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In the year of #staycation, who needs abroad?

We’re all about getting the best out of a good old British summer as we keep calm and holiday at home. And what’s a #staycation without a spot of lunch and some English heritage thrown in? Gilly Smith finds out

Just an hour and a half out of Brighton in Chatham is a bit of a treasure, a family-owned English distillery making not just a rather lovely whisky out of local barley, wheat and rye, but vodkas and gins too. A tour of the distillery, complete with tastings, followed by lunch overlooking the River Medway is a lovely reminder of the skill, craftsmanship and history to be found on our doorstep.

Copper Rivet Distillery, perched on the dry dock at Chatham’s Royal Dockyards is a Victorian Grade II listed pump, until recently a relic from the industrial revolution, watching this corner of Kent follow its demise. 

It took the vision (and family cash) of Matthew Russell who was picnicking one day at Upnor Castle on the other side of the Medway to reinvent it and build it into an icon of 21st century innovation. His father, Bob, had built up the coffers over 30 years in the gift box drinks industry, and together, they built the family company. Four years on and recruiting only from British universities, the Russells have put together a team led by Abhishek “Abhi” Banik from Heriot-Watt University, Copper Rivet has  become the only spirit maker in Kent, and one of just a few in the UK to create them all the way from grain to glass. 

Its Dockyard spirits include a sweet pink gin made with Kent strawberries.  The vodkas are so packed with flavour that you could drink them neat on the rocks and dream of Russia. And the whiskies, initially a by-product of the gin and vodka are already raising eyebrows among the cognoscenti.

After the tour and tasting, lunch overlooking the river is a local, seasonal treat with two courses for £23 and three for £28. Try the scallop, treacle cured trout, sesame and Sussex tomato ponzu to start followed by saddle of lamb, aubergine caviar, kale chimichurri, goats curd, lamb scrumpet and Jersey Royals. And of course, all those strawberries macerating in gin are repurposed by chef, Will Freeman for dessert, a choux bun and rice pudding patisserie.

For more information, https://www.copperrivetdistillery.com 

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