Meet the Maker - William Chase
Over here at Sydney Cocktail Club, we've long been a fan of the Chase range of spirits. Boasting the title of the UK's first farm to bottle distillery, the story behind how founder William Chase went from being a 4th generation potato farmer to founding boutique potato crisps label Tyrrells and now Chase Distillery is a fascinating tale of how one man went from near financial ruin to building a brand that is now available internationally. Will's story is now encapsulated in a book titled One Potato, Two... but in essence, it was when researching deep fat frying for Tyrrells that he and son James (who now works in the business too) stumbled on a guy making moonshine from potatoes. This sparked the idea for distilling spirits from their potatoes, and the rest as they say, is history. James was in Australia in August 2015 and a rather comprehensive interview he gave with boutique online retailer Cocktail Traders provides a fascinating insight into the brand
Back to the present day however, and our audience with Will, who had jetted in for the Australian Drinks Festival in Melbourne, Sydney was a 2 day pit stop for the man, and we were lucky to secure an intimate session with him one Monday evening at local cocktail bar Since I Left You on Kent Street. The bar itself is a charming art-deco inspired place housed in a heritage listed storehouse accessible via a cobbled laneway that was originally a carriageway for horses. Quietly knocking out some stellar drinks whenever we've been, the guys pumped out two cocktails for the evening - one, the classic Great Chase (a concoction of Chase Vodka, Chase Elderflower liqueur and soda) and the other, their original spin on a negroni with a mix of Chase Marmalade Vodka, Oscar 697 Vermouth Rosso and Amer Picon (a bittersweet French aperitif).
But as good as the cocktails were, the highlight of the evening was the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with Will. It's not often that consumer drinkers get to go up close and personal with the founder of a distillery; historically in Sydney, such opportunities have been geared largely towards the trade but we're starting to see that change as drinkers place more emphasis on brand provenance and brands try and find new ways of connecting directly with their customers in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
Will was quite candid about his journey and the night progressed as more of a Q&A session with a tasting of the Chase range of spirits juxtaposed in between. And by golly, were there some surprises in that range - the depth of flavour in the Marmalade Vodka, the viscosity and vibrancy of the rhubarb in the Rhubarb Vodka, the crispness of the gins. Apart from the oranges that come from Seville for the Marmalade Vodka, everything else used in the spirits and liqueurs are grown locally.
All in all, it was a wonderful opportunity to get to know the face behind a brand and get a feel for the passion for the craft that so many of the smaller distillers have. Thanks to Since I Left You for being such gracious venue hosts, Red Island Group (the distributor of Chase in Australia) and above all, to Will for being so generous with his limited time in Sydney. We hope to see you again!