Spirit of Yorkshire, est 2016
HOW YOU STARTED OUT
I trained as a crop scientist, and worked with an agricultural business for 14 years out of college, buying and selling barley, wheat, rape, that sort of thing. One of the first people I dealt with was Tom Mellor, buying and selling his produce, one aspect being very, very good malting barley. So that relationship goes way back to the 80s. I went off into marketing and then came back to agriculture.
Tom already had his Wold Top Brewery, so the next logical step was moving on to make malt whisky, using his own barley. It was over a beer in the brewery that Tom said: “Do you fancy doing it?” I was at a crossroads in what I was wanting to do with my businesses, so it took about five minutes. We looked each other in the eye and said: “You know what, this has got to be done. It’s never been done in Yorkshire before. We need to be the first and we need to have those points of difference which are going set us apart.” It was a no-brainer.
We enlisted Dr Jim Swan to look at how we could set up a distillery in Yorkshire, using all the skills he had honed over the years. That was in 2014 and we started to distill in 2016.
WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT
The traceability side of it was key – we call ourselves a field-to-bottle whisky producer. We have our own borehole water source on the farm, which gives us really good stable water. We have all the ingredients to make the best possible whisky we can.
We also work off two sites, and obviously in Scotland, you can’t do that. The brewery is still based at the farm. We produce out of the farm and go through a minimum 74-hour fermentation period, using two styles or strains of yeast. That gives us some really good fruity wash. We do two of those back-to-back, and they come in a tanker down to the distillery, which is two miles away, at my old site, where I used to work from.
Our cask policy is using the best possible bourbon casks we can get, which make up around 75-80 per cent of our maturation. But we have filled long-term sherry as well, and lots of different sherries: we’ve got oloroso, fino doing incredible things. And Dr Jim Swan’s trademark ex-red wine STR casks as well for full-term maturation.
Our casking regime, really, is going down a finishing route. The bourbons are forming the base of what we call our flagship whisky, which is purely bourbon, very light, very fruity, very easygoing. But then we take that and finish it in different cask types. Our latest release is moscatel-finished, we’ve just done 6,000 bottles of that. And our next one is an STR-finish.