Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery

BarrelSpiritofyorkshireedited

Where there is access to good barley, and good water, good beer and good whisky should follow. For both, patience, and a good business sense are required. Business needs ideas, an ability to be flexible at the right time, while sticking to your convictions. This business sense came across talking to the founder of Spirit of Yorkshire, Tom Mellor about things like experimental fermentation, barley strains etc. Lets get the basics right, and then we can look at the experiments. Each distillation choice that has been made, has been made in a measured way.

In Yorkshire, a place known for beer more than whisky, the Spirit of Yorkshire team have built on what they had to create an impressive whisky distillery. What for many years was a barley farm (the Mellors are fourth generation barley farmers), became a brewery when purely selling barley wasn’t feasible as a business alone in 2003.

After several years of brewing the Wold Top Ales, while still selling barley to different customers, whisky was considered. Partly as this is a natural next step, partly with a keen eye on the booming spirits business, and partly as distillers were still buying their high quality barley.

At this point, they saught expertise in the form of Joe Clark (ex Whisky Lounge) who talked over the project with them, Forsyth’s in Speyside for the stills, and Dr Jim Swan (who sadly passed away before opening) for distillation advice and casks.

They knew brewing, they knew farming and they knew engineering, so getting a bit of expertise on the distillation side made a lot of sense.

Tasted on the walk round:

September filling 2016
88%ish distillation
Seville orange sherry butt
Column on side of spirit still

Nose: Honey, lemon, pear. Grassy. Slight buttery note.

Palate: Honey, lemony, elderflower. Slightly minty. More banana and chocolate with water.

In terms of points of interest of Spirit of Yorkshire, the wash is made to their specifications at the Wold Top brewery on the farm (70-90 ferment), and driven to the distillery (not something that could be done in Scotland). It is made using concerto spring barley, longer ferments, use of a column copper filter (partial extra still) for 6 months of the year, and use of some interesting casks. An example being the Seville orange-infused sherry casks from the dram I tasted above. An exciting cask that previously contained this experimental sherry. Most of their casks will be ex-bourbon casks, with some of these interested sherry casks, and some signature Jim Swan wine casks.

Personally, I think it is pretty exciting to see a guy I met lots at Whisky Lounges and generally for pints over the years doing so well. All of Joe’s experience and knowledge getting put to good use, which is always great to see.

Quite a few people wonder about the viability of all these new distilleries, but I suspect that the volumes they are doing make the whole project more likely to succeed (Spirit of Yorkshire are doing about 80,000 litres per year in a 5000 litre wash still and 3500 litre spirit still). I also think that with Chase Vodka, Arbikie Distillery, Kilchoman and others pushing the farm to bottle approach, the consumer will get on board. Provenance will become even more sought after.

Overall, a beautiful distillery and a great team, making spirit that is already showing character. I would say visit for the distillery, for the excellent cafe, but also for all their different events. From distillers days, to jazz nights, there is lots going on. A lively place to visit.

P.S.

This trip had two sides. The sort of official, learning stuff side, and the whisky bloggers, journos and retailers spending a bit of time together in the excellent York station pub (due to the London folks being late), a burgeoning bromance between Blair and Angus (photo below), more pub time, lovely time at the distillery eating and listening to music. Basically a relaxed trip and lovely to catch up with folks (I don’t see whisky folks so much these days).

Thanks to the Joe and The Spirit of Yorkshire team for organising it, and apologies for me taking so long to write about it.

Chris Hoban

 

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