Meet Richard Foster - The Chief Explorer of Exploring English Whisky

Thanks for taking part in this interview. For those who might not know you, could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your background?

My early career was actually spent in factual TV production (another story), but around the time my son was born in 2015 I moved direction & started working at a couple of marketing agencies.

My main client was Diageo and our teams were creating content for brands like Johnnie Walker, Talisker and The Singleton. Through brand training and sampling (!) I learnt to appreciate whisky and the amazing processes, products and stories that make it so incredibly special and alluring.

I started running my own whisky tastings in South London as a hobby, coming across a new distillery called Cotswolds on a 6 Nations themed tasting. It was incredibly well received so I started to further explore this nascent scene.  During the first lockdown we ran a successful online St. George’s Day event with 5 English distilleries – off the back of which, the idea for an English Whisky members club was born.

You’re the Chief Explorer for the brand Exploring English Whisky, can you tell us a bit about Exploring English Whisky and what it hopes to achieve?

Essentially, we’re the SMWS of English Whisky (albeit slightly smaller… for now!). We run a membership scheme and bring amazing English Whisky products and experiences to our members and wider community. Our focus to date has been on the annual festival, cask shares (via and other tasting events and distillery tours.

Our main purpose is to shine a light on English Whisky, challenge perceptions around “non-Scotch” and take people on a wonderful adventure through the unique distilleries, whisky styles and products in this rapidly growing whisky category.

Excitingly we’re about to launch our own first release as an independent bottler, but depending on the timings for bottling this beauty I can’t say too much here – you’ll have to follow us or subscribe at to be amongst the first to find out more!

What are some of the most exciting parts of your current role, and the most challenging?

Sampling and buying casks is always amazing fun, but it’s the people behind them that fascinate and intrigue me. I love visiting distilleries large and small and absorbing the energy, enthusiasm and oftentimes quirkiness of the people & the places they inhabit.

One day you’re at England’s largest distillery experiencing a slick tour from knowledgeable guides – the next you’re in someone’s shed sampling random barrels and hearing the challenges they have with their neighbours - trying to run a distillery in their backyard.

Most challenging is honestly trying to keep up. There are now around 50 English Whisky producers so it can be hard to stay on top of communication – yet alone visit them all (which I will do one day).

Exploring English Whisky are hosting the second edition of ‘The English Whisky Festival’, can you tell us a bit about the festival and what it hopes to achieve this year?

Last year was such a great shock. We had 24 brands take part and over 300 people through the door. This year (amazingly) we’ve got 34 brands and aiming to hit 400 attendees. English Whisky may be a niche, but the event attracts trade, press and other industry stalwarts sniffing out this growing category – and the response to date has been phenomenal.

As well as the whisky brands we’ve got food trucks, a mixer Sponsor (Coast drinks), barware sponsor (Urban Bar) supplying out glassware, an on-site shop (run by and a post festival party hosted by Grain & Glass bar in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.

Come and sample everything from beer, new-make spirit, Vodkas and Gins – and of course – plenty of new & established English Whisky.

£10 off tickets to readers of this article via

What do you think The English Whisky Festival can bring to the industry?

I was speaking to a buyer for a premium retailer just the other day and they told me that they haven’t got the breadth & depth in their team to know which new distilleries to stock. Even when they do, their staff rarely get to sample them. Due to limited availability and price Our event brings all of English Whisky under one roof for everyone to experience as a single movement, be that trade, hospitality or just keen whisky & spirits drinkers looking for their next favourite dram.

What can people learn from your brand and how can it help broaden the understanding of English Whisky?

We’re still in relative early days, having started in 2020 (and I only quit my job to go full time just over 18 months ago) – but I very much hope we’re providing a compass and map with which people can take their own English Whisky adventure (we literally provide a map here!)

If we lead someone new to a distillery tour, an English Whisky tasting, or to buy a new product from any retailer – we’re achieving our aims of highlighting English Whisky and showing more people what this exciting category has to offer.

What are you ambitions for The English Whisky Festival in the future?

As mentioned above, we’ve got out first bottling coming out very soon, which we plan to be the first of many exclusive English Whisky releases. As our membership grows, we’ll be able to offer more deals with partner bars and retailers too – we’re building a community and want people to value the journey, not just the destination.

More personal question, what is your favourite English Whisky?

Obviously I don’t have favourites, I have to remain agnostic. But also in a category as diverse and innovative as this one it would be hard to give just one answer. As always I encourage people to track down English Whisky wherever they can. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure yet please correct that asap and support these wonderful craft distilleries – wherever they are on their fantastic whisky-filled journey’s.