The Sadler name is not a new one in the world of beverage alcohol, with a history of brewing and distilling stretching back more than 150 years. But in their spirits brand Wildjac, Chris and Aster Sadler are very much keeping their finger on the modern pulse.
The couple launched the Worcestershire-based Wildjac Distillery in 2020 following a successful 15-year career in the brewing industry. Both had previously worked for international drinks group Halewood, an experience which Aster says informed the choices they made in establishing their own business.
She explains, “While Halewood is a global player in the spirits market, we saw the opportunity for a smaller, local operation where it was easier to identify areas in each part of the process which could be improved upon for its environmental impact. This was a key USP for us, so was something we were able to work on at start-up level.”
Wildjac’s range of spirits so far includes three gins – Natural Dry, English Summer, and Damson and Raspberry – plus its Fresh Citrus Vodka and Honey Spiced Rum, which uses spirit sourced from an environmentally conscious distiller in the Caribbean. It is planning to introduce a range of limited-edition seasonal ‘harvest’ gins, working with local farmers to source the ingredients. Aster says, “Much like the monthly specials in the beer world, this keeps our range fresh and relevant as well as being a good way to gauge our customers’ favourite flavours.”
For a small, young company, Wildjac has made a significant investment in eco-friendly packaging. Its spirits come in 100 per cent post-consumer recycled glass bottles with recycled labels, FSC-certified wood stoppers and biodegradable closures. It also sells eco refill pouches for its core range. Aster admits that making sustainable choices in packaging has been costly, but that, “the challenge is to be commercially competitive whilst maintaining a fair price point.”
Wildjac also sources local botanicals where possible, including lemon balm, lemon thyme and Douglas fir, and distils in small batches on a modern, energy-efficient still to reduce waste. It has signed up to the 1% For The Planet programme, donating one per cent of sales revenue back to selected charities and organisations including Trees for Cities and the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. The next sustainability credential it’s aiming for is B Corp certification, which it hopes to achieve in the next year.
Aster says the decisions she and Chris are making are echoed across the UK distilling industry. “Many British distilleries are investigating ways to refine their processes and improve impact through reducing their energy use or reduction in waste resources. There has also been a rise in the number of purpose-driven spirits producers in the UK and this is exciting for the sector.”