I’ve looked at quite a few English whiskies recently. Some have been bad, some have been good, but taken as a whole, England is really producing some fantastic whiskies.
What that comes down to, I couldn’t tell you: whether it’s their climate, their heritage, the distillation itself, or that they are taking more care than others with what they release. No matter what, it is certain that England’s rising whisky industry is showing no sign of slowing down any time soon.
This week’s World Whisky Wednesday is adding to that, a wee little drop of the Filey Bay Second Release from The Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery.
Yorkshire’s first single malt whisky distillery, like many of the new and exciting distilleries around the world, was mentored by the late Dr Jim Swan before his passing and, if Dr Swan impressed upon other distilleries how important it was to not cut corners, Spirit of Yorkshire founders David Thompson and Tom Mellor have taken that to a whole new level. With the exception of one thing, everything is done at the farm. And I mean everything.
The whisky starts with the grain, grown on the family farm in Hunmanby. Considering Yorkshire is the largest growing region of barley in the UK, that gives them a whole lot to play with. The malting takes place off farm in nearby Bridlington before heading back to the farm for the mashing and fermenting, taking place at the distilleries sister brewery, Top Brewery. Then, it’s onto distillation which is impressive in its own right. According to Spirit of Yorkshire, they hold two of the largest pot stills operating within the UK, not counting Scotland, complete with a four-plate copper column that adds a hint of creativity during maturation, taking place within a variety of casks sourced worldwide.
It was May 2016 when the stills first ran and David and Tom were showing no sign of slowing down, bringing in a variety of different casks for use with currently a trio of whiskies being released. There was a first release that is understandable sold out, the second release that I’m sipping on today, and a muscatel finish that I am disappointed to only hear of today. Still, work with what you’ve got, so what goes into the second release?
A limited release of 6,000 bottles, it is young. The distillate is a mix of pot and column stills and, while no age statement is given, we can expect around the 3 to 4 years of age. Maturation-wise, it’s an in-house blend of ex-bourbon barrels and one single sherry cask. That’s it really. Normally I have more to say about a whisky’s history but Spirit of Yorkshire and are straight forward.
Here’s a whisky, here’s what it was in. No glossy marketing and technical jargon for the geeks. Honestly, that helped clear my head for when no nose went into the glass.
So, without much more faff, let’s talk about the taste.
The nose opened with a lovely glass of cranberry juice and then we discovered that was the base for a delicious cocktail. Honey and butterscotch rose up before some swaying dandelions, a nice touch of lavender and some strawberry jam, and then it’s back to that cranberry juice and some Ribena comes into the party as well. Next thing you know, we’re wandering along Filey Bay itself, a nice breeze blowing floral notes our way and savouring a vanilla waffle cone containing cherry gelato, lemon and green apple sorbet and a sprinkle of crushed hazelnuts – it’s aching to be tasted.
It’s a damn fruity palate, with the cranberry recurring, thick slices of rock-melon and some toasted strawberries with a hint of lemon and lime. Light peaches and vanilla yogurt, some tropical lychees and rambutans before a lovely biscuit appeal of stroopwaffles – damn that’s some extra flavour. It all finishes with some fantastic manuka honey, a touch of spice and a final long strip of green apple peel.
This is exactly what it says on the label, whisky.
And its good whisky at that.
I wouldn’t say that it’s the most complex of the young English releases, but it’s certainly something else. Coupled with the price not requiring you to take out a mortgage, it makes for a fantastic opportunity to try something new. I love a simple whisky like this. I’m not talking about the flavour there, but rather the presentation. There’s no pretention about this whisky, there’s no heavy marketing spiel, there’s just a whisky.
And I love a good whisky.