A vodka chaser on Christmas Eve …


Monday 24th December 2012


William Chase is the farmer behind the famous brand of Tyrrells crisps, founded in 2002 using the potatoes grown on his farm near Leominster in Herefordshire. I’ve photographed William before – he is always very generous, both with his time … and the free samples he so kindly gives away!

I was therefore very pleased to be sent to his new enterprise … the Chase Distillery, producing vodka & gin in the heart of the Herefordshire countryside.

The idea was born in 2004 whilst Will was travelling the USA, looking for packaging equipment for his crisps. He stumbled on a small distillery making potato vodka and thought this would be a great new chapter to life. After much research he sourced a traditional still to make the vodka base, but his research told him that to get the best quality, without filtering out all of the character, he needed a bespoke rectifying column. From the idea in 2004, it took until April fool’s day in 2008 to harvest the first of their potatoes, making the first batch of vodka in June 2008. Will was so enamoured and proud of it he decided to call it Chase Vodka.

Will was going to be in The Sunday Times and the article required an image of Will at the distillery – a simple portrait that would place him in context with the distillery and the product.

Once at the farm / distillery I went to a large barn housing the distillery where the rectification column is located – the tallest of its kind in the world, at 70ft it rises through the roof of the barn. A platform and viewing area around the column offered a suitable place to sit Will and surround him with a few bottles of vodka & gin. I set up three monobloc flash heads. One that fired through a diffusing umbrella to act as my main (key) light, a 2nd to fire through a snoot which was aimed at the back of Will’s head & shoulders, and a 3rd light to soften any shadows and act as a strong rear light directly aimed at the large brass column.

With Will sat in the shot on a wooden box I could tweak each light’s output to just overpower the ambient light. Each light was fired by a radio transmitting trigger.

We tried a few different poses and finally settled on Will clasping a large bottle stacked on top of another bottle to give his hand something to do.

With a variety of expressions the shoot was complete.


Posed with a drink in hand - perfect.

Posed with a drink in hand – perfect.


Will was his usual generous self and I was presented with a bottle of vodka and a bottle of gin on my departure. Most certainly it was going to be a very Happy Christmas Eve!

The images were run through PhotoMechanic to choose a final batch, which were then individually adjusted in Photoshop. There was thankfully no rush to meet a publication date, the images were scheduled for filing to the desk just before New Year’s Eve.

My thanks to William for his time and generosity (as always!) – he is a delight to work with – and to The Sunday Times Money supplement for the commission.

“Cheers” all around for a very Happy Christmas – now I’ll drink (a vodka) to that!