John Halewood

John Halewood

In 1978 John Halewood created a company selling Bulgarian wines from his garage, and then went on to launch his first product, Club Royal (sherry). In 1987 he purchased Hall & Bramley and Lamb and Watt, amalgamating their products into his existing portfolio. In 1990 he formed a Joint Venture in Romania just after the fall of the Berlin Wall and followed up with an acquisition of Red Square Vodka in 1991, which he reconfigured into the new Ready to Drink market with Red Square Ice. In 1994, after witnessing the success of Lambrusco Italian wine, he launched Lambrini sparkling perry, which quickly became the Company’s largest selling product.

As an entrepreneur, John Halewood saw opportunities very early on in the market, his brilliant move was for Crabbie’s, when he purchased the ginger wine brand from Glenmorangie in 2002 and then created the alcoholic ginger beer,  an entirely new category, in 2009. Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer offers the highest standard of quality ingredient.  Made from real ginger, this gluten free product is steeped and “fermented” for over six weeks to create the alcohol. The Crabbie’s craft is a sense of pride and the recipe remains a company secret.

John Halewood purchased Whitley Neill Gin from Johnny Neill in 2009 prior to the start of the “gin revolution”. Johnny was appointed as a brand ambassador to maintain brand provenance and brand advocacy. In 2011, John Halewood purchased Willow Water (spring water in the Lake District) and launched Crabbie’s into North America, which became an instant success, winning a Hot Brand award in 2016.

John Halewood passed away in October 2011, his legacy leaving the largest independent producer and distributor of alcoholic products by volume in the UK.

John Crabbie

John Crabbie took over his father’s business in 1827 and created a flourishing trading empire that reached across the globe. Inspired by different cultures, tastes and traditions, he poured his efforts into crafting liquids that offered the consumer something different, from blended Crabbie’s whiskies, sweet gins, liqueurs and green ginger wine. This Victorian entrepreneur understood that creating something new was essential. His most famous creation was Crabbie’s Green Ginger Wine (immortalised in the Whisky Mac cocktail), which was eventually purchased by Glenmorangie.

John Crabbie
H.J Neill and Samuel Gelston

Samuel Gelston & Harry Neill

Gelston’s Irish Whiskey was founded in 1830 by Samuel Gelston, a prosperous wine and whiskey merchant from Belfast. Upon Samuel’s death in late 1869 Henry James Neill (Harry) purchased the business and developed the scale of the business considerably, both in Ireland and in overseas markets.

Harry had left Belfast in 1851 to seek his fortune in the Australian Gold Rush of that year. Rather than prospecting for gold, he set up a pioneering provisions business for the miners and their families, and brought his younger brothers out to Australia to help grow the firm. He successfully sold his share and returned to Ireland in 1862 a wealthy man.

In 1869, he set about the task of re-building the Gelston’s business: not only was he blending and selling whiskey casks in Ireland, but he was instrumental in starting to export to Australia and New Zealand.

Harry successfully ran the business until his death in 1891 when the business moved to another H.J. Neill of the next generation.

John James "J.J." Whitley

The Whitley family boasts over eight generations of distilling heritage, dating back to 1762. John James Whitley, the first in the family to start distilling, was the Managing Director of Greenall Whitley & Co Ltd and G&J Greenall Ltd until 1942. His grandmother, Isabella, was the daughter of Edward Greenall, Chairman of Greenalls & Co, and son of the Greenall’s founder, Thomas Greenall.

John James Whitley spent his childhood at his parents’ Rectory in the Daresbury countryside, playing amongst the expansive gardens and natural hedgerows. As he grew older, the home-grown fruit and vegetables of the English garden became the staple of his kitchen table, and went on to inspire his journey in distilling and the birth of the JJ Whitley spirits portfolio.

The passion for distilling has continued to travel through the Greenall Whitley family, with JJ Whitley’s great-grandson, Johnny Neill, going on to create the award-winning Whitley Neill Gin brand in 2005. The full Greenall/Whitley family tree is now proudly on display at the City of London Distillery Bar, the new home of Whitley Neill Gin.

J.J. Whitley
Johnny Neill

Johnny Neill

Johnny Neill is an eighth generation distiller, and direct descendant of the aforementioned Thomas Greenall and JJ Whitley. After initially forging a career in investment management, he went on to delve deeper into his family distilling heritage and started on a new career path, founding the popular Whitley Neill Gin brand in 2005.

The launch of Whitley Neill Gin, with its Original London Dry Gin and range of flavours inspired by his travels around the world, cemented Johnny as one of the pioneers of the early gin boom. Today, Johnny works closely alongside Halewood to continue the success of the Whitley Neill brand. He has also developed a range of other artisanal gin brands, including Marylebone Gin and his latest project, Berkshire Botanical, which is inspired by the flora and fauna of the Yattendon Estate.

On the other side of his family, Johnny’s great-great grandfather, Harry Neill purchased Samuel Gelston’s Irish Whiskey in 1869. Johnny is now working alongside Halewood to bring this exciting brand back to life with a range of exceptional cask finish and rare aged single malt Irish whiskeys.