The whisky industry provides a wealth of knowledge that spans over 500 years, which can be used as a guide for newer distilleries, allowing them to take the best of tradition and apply new thinking to create something unique. Our next distillery did just that, using their home-grown barley, taking an understanding of brewing and then working with industry greats to not only create the first Yorkshire whisky, but creating world class whisky in Yorkshire. The Spirit of Yorkshire wanted to escape stereotypes, focusing on local, sustainable, quality products that capture the true Yorkshire.
If you visit the Distillery’s farm in Hunmanby today, you will see the 5th generation of the Mellor family taking their first steps and exploring the wonders of this beautiful area. But the origins of this story date back to post-war England; include the marriage to an ex-Swiss governess and a poorly child that lead the family to move from the industrial city of Halifax and purchase the farm in 1945.
The Grandson Tom, the 3rd generation, was only in his mid-20’s when he was handed the reins to the farm. Crop farming was always a struggle in these parts, so his entrepreneurial mindset led him to look at ways of diversifying; including early applications for wind turbines, free range eggs, direct drilling and organic farming, to name but a few. Eventually, working with a long-time friend, this would lead to brewing and eventually distillation.
A Big Shift
Tom, who attended Wye Agricultural College and Dave (David Thompson) who was educated in crop science, became friends through a love of rugby. But they saw an opportunity when they took stock of what they had; an endless supply of pure water from the Wolds and some of the best barley crops that were already being shipped to local Maltsters and used for Scotch whisky production. All the ingredients to make beer and whisky… And so, in 2003 the Wold Top Brewery was formed. In 2013, The Spirit of Yorkshire was incorporated; they took over a packing warehouse, which was the perfect site for a distillery, managing to remain self-funded and starting distillation in 2016, with the first bottle of whisky being sold in October 2019.
Tom has always been at the forefront of new ideas and continually evolves growing methods to ensure sustainability on the farm. The farm has never had a mains water supply, instead taking water from the Wold aquifers that sit below the soil in their fields. He has also introduced a no till (tillage) system, which reduces the amount of tractor usage on the farm, keeps carbon in the soil (therefore reducing their carbon footprint) and safeguarding the land for future years.
They ensure complete traceability of all products used for the production of their whisky; their own Barley is sent to Muntons just 8 miles away for Malting, the bottles are made in Knottingley and their packaging is from Bradford, Elland and Hull. This all keeps their mileage and their environmental impact to a minimum and ensures they truly are The Spirit of Yorkshire.
They are obsessed with doing things the right way and focus on every step of the distillery process, utilising the knowledge, expertise and innovative ideas of the renowned Dr. Jim Swan that was invaluable in the beginning and still guides them today.
The process starts on the farm, where their own barley is harvested and then sent to a local Maltster before going to the brewery where it is milled, mashed and then fermented for 72 hours using water from the chalk aquifers below their fields. 10,000 litres of wash is then shipped down to the distillery where a very hands-on, manual distillation process is used to ensure the very best new make spirit is created. Two 5000 litre pot stills and a four-plate copper column still are used in tandem to add greater variance to their spirits, providing lots of copper contact and lots of reflux to produce a light and fruity new make spirit. The ‘Middle Cut’ (the good stuff) is very short, only around 90-minutes, with extra sensory checks at the end to ensure the best new make then goes in to the best wood. This process produces around 5000 bottles per week, so not a small operation by any means, and you can trace all their liquid back to the field.
The local area is so important to them and the fact that they can see the beautiful stretch of beach from the outcrop at Filey Brigg to Flamborough Head, it was no surprise that they decided to name their single malt whisky Filey Bay.
To ensure the bottle and packaging captured everything about their whisky and Yorkshire; they didn’t want to cut any corners, bringing in a Designer who was originally from the area. A great understanding of the place, the people, the land, the water and the air allowed them to design a bottle that shone a spotlight on the local area. The embossing on the bottle captures the sands of Filey Bay, the fields from the surrounding farms, and the clouds in the beautiful Yorkshire sky.
The Gannet was chosen as their talisman, not only because the biggest colony in Britain is just a stone’s throw away, but because it represents fearlessness, precision, and purpose, along with homing instinct to return to this special place.
An engraving ‘Made of Yorkshire’ is beautifully inscribed on the bottom, capturing the essence of what they do, as everything that is used to make every part of their whisky is sourced locally from Yorkshire.
And finally, the label has been carefully designed to offer tactile feedback, with intricate details that include gold foil, colours to capture the surrounding fields and gannets in the top right corner.
Filey Bay Flagship - this wonderfully rounded whisky showcases the house style of the distillery; light, fruity and creamy and forms the cornerstone of their upcoming core range. Using a combination of still types and then matured in Bourbon casks, this is an easy drinker with plenty of complexity to satisfy all whisky palates and really is a whisky for everyone.
Filey Bay Finishes - These are done in batches as they are never exactly the same, but takes their core whisky and finishes it in some delightfully different casks, including:
• STR Finish - using Shaved, Toasted and Re-Charred Rioja wine barrels from Spain to finish their whisky that has softened during its maturation in Bourbon Casks, providing deeper colours and flavours of red fruit.
• IPA Finish - Their unique position as farmers, brewers and distillers is explored in this release, finishing their light and fruity single malt in ex-IPA (Wold Top Brewery’s Scarborough Fair) casks, creating something completely unusual, distinctive and absolutely delicious, and potentially being the first field to bottle IPA Finish in the world.
• Moscatel Finish - Moscatel grapes offer more floral and citric flavours than other Sherries and the vineyards are located along the coast in Spain, which complements the coastal location of Filey Bay whisky. Spending extra time finishing in these Casks, produces a more mild and mellow dram, whilst retaining their signature soft and sweet style.
Filey Bay Special Releases - These Limited Releases spend the full term maturing in a special single cask style and are incredibly rare, with releases each year for Yorkshire Day and the current release (Sherry Cask Reserve #2) being made by a precise selection of Pedro Ximenez Sherry Casks that were filled in 2017, with only 2000 bottles available.
Filey Bay Flagship
A delicious single malt whisky that captures the essence of the distillery, using a very unique combination of both pot and column stills and then maturing the new make spirit in first fill Old Forester bourbon casks. The Whisky Director, Joe, has nearly 17-years experience within the whisky industry and uses a Solera-type approach to cask management; retaining some spirit in each cask when they are bottled, to continually produce a light and fruity whisky with flavours of citrus, caramel, honey, cream and vanilla.
Filey Bay STR Finish #2
Now on Batch 2, this whisky is matured in bourbon casks that bring out the signature flavour profile of Filey Bay, before being finished in STR (Shaved, Toasted and Re-charred) Rioja wine barrels from Spain. This technique was pioneered by the late Dr. Jim Swan, producing a deeper colour to the whisky and adds flavours of red fruit. This all provides light, floral and fruity notes with hints of red fruit, vanilla and toasted oak... Cheers!
You can find more information about The Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery and Filey Bay Whisky at https://www.spiritofyorkshire.com and we highly recommend heading over to the Distillery to enjoy their wonderfully informative tour and indulge in the delicious food and drinks available in their coffee shop. They also have an Open Day on 30th July 2022, so keep an eye out for tickets. To be the first to hear about new releases, get exclusive access to Single Cask ballots, and receive the monthly newsletter, sign up to their mailing list.