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Times may change but the dockyard spirit endures

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ABOUT COPPER RIVET DISTILLERY

For 414 years Chatham stood at the cutting edge of industry and innovation.  Fifty years since the last ship was launched from its historic dockyard, we’re reinventing Chatham for the 21st century. 

The Copper Rivet Distillery is an exciting and dynamic new Medway based craft distillery.  Drawing upon the area’s rich tradition of innovation and craft, the team will toil together to produce small batches of exceptional gins, whiskies and vodkas from scratch in bespoke stills, with the same skill that local craftsmen once fashioned world-class ships.

We’re the only spirit maker in Kent, and one of just a few in the UK that undertakes the complete process of brewing and distilling from grain to glass, ensuring our range of premium spirits is totally distinctive and unique.

Set in the historic and magnificent Victorian Pump House No. 5, our distillery is open for tours.  Come meet the team to see how we make and produce our range of spirits, explore and see firsthand the distilling process in action, play and experiment with flavour profiling in our laboratory and sup and savour some of our spirits for yourselves.

For the latest Copper Rivet Distillery news, events, competitions, cocktail recipes and food pairing recommendations, visit our blog.

OUR JOURNEY SO FAR...

1606

The first Union Flag (as seen on our bottle necks) is sewn at Chatham. 

Following the death of Elizabeth I, James VI of the Scots was proclaimed her successor.  The new king had high hopes for a unified England and Scotland, and called himself King of Great Britain.

But a united kingdom was not yet to be. Unable to achieve the union of South and North Britain, King James found consolation in the creation of a union flag, which combined the crosses of St George and St Andrew, and was flown from the top of the mainmast of all British ships. 

1667

Gin's precursor Genever probably arrives on UK shores 

One positive outcome of the Dutch Wars, was the introduction of Genever to the British Isles. 

Also known as Jenever, genièvre, genever, or peket, this juniper-flavoured national and traditional liquor of the Netherlands and Belgium is the original spirit that gin as we know it today is evolved from.

1667

The Dutch Navy successfully ransacks Chatham Dockyard after breaching British lines outside the site of the Pumphouse

The British Navy suffered one of its worst defeats in its history in a daring raid on the Medway during the second Anglo-Dutch War.

This attack conducted by the Dutch navy, targeted the largest English naval battleships anchored off Chatham Dockyard.  The Dutch captured the town of Sheerness, sailed up the River Thames, then risked the treacherous shallows, sandbars and shoals, of the Medway, burning three capital ships, ten lesser naval vessels, and capturing and towing away HMS Unity and HMS Royal Charles, the English fleet flagship.

The raid was disastrous and embarrassing for King Charles and led to a quick end to the war, and a favourable peace for the Dutch. 

1765

HMS Victory launched from Chatham Dockyard into Gillingham Waters

HMS Victory is a 104-gun first-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy.  Ordered in 1758, laid down in 1759, and launched in 1765 from the Chatham Dockyard, she is best known as Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

After 1824, she served as a harbour ship.  In 1922, she was moved to a dry dock at Portsmouth, England, and preserved as a museum ship.  She has been the flagship of the First Sea Lord since October 2012 and is the world's oldest naval ship still in commission. 

1873

Pumphouse No. 5 is completed and starts its life as a military building draining four dry docks.

Between 1862 and 1885, the dockyard underwent a large building programme so the Admiralty could embrace the new technology of steam-powered ships with metal hulls. Three basins were constructed along St Mary's Creek, alongside four new dry docks. These basins formed the Victorian Dockyard. 

Pumphouse No. 5 was constructed and completed in 1873.  It housed cutting edge hyrdraulic technology typical of the industrial revolution.  As well as serving to empty dry docks 5-8 when required, its accumulator tower provided hydraulic power for the adjacent cranes, capstans and caissons.  

1880

Queen Victoria gifts the Resolute Desk, fashioned in Chatham Dockyard, to President Rutherford B Hayes

The Resolute desk is a large, nineteenth-century partners’ desk mostly chosen by presidents of the United States for use in the White House Oval Office.  Given as a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes, the desk was built from the timbers of the British Arctic exploration ship Resolute. 

Many presidents since Hayes have used the desk at various locations in the White House, including Roosevelt who requested the addition of a hinged front door panel, but Jackie Kennedy was the first to bring the desk into the Oval Office for President John F. Kennedy in 1961.   

Many Presidents including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have used the desk, and it is currently in use by President Barack Obama. 

1908

C17, the first submarine to be built at Chatham, is launched 

HMS C17 was one of 38 C-class submarines built for the Royal Navy in the first decade of the 20th century.

The boat survived the First World War but was sold for scrap in 1919.

 

1979

Bob Russell opens Topper’s, Medway’s first wine bar

In 1979, patriarch of the family Bob launched Toppers Wine Bar in Rainham, Kent’s first wine bar. 

The business grew in popularity and shortly afterwards, he began importing, supplying and selling wines, beers and spirits from the continent to consumers, and other local restaurants.

1984

Pumphouse no. 5 closes

On the 31st March 1984, Chatham Dockyard closed. 

The easternmost basin was handed over to the Medway Ports authority and is now a commercial port. 

A further 80 acres, comprising the 18th century Georgian core of the site was transferred to the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust and is now a living museum.  The final area, St Mary’s Island has been transformed into a residential community.  

2005

The Russell family begin planning to build a distillery

Copper Rivet Distillery is the realization of a long held family dream.  Independently and together, Bob, Matthew and Stephen have always loved the idea of crafting and making a premium product absolutely from scratch and owning the entire process from end to end believing this is the only way they can truly stand behind the products they produce.

In 2005 the family began drawing together all of their research, experience and thinking and started to have serious discussions about establishing a distillery.

2012

Stephen Russell meets our Head Distiller at the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling in Edinburgh 

The family knew that to realize their goal of creating the best spirits possible they would need to enlist the help of top distilling talent. Where else to look for it than the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling in Edinburgh. It was there that Stephen was introduced to Abhi who was teaching brewing and distilling post graduates by the Head of the Centre and our journey to creating one of the UK’s most innovative and distinctive craft distilleries really began.

2015

Matthew Russell spots Pumphouse no.5 when visiting Upnor Castle

Over the years, several different locations were considered to set up the distillery. Scotland and London were both strong contenders but the family’s heart was set on establishing a distillery in Kent, and Medway in particular.

Sites at Fort Amherst, Rochester High Street, Chatham, and the Isle of Grain were all considered as potential locations, but due to logistics, scale or security were not viable options.

One day, by chance, Matthew and his family visited nearby Upnor Castle, where he spotted Pumphouse No. 5 across the River Medway.  The following Monday, Matthew drove to Chatham Maritime and discovered it was for sale. Copper Rivet Distillery found its home.

2016

We distill for the first time and open our doors

So the journey begins…