17 September 2019
Meet Our Customer: Darren Rook
Darren Rook is an award winning distilling consultant and has founded and co-founded various businesses including YVY Destilaria, Passionate & Spirited, Gotham East (Shanghai) and The London Distillery Company.
How did your business start?
My first two distilling businesses were The London Distillery Company (TLDC) in London and Boatyard Distillery in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.
I was working at Glenmorangie and saw that American craft-distilling was booming. However, the UK had no more than five small craft distilleries at that time (compare that to the 800+ today). This started my interest in building distilleries and spirit brands.
In 2009, I met an ex-HMRC policy officer, Alan Powell, who became instrumental in my plans from a legal perspective. Months later, I was introduced to an investor who helped make initial fundraising feasible. This was the start of TLDC in 2010.
By early 2012, I successfully crowdfunded the project and the real work started. Amazingly, TLDC was one of the first ten companies to ever crowdfund for equity globally. Yet, opening London’s first Whisky & Gin Distillery in over a century was no easy feat legally; with Alan’s help, we set a precedent that relaxed the policy at HMRC and paved the way for the UK’s distilling scene today. Looking back, we were really trailblazing.
After successfully launching TLDC, I helped launch Boatyard Distillery. Since then, I have co-founded several spirits businesses in the UK, Asia, South and North America, as well as, worked with companies like Brewdog and developed recipes for new start-ups. Furthermore, I’ve also been fortunate to collaborate with iconic British brands like Fortnum & Mason and The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Recently, my experience has led me to work as a freelance consultant on new distillery builds and start-ups developing brands and new products worldwide.
What is unique about your company?
As part of my business ethos, I try to normalize things that might be seen as unique. As an example, I am a huge advocate of maximizing our social impact while minimizing our carbon footprint. Simple changes such as reducing bottle weights, having a no plastic policy and increasing recycling can make a huge difference in operations. I am also passionate about giving back to the community, and my newest project, YVY Destilaria (Brazil) works with indigenous communities and co-operatives to help set up social enterprises to help source ingredients ethically and sustainably. We felt it was so important that we created an arm of the business, Territórios YVY. There is a dedicated team to work with and help educate communities on agroforestry and food production processes.
Who, and where are your customers?
Our customers are quality gin and whisky enthusiasts that seek out unique flavours and tastes. You can find our customers enjoying their drinks worldwide from London to Brazil to Shanghai and back again. Recently, Boatyard Distillery just listed in Norway & Canada, started a long-term collaboration with the Savoy Hotel and has expanded distribution in London. TLDC continues to grow in the UK and overseas.
How’s the future looking for you? What are your plans?
The future is looking bright – lots of new product lines and a new distillery to launch in Yunnan, China in the upcoming year. I have 10 new products in development for the last quarter of 2019, including an organic spiced rum for Boatyard Distillery. YVY will have monthly limited-edition products in 2020 as well. These products will focus on Brazilian ingredients with the help of Territórios YVY, adding a twist to classic drinks like vermouth, amaro and liqueurs.
Why do you buy from Organic Herb Trading?
I have been a customer of Organic Herb Trading since 2011. Back then, it was hard to find a consistent organic ingredient supplier with a depth of range. I have never been disappointed with Organic Herb Trading. Every time I call to place an order, I receive exceptional customer service. Organic Herb Trading is a supplier I trust to provide me with the highest quality of ingredients that I need for my work.
Why is organic/provenance important to you?
I studied Arboriculture at University and found my passion was for the urban & countryside ecology studies. With organic standards, transparency is key. Yet, outside of the supply chain transparency, the environmental benefits of organic farming are huge. I believe food and ingredient quality is increased with better soil conditions, fewer chemicals and more diverse pollinators (to name a few). This, in turn, has an overall positive environmental impact. As a father, I feel I have a social responsibility to reduce my impact on the earth by breaking some of the harmful patterns for future generations.
What is your favourite cup of tea?
If I am after a caffeine fix, then I love a good aged Pu’erh. I enjoy the smoky earthy flavours that transform as you add each round of water. Otherwise, day-to-day my favourite tea is a simple organic Chamomile from the flowers in a tea ball.