WHISKY and gin are to be produced near York, with the opening of a new distillery later this year.

Abbie Neilson and her fiancée Chris Jaume are setting up Cooper King Distillery and a shop and tasting room in a converted stable block at Sutton on the Forest.

The couple moved from Yorkshire to Australia in 2014 but are returning to launch their own business.

They will produce whisky using Yorkshire barley and casks made in Wetherby by England's last master cooper, Alistair Simms.

The couple learnt the craft in Tasmania and say they were inspired by the rapid growth of the whisky industry in Australia. They say they hope to help raise the profile of English whisky generally. They will host events and tours.

Mr Jaume said: "Our production process will be very hands-on, so we want people to see it for themselves and ask questions about what goes into our spirit and why.”

Dr Neilson, originally from York, added: “Keeping our production small means we can source premium ingredients, take our time with the process and use the very best casks can we can find. It also allows us the freedom to experiment with one-off limited batches.”

They say they are keen to work with other local businesses and have been liaising with Make It York, and say they hope to create a drink distinct from Scotch.

York Press:

Simon Middleton from Make It York said: “It has been a pleasure to work with Abbie & Chris and we wish them well with their opening and subsequent development of the distillery. It is great to see new businesses coming to life, particularly when they have been as well planned and thought out as this one.”

Funds have been raised partly through their own crowdfunding project, the Cooper King Distillery Founders Club, offering rewards to supporters. The couple also received funding from the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust and the European Regional Development Fund.

They will plant more than 400 trees in a new woodland and orchard to support wildlife around the distillery and to grow fruit for seasonal products.

The Cooper King venture is the latest in a series of plans for Yorkshire whisky. The family behind Wold Top Brewery in Hunmanby have launched Spirit of Yorkshire, and the Brewing and Distilling Company (Bad Co) at Dishforth also plans to make whisky. Separately, last November, Muntons maltsters announced plans for a new site near North Dalton, to help it meet demand from Scotch whisky producers.