Thursday, August 24, 2017
It’s already a vintage year for the UK’s first saké brewers –...

It’s already a vintage year for the UK’s first saké brewers – from Peckham

Tom Wilson and Lucy Holmes and their mini-brewery

Marriage should be like a fine wine – and get better with age.

But it probably works even better if you keep a cork in it.

These are lessons which Lucy Holmes and Tom Wilson have already learned, even though they only got married on May 27.

They already know how to get along because they have been working together for months, having opened the UK’s first saké distillery.

They are now turning rice into wine for their company, Kanpai, in a tiny warehouse where there wouldn’t be enough room to swing a bouquet.

They started out brewing in their spare room after a trip to Japan three years ago — Kanpaimeans “cheers” in Japanese — and only moved into their new space three months ago, as their hobby got serious.

Now the couple, from Peckham, have got hitched in the Asylum Chapel in Peckham – and a few guests threw rice over them, rather than confetti.

This month their rice wine will start selling in Selfridges, in Oxford Street. But they want to stay where they are.

Lucy, 29, said: “We used to live in north London but have not regretted it for a minute since we took the plunge four years ago. It is so vibrant. There is new stuff opening all the time. We love all the food and drink places there are here. Local people have been so supportive, too, which has been really inspiring.

“The warehouse we are in is full of start-ups, bakeries, musicians, techies – and people are here all hours.

“We do hope we can expand but we will take it step by step.”

And as for the rows, they think working together might actually help.

“There has been some swearing,” laughed Lucy. “Of course, it’s high stress, especially now we have our own brewery because a lot more things can go wrong, like pipes leaking or things not working. We put in long hours and get tired and hungry. But my parents always worked in the same company as each other and it’s so far, so good.

“We do have to draw the line, so that we are not talking about it all the time, though, and squeeze our friends in.

“It’s a good test for a marriage. We are discovering new things all the time – neither of us is leading the other. And we have been really impressed with each other, and only realised that recently when we started reflecting on how things were going. I didn’t know either of us problem solve so well or could work so hard.

“The wedding was a really good Peckham party, featuring lots of saké and sunshine. We are now unwinding in India!”

Tom, 31, trained with a master brewer in Japan in February, though during the week he markets financial services for a Swiss bank in Mayfair. Lucy, 29, translates research projects into readable English for non-scientists.

They brew the saké at weekends and in the evenings with some helpful advice from Peckham’s the Brick Brewery and Slow Richie’s, a street food kitchen within it.

They currently sell two bottles — the dry Junmai and the medium-dry Nigori.

But they stopped for a month after the wedding, for their honeymoon in India.

Hopefully, both of them will mature with age, like their product – or end up locked in the cellar.

At least if it doesn’t work out, they can drown their sorrows.

Chief Reporter | Former news reporter on Daily Mail and Times, former editor in Edinburgh and Barnet. Sports editor and father for 15 years. Once made nine doormats for Harrods entrances. They lasted two years.


It’s already a vintage year for the UK’s first saké brewers –...