English rye whisky specialist The Oxford Artisan Distillery (TOAD) has announced that Diageo has made a minority investment in the company through independent drinks accelerator fund Distill Ventures.

The investment will support the next stage of the company’s growth, TOAD said, by enabling the upgrade and expansion of its production sites, and the continued development of the brand and its consumer experiences.

The distillery’s first English rye whisky was released in April 2021, with a second batch available shortly after. To date, TOAD has released a further nine batches of whisky.

Dave Smith, TOAD CEO, said: “Over the last few years we have seen the industry take major steps towards addressing the climate crisis, but we have a responsibility to do more in tackling sustainable farming and grain production. With Diageo and Distill Ventures’ support, we believe we can use whisky to further a revolution in the field. We have been blown away by the team’s belief in our mission and could not be happier to be entering the next stage of our journey with them alongside.”

Frank Lampen, founder and CEO of Distill Ventures, said grain is becoming an important part of how whisky producers are continuing to innovate and develop new styles and flavours, and the heritage grains used by TOAD, together with their “approach to farming in a sustainable way make this one of the most exciting distilleries in the English whisky scene, and we’re delighted to be able to support them in their development”.

Eugene Khabensky, vice president of Global Ventures at Diageo, said the brand fits with Diageo’s strategy to support premium and environmentally responsible brands.

The founders of TOAD will retain majority ownership and control of the business.