About Us

The start of something good

My interest in creating Spirit of the Downs was inspired by selling English sparkling wine time assisting with annual harvest in for a good friend of mine called Peter Hall who runs Breaky Bottom vineyard at Rodmell, near Lewes in West Sussex.

Peter and his lovely wife Christine have been making wine for over 45 years and have won many awards for their Champagne Method English sparkling wines. As we were working the press for the 2017 harvest, I saw that the grapes were only being pressed lightly to prevent any bitterness coming through into the eventual sparkling cuvee. When the press was emptied, the grapes were then wheel barrowed to the compost heap at the back of the winery to be mulched down. It seemed such a waste to effectively dump that pomace when it had so much juice and flavour in it. I knew that many wine producing countries such as  France and Italy produce their own characteristic spirits such as Eau De Vie (Water of Life) and Grappa so wondered how one made in the South of England would turn out. I asked Peter if he would let me take some pomace to create a “grappa” and he said yes give it a go and so we took a freezer full of pomace and our plans for our first spirit was born.

Born in Sussex

  • Sparkling Wine Producers

    Only the finest small batch Sussex Sparkling wine producers

  • Pressed Grapes (Pomace)

    Carefully selected pressed grapes with full of juice and flavour

  • Love and Attention to Detail

    To create delicate fruity, smooth, and complex brandies & grape spirits

The first Spirit of the Downs

Myself and Angus (one of the Breaky Bottom winemakers), decided to create a small amount of ferment in order to create our first sample of Grape Spirit. The first Spirit surprised us in terms of freshness on the nose with sweetness from the grapes coming through on the palate. The Spirit was excellent on its own or with a piece of ice or when mixed with soda water and bitters. Because of the success of the first run we decided to create a larger run of 120 bottle for the 2018 harvest using old German fermentation tanks kindly borrowed from Breaky Bottom.    

After successfully creating an initial Grape Spirit, as a Cognac lover I was keen to create a Sussex brandy using the grapes and pomace from English Sparkling wine. In 2019 I was focused on producing both a larger quantity of Grape Spirit and also my first Sussex grape brandy. 

Our first releases win 3 stars at the Great Taste and two medals at IWSC

In our first official release in 2019 we launched two Brandies and one Grape Spirit and entered them into Great Taste Awards and International Wine and Spirits Challenge (IWSC). Our clear Grape Spirit was made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes providing plum and dark fruits whilst our Brandy was made from Chardonnay, one aged in English Oak barrels which gave Honeysuckle and Caramel notes in between an Armagnac and Calvados, the other aged with Oak from old Cognac barrels, giving Crème Brule and Sultanas with Oak and Vanilla similar to a VS Cognac. We were fortunate to win two Great Taste Awards and two medals at IWCS for our 2019 Vintages.

The judges said the following of our Grape Spirit;

“This is rather exceptional - there's a beautiful creaminess to this Eau de vie. It carries its alcohol so lightly, it's positively dangerous. Raisin notes are prominent and give just a touch of sweetness to this sublime drink Aromas of dark honey and raisins on the nose. The playful flavour was surprisingly delicate and gave a long, satisfying finish. Very sophisticated.”

Our focus is with small batch English wine producers

As a small craft spirit producer we only work with small batch wine producers that make wine with passion and love. We only make small batch Vintage spirits, typically with batches of between 600 to 1500 bottles. Each of our spirits reflects the season it was produced, together with the terroir of the vineyard and the grape varietal that we have chosen. We have Grape Spirits that have essence of Grassiness, Plum, Madagascan Vanilla and also Maraschino Cherries.

Our brandies vary in depth of flavour from light Brandies using English oak with Elderflower and Honeysuckle coming through to French oak providing Caramel and Rich Vanilla flavour similar to traditional Brandies.

So Cheers!

We hope you enjoy exploring all of our of small batch Spirits.

Our Team

CEO and Founder

Michael Yeoman

Business Development Manager

Bridgette Ryan