THE EARLY DAYS IN LONDON
Sweetdram was founded in 2014 by Andrew MacLeod Smith and Daniel Fisher, who met in 2011 while studying for their Master’s degrees in brewing and distilling at Heriot-Watt University. After the course, the pair kept in touch to flesh out an idea they had for a modern drinks brand focused entirely on original flavour instead of conventional categories and repetitive trends. They started Sweetdram from a tiny but well-designed work space in Dalston, London.
The initial concept for the brand was to become the industry's first ‘gypsy’ distillers, who collaborate with various distilling partners around the world to make one off expressions that push categorical boundaries in terms of flavour and style. Following an intense 18 month research and development phase, Andrew and Daniel travelled to France to jointly produce their inaugural product with the hugely historic Distillerie Combier, who are credited with inventing Triple Sec and boast a stillhouse designed by Gustav Eiffel (before he designed the internationally iconic Eiffel Tower). Sweetdram’s Escubac is inspired by an old Tudor recipe found for an elixir called Royal Usquebaugh, which originated in England but was later adopted by the French, who renamed it ESCUBAC. The spirit became obsolete in the early 20th century and stayed that way until 2015 when it was revived as a botanical spirit that sits somewhere between gin, aquavit, and herbal liqueurs in terms of flavour and style.
Since Escubac was initially released in New York City, co-founders Andrew and Daniel used their trip to America to sit down with long time friends and colleagues, Kings County Distillery, to set up their next collaboration with New York’s oldest distillery since prohibition. Using their unaged bourbon (aka moonshine) the team devised a recipe using only natural ingredients to create the sense that you’re drinking an oak matured spirit when in actual fact, the chemical compounds linked to vanilla, fruit and spice flavours were derived from the maceration of fresh, organic sour cherries, allspice, coriander and hibiscus.
Meanwhile, back in London, Sweetdram conceived its first local collaboration with friends, East London Liquor Company (ELLC). Using a high quality demerara rum that ELLC was bottling at the time, the team came up with a spiced rum recipe that was, and still is, the opposite of all spiced rums in the market. Without the addition of artificial flavours, sweeteners and colours, the natural botanical recipe which includes chamomile, lime leaf, fennel, cardamom, grains of paradise, organic figs and superior grade lapsang souchong tea created a drink that is more akin to a smoky whisky than an artificially sweetened rum.
The first three collaborations were all a roaring success but each partner distillery had in-house brands that were growing in their own right, which made the continuation of a ‘gypsy’ distilling program unattainable for all the distiller’s involved. And with the lease on the original Dalston workshop coming to an end, Andrew and Daniel decided to break north to Scotland; Andrew’s childhood home and Daniel’s home away from home, where he had lived many years prior to co-founding Sweetdram in London. It was time to build their own production facility to grow Escubac, the Smoked Spiced Rum and forthcoming Scotch whisky program.
SWEETDRAM’S SCOTTISH HOME
Following the big move north, the brand quickly found its home based inside a massive industrial warehouse in Sighthill, Edinburgh. The new Sweetdram distillery has become an immersive contemporary space and an exciting work-in-progress. The circular site encourages a sustainable approach by reducing the building’s carbon footprint. Compost bays built from repurposed IBCs turn spent botanicals from distillery operations into feed for new botanicals that are being distilled seasonally for the release of a limited edition Wild Absinthe. The production room, located behind pink doors, houses their custom-made copper pot still, whose unusual helical head produces a unique, intensely aromatic spirit. Andrew and Daniel use a state-of-the-art recirculating chiller to cool their condensers. This elaborate closed-loop system exemplifies their commitment to the environment – saving around 2,000,000 liters of good, clean mains water from getting unnecessarily drained each year.
THE WHISKY PROGRAM
Andrew and Daniel’s curation of Scotch whisky casks predates the inception of Sweetdram. Through their long history of links and connections to the industry, they decided to invest in maturing single malt casks with the view of one day launching a whisky program. Before the pair even considered becoming an independent bottler, they set off to create their own unique blend that would be used as a base for the world’s first Scotch whisky Amaro. Driven by an intense, parallel love of both Scotch and amari - the traditional bittersweet Italian style of liqueurs - the recipe groundwork had already been laid following their successful collaboration on the Moonshine Liqueur with Kings County Distillery. By adapting the short lived but hugely successful recipe created in Brooklyn, they built on a flavour profile that aimed to enhance the whisky base, not mask it. The result is a unique modern dram made with a blend of peated and unpeated Scotch single malt and grain whiskies, infused with allspice, hibiscus, coriander, lovage, kola, quassia, rhubarb, fresh lemon and lingonberry then sweetened naturally with honey.
During their work on the Whisky Amaro, Andrew and Daniel were reacquainted with the subtle nuances of Scotch whisky. Retaining their personal view that all whisky is meant to be shared, the time came to independently bottle the beautiful expressions that were maturing in various warehouses around Scotland. In keeping with Sweetdram’s contemporary values, the team designed a new aesthetic to house Scotland’s liquid gold; one that brings the brand’s original ‘dram’ concept to the forefront. Visit our full Whisky range here.