My Week: William Chase of Chase Vodka

The former crisp entrepreneur on early starts, why property makes sense, and delegating to his sons.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 08 Feb 2016
I start at five o’clock in the morning, just thinking, because I find that’s the best part of the day to think about things without being bothered. It takes until about seven or eight o’clock to get going, though.

I don’t have any specific routine, because every day is different, but I live on a farm in rural Herefordshire, where I have my office. On days like today, I try to sit in the office at home and put everything together that I’ve done over the past few days. It’s quite good, not having to drive to work – but the only trouble is that you could be sitting in your pyjamas all day.

I originally bought this farm to develop it – it’s beautiful, sitting in the middle of 400 acres of traditional orchards. I started to live here, though, and I liked it so much I decided to stay, so we restored it as an old-fashioned farm. It’s got so much character.

This week, I’ve spent most of my time looking at my property projects. I’ve got a house in Menorca that I’m doing up, and I’ve got a few different barn projects. I originally got into property because it’s very safe: if you’ve made money elsewhere, you can buy a property and develop it – and if the worst comes to the worst, you should get your money back. Even with the industry in the state it is, things will recover and properties will go up in the future – it’s just all about finding the right location. I spend quite a bit on my properties and try to make them really smart, because it’s quite nice to create something that’s a bit special. It’s like when I did Tyrrel’s – it’s not just the money you get from it. It’s the fact that you’ve created something from nothing, which is part of the fun.  

I’ll be spending the rest of this week in London to do some promotions for London cocktail week. Our vodka brand, Chase vodka, is just about to launch a new mixed cocktail, which is made out of vodka and apple juice, both of which are produced on our farm. We’re also using London Cocktail Week to launch our new flavoured vodkas, which we’re infusing fruit through – our marmalade vodka, which has real marmalade infused through it, is the most popular at the moment.

After setting up a crisp factory, setting up the vodka brand was quite difficult – a lot harder than I thought, because it’s a lot more of a savvy, smart intelligent market than the salty snacks. It’s very grown-up and people want something quite smart and attractive, which means you’ve got to keep trying to do something interesting all the time. I learned the same thing with Tyrell’s – the trouble with vodka is, you can’t just do a plain, boring one, because everybody does that. You have to try to do something a bit wacky and a bit contemporary.

My son, Harry, who is 23, is pretty much in charge of the farm, now – I speak to him every day, but he’s doing really well. James, my 21-year-old son, is doing all the marketing and brand management for the distillery. I try and spend as much time with them (and our one-year-old, Austin), as I can, and the business helps that – you get more quality time with them if you spend that on the business. And it’s nice to see them getting some benefit from it, too – I just wonder how seriously they take me, these days.

I’ve found that it’s best just to leave them alone – they learn more, the more you leave them to it. James, for example, is learning for himself and doing it on his own, rather than having me telling him what to do every five minutes. If someone tells you what to do all the way through the day, you don’t actually learn anything. You might make more mistakes – but that’s part of the process.

William Chase is the founder of Chase Vodka and Tyrell's crisps

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