At last year’s Dramboree , Joe Clark brought along three spirit samples from Yorkshire’s first licensed whisky distillery, and I was mightily impressed.
Spirit of Yorkshire [pot still] new make 17/02/17 76.2%
- N: Well composed fruity, coppery & porridge-y notes.
- T: Same again, remarkably well composed.
- F: Pineapples, bananas and a little more copper.
- C: Fabulous spirit poised for great things.
Spirit of Yorkshire [pot still] spirit runs #15-19 filled: 25/07/16 bottled: 06/07/17 bourbon cask #48 +/-62%
Early batch pot still runs, aged for nearly a year in a bourbon cask.
- N: A fruity funk consisting of ginger, bananas & pineapples with some darker putty action going on behind the scenes. Most convincing.
- T: Fructose fruit arrival and chalky acetone.
- F: Seemingly short toffee finish yet the memory lingers.
- C: Good enough to score, say 78 points – and that’s for 1yo spirit!
Scores 78 points
Spirit of Yorkshire [pot/column still] spirit runs #29-32 filled: 09/09/16 bottled: 06/07/17] Fino hogshead cask +/-62%
These runs utilise a column still linked to the spirit still.
- N: Sherry=bourbon banana bread.
- T: Amazing pudding-depth, and from a spirit less than a year old. Water doesn’t change the profile, with banana persisting and pears introduced to the mix. Glenrothes-esque at times.
- F: Sherry, pineapples and yet more banana bread.
- C: Another example of Yorkshire’s excellent spirit, well presented by some Fino cask action.
Scores 79 points
And that was enough to spur me on to visit the distillery. The last leg of my whisky tour in 2017 saw me in sunny Hunmanby on the North East Coast of England, just below Scarborough.
Yet another small distillery that jumped swiftly through the ‘Forsyths hoop’, Spirit of Yorkshire [SOY] were fortunate enough to capitalise on a few pre-orders dropping off the waiting list. Tom Mellor who instigated the project was able to utilise the expertise of Jim Swan just before he [Jim] passed, to get everything fine-tuned. SOY were already making very good spirit in 2016 before Joe Clark stepped in as whisky director.
Though the distillery functions manually, it’s not without its technical & environmentally efficient excellencies. For example:
- There’s the ATEX lighting system for starters. Worth a pretty penny, this system exceeds stringent industrial thermal & safety requirements.
- They have a fan-cooled, closed water system for all their water needs. This in fact directs the scale of operation.
- A heat exchange system redirects the heat from around 4-5000 litres of pot ale to pre-heat the wash still.
Like Wolfburn (blog), SOY enjoy the benefits of being situated in a modern unit. Unlike Wolfburn and the majority of other distilleries, they don’t make their own beer on site. This is done at Wold Top Farm two miles up the road using a combination of traditional brewers yeast and a more specialist yeast – expertise born from the founder, farmer & brewer Tom Mellor and his award-winning farm brewery opened in 2003. Apparently, building a distillery on the farm wasn’t practical. The beer is sent down to the distillery site from the brewery as required in a tanker pulled by a tractor, emptied, re-filled with pot ale and taken back for agricultural use. A long fermentation time of 75-90 hours aims to promote a healthy malolactic conversion.
Of the 2x 5,000 litre batches of beer [separated by the two yeast types], the wash still run [lasting 6.5-7.5 hours], produces around 1700 litres at 25% abv.
Roughly 50% of SOY’s new make production is pure pot still spirit. The other half takes advantage of SOY’s optional four-plate column still linked to the spirit still, the spirit eventually looping back into the pot again for a final distillation wave. Discovered more through serendipity than absolute planning, this route retains fruitiness whilst producing a clean spirit that favours fast ageing. The ‘hybrid’ spirit comes out at around 88-90% abv.
The spirit comes through at 3 litres a minute. Depending on factors such as the outside temperature, a run can last up to eight hours.
The spirit still produces around 450-470 litres of juice per run, the pot/column around 400-450. Operating four days out of seven, SOY take one cut a day, amounting to +/-1800 litres or roughly 12 smaller casks per week. That’s 93000 lpa, though I’ve seen commentators quote half that amount.
At time of visit, SOY were using Old Forester [STR] first-fill bourbon barrels and Spanish Sherry butts as well as a number of experimental casks of different flavours and sizes.
Then glasses appear and valinching commences.
Pot/column new-make 63.5%
- C: Fabulously rounded, fruity=honeyed-malty spirit, as impressive as Wolfburn’s which is a cracker also.
Pot still spirit [rapidly aged in a] +/-five litre cask
- C: They’ve caught this in good time, three months or so – just the right amount of wood for this size of cask. A little aniseed spice has formed on the finish. Tasty for sure.
Pot/column still spirit in an oloroso cask [9 days shy of a year]
- C: The cask is already chatty but the spirit appears unfazed. A creamy finish.
Spirit in a bourbon cask [9 days shy of a year old]
- C: The spirit has picked up vanilla on the nose but there’s no vulgar resinous activity from the cask on the palate. Really tasty stuff indeed, right up there!
Many thanks to Joe