17th November 2022 (Oxford, UK): The Oxford Artisan Distillery, an ultra-premium English rye whisky producer seeking to revolutionise farming practices in the category, has announced that Diageo has made a minority investment in the company through Distill Ventures, the independent drinks accelerator devoted to building and scaling the drinks brands of the future.

Founded in 2016, The Oxford Artisan Distillery produces whisky using biodiverse populations of ‘heritage’ grains grown through an approach to grain farming known as Restorative Continuous Grain Cropping (R-CGC). These heritage grains and farming techniques have been developed in partnership with John Letts, a farmer and archaeobotanist with over 25 years’ experience, and an innovator in this field. The Oxford Artisan Distillery is the only distillery in the world with a license to use John’s grains, a proprietary mix of 30 to 100 different varieties grown exclusively for flavour and not yield.

The distillery’s first English rye whisky was released in April 2021, with a second batch available shortly after. To date, The Oxford Artisan Distillery has released a further nine batches of whisky and its distillery tour, just outside of Oxford, is rated one of the top things to do in the city on Tripadvisor. With ultra-premium whisky growing at 11% in the United Kingdom over the last five years[1], the brand’s vision is to grow a modern and scalable whisky brand centred on restorative agriculture, driven by their forward-thinking approach to sustainable farming.

The investment will support the next stage of the company’s growth by enabling the upgrade and expansion of its production sites, and the continued development of The Oxford Artisan Distillery brand and its consumer experiences.

Dave Smith, CEO of The Oxford Artisan Distillery, said: “Over the last few years we have seen the industry take major steps towards addressing the climate crisis, but we have a responsibility to do more in tackling sustainable farming and grain production. With Diageo and Distill Ventures’ support, we believe we can use whisky to further a revolution in the field. We have been blown away by the team’s belief in our mission and could not be happier to be entering the next stage of our journey with them alongside.”

Frank Lampen, Founder and CEO of Distill Ventures, said: “Grain is becoming an important part of how whisky producers are continuing to innovate and develop new styles and flavours, and the heritage grains used by Oxford Artisan Distillery together with their ground-breaking approach to farming in a sustainable way make this one of the most exciting distilleries in the English whisky scene, and we’re delighted to be able to support them in their development.”

Eugene Khabensky, Vice President of Global Ventures at Diageo, said: “We’re thrilled to welcome The Oxford Artisan Distillery into the Distill Ventures portfolio. Its ultra-premium positioning coupled with its commitment to put regenerative agriculture at the heart of what it does, fits perfectly with our strategy to support premium and environmentally responsible brands.”

As with all brands within the Distill Ventures portfolio, the founding Oxford Artisan Distillery team will retain majority ownership and control of the business.

The Oxford Artisan Distillery

The distillery opened for business at its purpose-built site in Oxford on 27th July 2017.

It is Oxford’s first ever distillery and produces whisky with total provenance from grain to glass. The Oxford Artisan Distillery uses biodiverse populations of ‘heritage’ grains grown through a new approach to grain farming known as Restorative Continuous Grain Cropping (R-CGC).


With Restorative Continuous Grain Cropping there are no fallow years, no tillage and no chemical inputs, leading to greater biodiversity in the field. As well as producing three times as much grain as any other modern rotational organic grain production system – driven by the fact that there is no need for rotation – R-CGC sequesters more carbon than any other modern organic grain production system. 

About Heritage Grain:

The Oxford Artisan Distillery uses genetically diverse populations of heritage grains – revived from historical sources by a leading archaeobotanist and grown sustainably on over 350 acres in the UK. The distillery’s grain contributes to biodiversity and soil health in the English countryside. The grains are the result of archaeobotanist, John Lett’s lifelong research on heritage grains: John has spent a large part of his life sourcing and growing heritage grains together, as polycultures. John takes 30-100 varieties of grain, mixes them up, and grows them together in the same field, at the same time. These sustainable fields are similar to what you would have seen in medieval times – the grains are grown specifically for the distillery, making The Oxford Artisan Distillery the only distillery in the world with a license to use John’s grains, grown exclusively for flavour and not yield.

Distill Ventures

Distill Ventures (DV) is the drinks industry’s first accelerator for new and growing brands. Since its founding in 2013, DV has invested in 35+ brands in a wide range of drinks categories, including New World whisky, premium gin, and non-alcoholic spirits. Through a combination of cash investment, mentoring support and access to a network of experts, DV works with founders from all backgrounds and stages of growth to help brands go further, faster.

Through both its traditional investment pathway and its Pre-Accelerator, which launched in 2021 and focuses on recruiting diverse entrepreneurs into drinks, DV operates across both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink categories, and invests at all stages, from pre-launch through to those requiring significant growth and expansion capital. It is operated independently and backed by Diageo, the world’s leading premium drinks company, providing investment funding, as well as resources and access through its global network of experts. For more info on, or to learn about our portfolio of current and exited brands, visit


Diageo is a global leader in beverage alcohol with an outstanding collection of brands including Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal and JεB whiskies, Smirnoff, Cîroc and Ketel One vodkas, Captain Morgan, Baileys, Don Julio, Tanqueray and Guinness.

Diageo is a global company whose products are sold in more than 180 countries around the world. The company is listed on both the London Stock Exchange (DGE) and the New York Stock Exchange (DEO). For more information about Diageo, our people, our brands, and performance, visit us at Visit Diageo’s global responsible drinking resource,, for information, initiatives and ways to share best practice.

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[1] IWSR, 2017-2021: by volume

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