I spent 13 years living and working in London; the desk job (marketing, finance) was only ever meant to be 10 years, but it was only when I hit 10 years that I thought “I’ve been talking about this as a 10-year thing so I’d better make good on those promises!” The fact that this coincided with the birth of my second child took some delicate negotiations!
All the while I’d been brewing and cidermaking as a hobbyist. First it was those awful lager kits you could buy in Boots, but that eventually led to quite sophisticated brewing.
I served my craft cider at our wedding in 2009 and over the years have had various infusions and macerations secreted about my dwellings. I decided on distillation in part due to a passion for artisan drinks production and a desire to build something, and also due to the shifting spirits’ market environment as consumers are increasingly willing to buy spirits based on provenance, as they have done with wine for decades.
In 2013 I began the Masters in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt and once that was underway, the move from passionate hobbyist to full-time career accelerated.
And Greensand Ridge?
Greensand Ridge aims to make world-class spirits which truly reflect the lands around in a sustainable way. That means both minimising our environmental footprint and working with farmers to use surplus produce which would otherwise be wasted.
The distillery is in the middle of our fruit-growing region and we are surrounded by wonderful flavours – botanicals and fermentables – which will influence our releases. So you won’t see an absinthe come out of my distillery, but you will see an amazing Kentish Apple Brandy as well as other unique spirits made from local produce.
Sustainability is absolutely central to how I run the business. It’s not something that you will necessarily see front and centre on our products because primarily I want people to buy our spirits because they taste amazing and look beautiful.
We use 100 per cent renewable power, our organic waste feeds local livestock, we produce no unrecyclable waste and we don’t use any chemicals as part of our day-to-day operation.
For now, our Gin is a primary release. Many of the aromas around us are bound in oils or resins, so can’t be fermented, so Gin is a great way to harness those flavours. When I tell people my Gin is like a walk through the Wealden woods and fields I sometimes get an odd look! But then they sample it and the recognition is pretty instant.
How do you market?
Customers can buy our spirits on our website, but most of our business comes from the trade. Having only launched in August 2016, we supply about 80 pubs and bottle shops in Kent and Sussex. Our distribution partner, HT White, is essential to help us service clients effectively across the south east. We will be at many of the Wealden food festivals over the summer season.
A typical working day?
A typical day distilling will begin the night before with the preparation of the still. If we’re making Gin I need to shell the cobnuts, taste and weigh out the other botanicals and charge the still with spirit so I can fire it up at 6am; a Gin distillation will take 10 hours. If I’m distilling fruit Brandy then I will be able to distill two or three batches in a 12-hour day. The heated cooling water is collected to clean the still and preheat the next distillery charge, but the excess is collected in a barrel in the courtyard for a well-deserved hot tub at the end of the day. We’ll let the spirit down to bottling strength the next day or fill into barrels, depending on the type of spirit
Greensand in five years?
I’d love to be a well-known brand within the Wealden region and London, known for the quality of our spirits and the innovative approach we take to tackle food waste. I’ve got plans for a range of five different spirits, but I will also be flexible to surplus produce as and when it becomes available to make limited-edition releases. I also host small Gin-making events and it’s become apparent that the intimate family feel that a visit here gives is very different to similar experiences at the London distilleries and I’ll want to keep that feel as we grow.
Marks out of 10?
My commute is a short walk, the office is deep in the English countryside overlooking fields and woods and I work every day on the thing I love. So yes it’s great, but that also belies the stresses of building a brand in a highly competitive market with a young family to support.
However, every time I pour a sample to a new customer and I get that ‘wow’ response – it’s a 10 every time.
Get in touch
Greensand Ridge Distillery, Shipbourne Road, Shipbourne TN9 9NT