Embracing the Spirit with Padstow Distilling’s David McWilliam

Getting into the Spirit with Padstow Distilling's David McWilliam

Padstow Distilling is a young distillery business created and run by wine merchant David McWilliam. Since 2018, he’s been making a series of small-batch, award-winning Cornish spirits using local barley in the heart of Cornwall’s culinary capital. Sabi Phagura caught up with David to find out more.

Luxurious Magazine: How did you find your way into the wine industry?
David McWilliam: At school, I was told I should be an accountant – and an open day at City Accountants not only put me off the office but at school as well. My first job on leaving school found me serving wines two weeks into the role: and not just any wines, but the classics – from Petrus to Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet. I’m sure it felt like work at the time, but looking back, it was glorious.

A couple of ladies enjoying a drink at the bar

LM: What prompted you to set up your wine merchant and bar?
David: I’ve always harboured the twin view that wine isn’t good because of where it’s from but that it can be good because of where it’s from – like nature and nurture together. This is a view that many share, but on top of that, this has taken me many years. I don’t like working for other people.

LM: What did that process look like, and how difficult was it?
David: Hindsight works wonders—and if I knew what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have set up my first merchant and bar in Padstow in 2003. I was 32, and now that doesn’t seem old enough. I was blindly ambitious then, I think, but perhaps little changed. If I look, for instance, at compliance, it pays just to get on with it. I’m not much of a rebel.

A bottle of the gin

LM: What challenges did you face when you began developing your spirits?
David: There were some very mundane and tedious problems surrounding things like the availability of glass bottles, and this was 2020, so you can imagine why. Far more challenging has been trying to stand out in a very noisy market.

I’m not especially pushy, and this works in two ways: it means I need all the help I can get to get the news out there, but also that I spend a lot of time working out what to make next or how to improve what we’ve already created.

LM Some say the spirits market is saturated with too many brands. What sets your products unique and stand out?
David: I think markets often become saturated when there’s a low entry cost that’s the cause. Vanity projects become very accessible, and many peter out, but also some young, highly well-marketed contract-distilled brands punch through. I admire that kind of business, but it’s not for me.

David inspecting roots on the clifftop in Cornwall

Authenticity is crucial for us at Padstow Distilling, and we are improving that all the time. Our latest push into the distilling process from scratch here in Padstow itself is setting the foundations for what I hope is a really strong business.

LM: Cornwall is a place close to your heart. Please explain what made you want to set up your company in that area.
David: I’ve been living in Cornwall for almost 30 years now – it’s 30 this coming November, in fact – and it has felt like home for all 30 of them. I didn’t choose Cornwall in the business planning sense; it’s more that Cornwall provided the opportunity I needed to make this happen.

David searching for the perfect grain in a field

LM: We understand you love nature, and foraging is part of enjoying it. What does that entail?
David: The curiosity I have about nature is part wonder and part hunger. Do we have a human need to forage? I think so! Who, for instance, can resist a blackberry? Don’t answer that. I’m sure that many people can, but our growth has to be one of the main influences on our behaviour, and much of my childhood was spent outdoors. I’ve never been a keen gardener, but I’ve always loved flavour, and nature gives us so much.

Light blue labelled glass bottles of gin on wooden blocks

LM: Which of your products do you savour the most?
David: What a lovely question! It might seem like you’re asking who my favourite child is, but I have three, so that’s never going to work. My proudest alcoholic creation has to be our original Padstow Gin—at least so far. An interesting thing drives me, and that is the knowledge that there will always be something else out there to learn and discover.

Padstow Distilling – Where and How?

Prices per 70cl bottle start at £40 for Padstow Vodka and £48 for the Padstow Gin range. For more information on Padstow Distilling, visit www.padstowdistilling.co.uk.

David pouring a drink into a glassEmbracing the Spirit with Padstow Distilling's David McWilliam 2

Sabi Phagura

Deputy Online Editor

Sabi Phagura is a health, fitness, travel and lifestyle journalist with over 14 years experience in both print and broadcasting media. With Luxurious Magazine, Sabi has travelled the world and experienced some of the finest things that it has to offer. Sabi is one of our most eager and enthusiastic journalists regularly finding unique and exciting destinations. She always creates articles that showcase the subject in the best light via her wealth of knowledge in the luxury travel and dining sectors.

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