For the first time ever, this year a rye new make spirit flowed from our still destined to be the county’s first rye whisky. But what is rye whisky? And when you’re already making amazing single malt whisky, why even bother to use a different grain?
The answer is simply for flavour. Rye whisky (when made well, with care and attention) can be superb to drink, rich, spicy and very different to the light and fruity style of malt whisky we make.
Rye is a very historic grain and was used for some of the very first alcohols. Rye is very robust in terms of the plant. In Sweden and Norway, they’ve used rye a lot as it can withstand the harsher climates. Due to its sturdy nature, it was also favoured by early settlers in the US where it was grown by pioneers of the new frontier. Despite rye whisky being synonymous with the US and Canada, you can in fact find rye whiskies coming from distilleries across Europe and the UK and now Yorkshire too.
In September 2019, we harvested the 20 acres of rye that was growing in our fields. From this, we yielded around 4 tonnes per acre. We then took 30 tonnes of rye to Muntons in Stowmarket where it was malted for us. From this, we returned a ton back to us to experiment with last autumn to make sure we could get to grips with the many challenges that rye can bring to the production process. Unlike barley, rye has virtually no husk and is very high in a certain sugar that makes the mash very sticky. Although we use 51% rye and 49% barley, the rye can still present problems in the mashing phase.
The rest of the batch came back from Muntons and was stored until January 2021. From this, we’ve spent the first part of this year distilling rye where we’ve used approximately 23 tonnes of rye in total.
Like our malt whisky, our rye whisky is subject to the three-year rule and will be tucked away in our warehouse now for many years. We’re really excited to see how our Rye whisky develops over the coming years and look forward to sharing our first rye whisky with you when it’s ready and no earlier than 2024.
For more information on rye whisky here’s a link to a couple of great pieces by whisky writer Dave Broom over on ScotchWhisky.Com