It’s been 3 years since our stills were first fired in May 2016 and the very first casks of Yorkshire whisky were laid down. Since then our 2016 casks have been patiently waiting in our warehouse, each day edging closer to becoming whisky.
In celebration of our first distillations reaching the crucial whisky milestone of 3 years, for this month’s ‘focus on’ we’re looking back, with a touch of nostalgia (forgive us), at the last few years and discussing the maturation requirement: why it’s relevant and why we’re choosing to ‘delay’ our first releases of single malt until we’re well past 36 months and 1 day.
Naturally, this year marks a massive milestone for us as these casks tip past three years and we officially have whisky. But before you get too excited we are aiming for the autumn before our first whisky launch. We will let you know when it’s ready. (Hopefully, you reached this sentence before dropping everything and frantically rushing out of the door to get the first Yorkshire Whisky!)
Up to now, we have been a whisky distillery without any whisky which as you can probably appreciate is a challenge.But despite being whisky-less we’ve been very busy. Busy in production laying down hundreds of casks for the future and also busy building, literally and in reputation, what we believe is one of the best places to visit in Yorkshire.
For our first year, we had our heads down distilling and laying down casks almost completely under the radar, with nothing so much as a press release, very incognito whisky production. We even brought in our stills under the cover of darkness to avoid too much attention. As rumour and speculation grew in the area, word started to spread about what we were doing but our aim was to keep a low profile. This first year really allowed us to focus on production alongside the late and great Dr Jim Swan, making sure our spirit and casks were the best they could be before we went to press and threw the doors open to the public.
2017 was when it all started ‘good and proper.’ Just prior to opening we had a brilliant couple of days when we welcomed our first wave of whisky writers (this really does feel like it could have been yesterday). Take a detour and read what Master of Malt, Whisky for Everyone, and the Edinburgh Whisky Blog thought by clicking the titles.
Easter 2017 we opened the doors and kicked off our tours and coffee shop. Since then we’ve welcomed over 25,000 visitors and have scooped up a handful of regional tourism awards. Of course, you can’t do this without building a team of brilliant dedicated people! We have an amazing crew working (many of whom have been here since the start), all making sure that any and everyone who comes to see us has a great time and an unforgettable experience.
December 2017 we released our first Maturing Malt (DP001) in response to the demand from early visitors wanting to take the spirit home with them. It proved a hit, selling out by early 2018.
Following this were three more releases forming our first ‘set’ of bottlings, Distillery Projects 001 – 004. (The Distillery Projects line is all about exploring what our spirit can be – the first four releases looked at the scale and scope of our casks and potential styles). And then later in 2018 it was full steam ahead thinking about 2019 and the whisky…
So it’s been a busy few years and we have no doubt that it’s about to get a whole lot busier with our upcoming whisky launch. There’s a huge amount of excitement building around it as you might imagine, from customers, fans and the whole distillery team. Releasing your first whisky is a big moment for any distillery, with all that time and patience finally culminating in a bottle of golden whisky that you hope will be loved as it makes its way into the world.
That’s three years… but why three years exactly?
Speak to any whisky fan and you’ll probably find they have a different point of view on maturation times. For some, in the right hands a three-year-old can be a thing of beauty; for others it is, and will forever be, just too young. Then there are those for whom only a twelve-year-old or higher will ever be worth their drinking. (There’s a whole other tangent about age statements that we could go down here but we’ll save that one for another day.)
Waiting three years in a world where the internet has made instant gratification feel like a human right, waiting patiently is becoming a skill (think about the rage induced when a webpage takes more than 10 seconds to load). And this is part of what makes whisky so special; you can’t flick a switch and make it. That said it really is difficult from a practical point-of-view unless you have a time machine since you’re essentially without a product for your first three years!
So why three? There are lots of reasons, with the main one cited being taste, as well as temperance and a good dose of “that’s just how it’s always been done.” (This article from The Whisky Professor on ScotchWhisky.com is a good place to start if you’d like to know more about the details.)
From our perspective, three years gives the spirit time to mellow, to imbibe the flavours of the cask in which it lives, and to generally settle into itself. Many would argue that it needs even more time than that and to be honest, in most cases, we agree. However, we’ve also worked on our distillation technique to help balance that. This is one of the reasons why we use our rectifying column for some distillations – done carefully, it creates a really light, delicate new make spirit without losing the depth of flavour. Combined with some of the best casks in the industry and careful cask selection you can get a really tasty whisky perhaps a bit sooner than some might expect.
Our plan is to carefully manage our casks so that we can do both – have some single malt that uses some of our younger spirit whilst always keeping a good percentage of our stock to one side to keep maturing for longer. And in order to manage this effectively, we won’t be simply releasing the spirit as soon as it reaches 3 years and a day. We’ll be waiting a bit longer to ensure that we build up our mature whisky and are releasing the spirit that we really think tastes the best, rather than the spirit that ticks the age box.
As you can probably tell, we’re incredibly excited! And if you got to the end of this post then we hope that you are too. If you’re not signed up to our newsletter already then please do – subscribers will be the first to hear about all our whisky news.