Oxford, 22nd April 2021 – The Oxford Artisan Distillery, the UK’s first certified Organic Grain-to-Glass distillery*, has announced the eagerly anticipated, inaugural release of its Oxford Rye Whisky Batch #1.
The distillery produces superior English rye whisky using ancient heritage grains**, grown by the distillery’s certified organic and regenerative farming partners, these grains require no pesticides, fungicides or herbicides, supporting sustainability and biodiversity in their fields. The production of rye whisky has been part of The Oxford Artisan Distillery’s core plan from day one, with the first casks laid down more than 3 years ago, a few months after the distillery opened in July, 2017.
Oxford Rye Whisky Batch #1, bottled at 46.3% ABV, has characteristic rye spice, big banana bread flavours, hints of freshly baked sourdough and herbal notes which play with its creamy and nutty texture.
To create this expression, the grain ratio was made up of 90% maslin (a mix of 70% rye and 20% wheat from populations grown together in the same field) and 10% heritage malted barley – which was harvested in the summer of 2017. The grain is not milled, but instead flattened in a very loud, eccentric traditional mill from the 1920s. The resulting course flakes were then made up in to an 8,000L watery porridge and stirred vigorously by oar (in keeping with Oxford traditions).
Cold winter fermentation was undertaken in 5000L Hungarian oak vats. The porous oak allows yeast and bacteria (wild or not) to live in the wood and over time helps the distillery to have a consistent and stable in-house fermenting culture, which allows for the microflora to give fruitier flavours and creamier notes. These oak vats also help regulate temperature and pH during fermentation. The mash was then double distilled in the distillery’s bespoke custom-made stills, named Nautilus and Nemo. Then finally, the new make spirit was matured in two virgin American oak casks for more than three years.
Chico Rosa, Master Distiller, comments “This whisky perfectly showcases our distillery terroir. The huge flavour impact of our grains: herbal notes from the rye, nutty caramel from the wheat and sweet malted barley combine with oaky vanilla. The long fermentation in our Hungarian oak vats, where lactic acid bacteria from our fields have been enjoying their new home, contribute creamy and sour notes, bringing praline to the table. The flaked grains which become baked around Nautilus’s steam coils, gift the whisky with extra toasty, sourdough flavours. Yin and yang, the whisky offers refreshing rye and warming Christmas spices, creamy banana bread and nutty, vanilla notes. Layers of cream, bread and herbs.”
The distillery’s regenerative and organic farming partners, led by their Head of Grain & Sustainable Development, John Letts, grow the ancient heritage grains, the likes of which have not been grown extensively in England for well over a century. The Oxford Artisan Distillery is the only distillery in England to use these populations of ancient heritage grains; painstakingly sourced, revived and bulked up over many years and grown sustainably using methods informed by those last used back in the 19th century. As a result Oxford Rye Whisky has a flavour that cannot be achieved from commercial grain.
Dave Smith, Executive Chairman comments: “Our fields, more so than most, express the biggest terroir variation, with regenerative agriculture creating ecosystems able to express themselves in bottle and thus directly addressing the global carbon issue arising from modern conventional farming. It is the use of heritage grain and the way we farm that allows us to conceive a product with true character. This is a story that deserves to be told and one of the reasons why we have detailed the year of harvest on the bottle.”
Adding: “It is the use of heritage grain and the way we farm that allows us to conceive a product with true character. This is a story that deserves to be told and one of the reasons why we have detailed the year of harvest on the bottle.”
Oxford Rye Whisky Batch #1 consists of 502 bottles, priced at £95, and will be available from specialist retailers including Master of Malt, Hedonism, The Whisky Exchange, The Whisky Shop Oxford and the distillery’s website from 6pm today, 22nd April 2021.
Following the first release, the second batch of Oxford Rye Whisky will be made available for pre-ordering from 10am on Saturday 24th April, with delivery being made available from early July. Created using the same grain mix as Batch #1 but with fermentation taking place in Spring 2018, when the weather was warmer, which has delivered more tropical fruit characters, this batch has been matured in New American Oak and finished in a wine cask, more information will follow.