English rye whisky-maker The Oxford Artisan Distillery recently announced that Diageo has made a minority investment in the company through Distill Ventures.
Founded in 2016, The Oxford Artisan Distillery makes whisky using biodiverse populations of heritage grains grown through an approach to grain farming known as Restorative Continuous Grain Cropping.
A statement from Oxford Artisan explained that these heritage grains and farming techniques have been developed in partnership with John Letts, a farmer, archaeobotanist, and innovator in this field.
The Oxford Artisan Distillery is the only distillery with a license to use Letts’ grains, a proprietary mix of 30 to 100 different varieties grown exclusively for flavor and not yield.
The distillery’s first English rye whisky was released in April of 2021, with a second batch available shortly after.
So far, The Oxford Artisan Distillery has nine batches of whisky in its quiver. The brand’s aim is to grow a modern and scalable whisky brand centered on restorative agriculture, driven by their approach to sustainable farming.
The Diageo investment looks to support the next stage of the company’s growth through upgrade and expansion of its production sites, and the continued development of The Oxford Artisan Distillery brand and consumer experiences.
Dave Smith, CEO of The Oxford Artisan Distillery, said that over the past few years, they’ve 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,” he added. “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 that grain is becoming an important part of how whisky producers are continuing to innovate and develop new styles and flavors.
“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.”
Eugene Khabensky, Vice President of Global Ventures at Diageo, said they welcome The Oxford Artisan Distillery into the Distill Ventures portfolio, bringing its “ultra-premium positioning coupled with its commitment to put regenerative agriculture at the heart of what it does. It fits perfectly with our strategy to support premium and environmentally responsible brands.”
Brands within the Distill Ventures portfolio all retain majority ownership and control of the business.
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