The Answers With… Alex Wolpert, Founder, East London Liquor Company

This part of the capital’s drinking culture has moved on a fair bit from Romford-brewed John Bull-Bitter.

Alex Wolpert

Not only has the East London Liquor Company ( revived London’s whisky-producing smarts with the first rye bottling produced in the capital since the closure of the distillery in Lea Valley in 1904: it’s also disrupting the domestic spirits market in a broader sense, with top-shelf gins, vodkas, rums and canned cocktails that can be delivered to anywhere in the UK. Here, the man behind this extraordinary venture explains why it’s all about the passion and the taste…

A lot of great businesses are born of frustration – was yours? 
Ha! Yes. I was working in bars, and frustrated by the lack of quality local booze that didn’t cost a fortune. There seemed to be a perfect opportunity in the market for products that hit both quality and price point, so I began East London Liquor Co. We’ve made it our mandate to make decent booze, for decent people, at decent prices ever since.

What, for you, is the essence of East London and how does it apply to the identity and philosophy of the brand? 
It’s creativity, it’s community, and it’s levelling the playing field for affordable local booze, which has until now been owned entirely by the big brands. There is such amazing spirit in East London, and in everything that we do we try to embody that. Our team focusses on creating innovative products that hold their own, and then some, against some of the biggest names in spirits, and we present them to consumers as straightforwardly as possible. 

Why is transparency such a core value for?
We think that a lot of drinkers are tired of being hoodwinked by booze brands out there who aren’t transparent about their liquid or their pricing. They’re savvy drinkers who want to know where their spirits are coming from, what’s in them, and why they cost what they do. Drinkers are spoiled for choice with all the booze brands out there, and they want to have a say about who they open their wallets for – keeping them informed about our values strengthens our relationship with them.

What distinguishes a top-quality gin, vodka or whisky from an ordinary one, for you? 
Attention to detail and innovation make any spirit stand out to me! It shows the love and care that goes into the liquid, but above all it’s always the taste.

How are you able to offer such high-grade spirits at such prices? 
Well, economies of scale help for sure, and keeping our focus on the liquid over POS, packaging, or any of the other unnecessary marketing ‘stuff’, but really the big thing is that we’re not greedy. We are London Living Wage employers and have a high staff retention rate. 

What makes it so important to have a bartender “in the mix”, so to speak? 
Bartenders are amazing at knowing what it takes to make something taste phenomenal, and they know when something is quality because they taste so much of what’s out there. They’re also the front line to see what people want to drink, constantly evolving recipes and development. I have a lot of respect and trust in bartenders – they’ve given me some of my best nights out… 

How do you feel people’s relationships with high-quality spirits might be different post-Covid? 
Honestly, I think it’s stronger than ever. A lot of people stuck at home decided that it was time to try new things or treat themselves. It’s a great opportunity for brands to expand their customer base and really connect with drinkers.

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