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Photo for: “Our Products are a Love Letter to The Swan Valley.” Says - Tim Kempton


“Our Products are a Love Letter to The Swan Valley.” Says - Tim Kempton

In Conversation with Tim Kempton, Production Manager & Head Distiller at The Old Young's Distillery & Gingin Gin, seeking knowledge and expertise on distilling and managing a product.

Tim is an expert distiller guiding research and development and supervising the manufacturing of the core line of spirits. Tim is skilled at leading initiatives that boost the distillery's growth and production. He has expertise in leading teams, risk management, ensuring health and safety, streamlining processes, ensuring quality, and developing new products. Tim has produced more than 30 distinctive liquids in the past four years and has managed and worked on another 11 that are sold in the market. He has also won honors on a national and worldwide scale.

Tim Kempton

Image: Tim Kempton, Production Manager & Head Distiller, Old Young's Distillery & Gingin Gin

What has your distilling career been like? Tell us a little about your background.

Leaving school at sixteen I joined the British Army as an RMP, but after a severe knee injury, I found myself back in my hometown of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, aged twenty-one and looking for a way to make money. Having grown up in my grandparents’ pubs I knew how they worked and decided I'd give it a go. It’s then that I discovered Sheffield has an incredible food and drink scene - one that is often overlooked in places like Manchester and Liverpool. After throwing myself into the Hospitality industry for 5-6 years, I came to the realization that I was climbing a ladder I wasn’t one hundred percent happy with and decided to pack up and head to Australia. Having spent six months baking in the sun on a table grape farm in the northwest of Victoria (aptly named Sunraysia), I then headed to Perth and it was here that my Brewing and Distilling career began. I spent the next year brewing and distilling in Western Australia's southwest before my Visa ran out and I had to return to the UK.

That’s when a friend of mine told me about an opportunity at Sipsmith, which naturally I jumped at. If Australia taught me the basics of distilling, it’s at Sipsmith where I really began to see what a career as a distiller looked like. Getting to be a part of Oliver Kitson’s team as Sipsmith went through exponential growth was both incredible and invaluable, and I'll be forever grateful for that time. After a few years, I was eager for a new challenge and that’s when I was presented with the opportunity to return to Australia. The plan was to take on the role of Head Distiller at Old Young’s, taking over from founder James Young so he could concentrate on other areas of the business and grow the brand. Over the last few years production has grown ten-fold - as has the team - and we now have three brands, a restaurant, plus many more projects in the pipeline and the company is in a really good position to keep growing.


How do you think the Spirits industry has evolved?

The Spirits industry has skyrocketed in the last ten years, with new brands launching almost daily. Innovation is at the forefront of every brand and it’s incredibly exciting to hear of new techniques being implemented or see classic bartending tricks being brought into distillation in ways never seen before. If the next decade is anything like the last, we’re in for some tasty and exciting times.

Tell us a little about your day-to-day role.

Thankfully I live close to the distillery so I cycle to work daily. The cycle is not only a great time to plan out the day in my head, but my route takes me past many wineries here in the Swan Valley so I’m able to observe the many seasonal changes in the scenery.

Once I'm in the distillery, I check in with the distillers to cover any issues that may have arisen and also share any thoughts we’ve had that could increase growth. The rest of my day can be pretty varied - whether I'm meeting up with other producers in the valley to talk about collaborations, working on one of the many brand projects, or showing visitors around the distillery. But by the afternoon, I and our small team of distillers will spend some time nosing and tasting the spirits that are ready for bottling the next day. 

What's your elevator pitch to a bartender when pitching your brand?

Our products are a love letter to the Swan Valley. If we were situated anywhere else in the world, we wouldn’t make these products. Our citrus and natives have always come from the Swan Valley and southwest WA region, but we’ve built a botanical garden in our recently opened restaurant that we distillers and our restaurant counterparts are utilizing every day.

How do you help bartenders with the depletions of your brand?

I’d say one of our biggest strengths is that we have a restaurant on-site, so not only do we hear what is happening in the hospitality industry through distributors and bartenders, but we actually see it for ourselves. This in turn helps us to stay up-to-date and aware of what bartenders need to keep ahead of changes in trends. Our monthly exclusive product releases and collaborations with other producers in the Swan Valley (whether that be a cidery, brewery, or winemaker) also allows us to get our brand in front of people that do not normally drink spirits.

Tim Kempton

Image: Tim Kempton, Production Manager & Head Distiller, Old Young's Distillery & Gingin Gin

What do you cover in your product training with bartenders?

It’s important not to just give the marketing pitch for the product when talking to bartenders. Consumers want the story and the romanticism whereas bartenders want the nitty-gritty of how was it made and why was it made. I like to bring spent botanicals and previous recipes of the product whenever I can, to show the process we went through to get to the final product. Bringing bartenders in to see your distillery is one of the most effective ways to make them feel part of the brand, as it gives them a first-hand connection with you and your product and is something they’ll remember the next time a customer asks for a recommendation. 

How do you think a distiller can help in driving marketing and sales personally?

Even going back to when I was a kid, I always liked meeting the person who actually made a product - and in this day and age, everyone loves to meet the distiller. No one is more passionate about the products than the person that pours hours into making them every day. Getting in front of the customers and telling them a few humorous stories as well as unique backgrounds about the products, provides an experience that no amount of reading could teach and is invaluable to a brand’s growth. 

Define a good distiller.

A good distiller has to wear many hats - whether that be a plumber, electrician, tour guide, or supply chain manager. But most importantly they have to love the spirits they make and want to grow the category as a whole. A good distiller knows the history of the products they make but also keeps tinkering with new recipes and is always learning. Ego has no place in a distillery - there is always someone who can help you out and teach you something, and this is why I think building a team of distillers with diverse backgrounds and previous careers is crucial for any brand.

Tim Kempton

Image: Tim Kempton, Production Manager & Head Distiller, Old Young's Distillery & Gingin Gin

Which is your go-to drink and what is the perfect setting you enjoy it in?

I had to really think about this question as I'm constantly trying new things, drinking spirits in different ways, and tasting new-release beers or wines. Living in WA’s oldest wine region means there is always something new to try, but sitting on the deck at home with friends and a good Negroni is what I come back to time and time again. 

What do you do when you are not distilling?

When I'm not distilling I spend time with friends and catch up with family over Zoom. WA has some of the best beaches in the world, so a day off for me is usually a day spent at the beach or riding my bike through some trails with an evening spent at a bar with friends - before heading home and getting into a book or watching a movie with my partner.

What is your idea of a good life?

My idea of a good life is being happy with the things I put out into the world and living a life filled with family and friends. Work isn’t the be-all and end-all of someone's life, but finding something you truly enjoy is key and I'm lucky to have found that.

Header Image: Tim Kempton

Call for domestic and international submission is now open for London Spirits Competition. Enter your spirits before 31 August 2024 to get super early bird pricing. Register now and ship later to save.

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