White Peak

Write up by Luke Jones…

This virtual tasting from the London whisky club is brought to you by White Peak Distilleries, hosted by Max Vaughan.

White Peak Distillery is the first full-scale, craft distillery in the Peak District. For those of you familiar with the Peak District, the distillery is located in Shining Cliff Woods in Ambergate on the banks of the River Derwent.

The dream of making whisky started to take shape back in 2016 when Max was fortunate to find some investors and great distillers. From there the dream quickly evolved into a plan which evolved into the Distillery as we know it today.

Derbyshire and the Peak District were always going to be the location of the distillery but the right location was a little more tricky. Fortunately, the former Johnson & Nephew wire works was a perfect match for the team.

The location of the Distillery has a rich history, from royal hunting grounds of Edmund Crouchback in the Middle Ages to industrialists in the 19th century. Metal has been a long-standing feature of the past, with the site originally being an iron forge owned by the Hurt family in the early 1800s. The derelict forge was subsequently transformed by the Johnson family into a wire works in 1876.

White Peak are building a community of whisky enthusiasts through their Temperance Cluband the membership benefits include access to the Distillery, annual events, limited-edition bottlings of our ageing spirit and malt whisky for years to come.

On to the whiskies and the full line up for the White Peak Distillery virtual tasting is:

The standard lightly peated new make at 63.5%.

2 year old spirit – Ex-bourbon cask (Heaven Hill) at cask strength.

2 year old spirit – Ex-wine cask (STR) at cask strength.

The tasting opened with Max, who dialled in from his holiday, giving an intro into his background and how he came about being involved in whisky. He doesn’t have a background in spirits, but it was more so his love of whisky that brought him into the trade. White peak opened in April 2016 and very quickly brought in a distiller from Cotswold distillery later that year. It wasn’t until April 2018 that they had their first full scale mash. The distillery has quickly grown and today there are roughly 150,000 litres or 750 casks aging with some of the casks now being 2 years old.

Max fell in the love with the romance of making whisky and the location was chosen partly because of its good footfall of visitors but also because there have never been in a distillery in peak district or even Derbyshire.

Moving on to the drams. They all sit at 60% and are lighted peated, around 8ppm. The typical taste profile the distillery is going for is a dried dark fruits character and smooth. The plan is to produce younger whiskies and there has been a lot of experimenting with different cut points/going further into the tails to achieve this.

The fist dram of the night is the new make which firstly I have to say was very drinkable. There is different blend of yeast and barley. Also, the reason for the peat is to add the taste and complexity rather than smoke. The new make from still averages about 72% but is put into the casks at 63.5%. Despite having no plans to commercially sell the new make, the distillery has had some very interesting conversations about bottling the new make for use in cocktails.

Moving on to the second dram of the night, the bourbon cask. The casks have come fromHeaven Hills which was an unexpected development for white peak given the difference in relative size of the two companies. The relationship began back in December 2017 when Max emailed Heaven Hills over the Christmas holiday and was very surprised to get a response. Despite the large minimum order Max couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with a company of Heaven Hills standing. The fact they the casks come direct gives comfort that they are fresh. The casks are shipped whole which means there is no rebuilding of the casks upon arrival in the UK and anyone in the bourbon business knows that Heaven Hills is known for its quality because of thicker cuts of wood. This really didn’t drink like such a young spirit but was only around 24 months with the first cask being from 6th May 2018.

The last dram of the night was the STR Cask chosen in person by going out and actually smelling the casks out in Portugal rather than ordering from an online list which is more typical. The cask style is well suited for aging whisky. Max and team and performed quite a lot of experimenting with the STR casks, something they can get away with in the early years of the distillery. 

The current plan is for White Peak to release their inaugural bottling in Q4 of 2021 and I’m sure there are many of us who will wait in anticipation. And some more goods news is that the distillery is hopeful that tours will be back up and running in September.

Further down the line, there are aspirations to have their own rum casks to finish whisky. To be able to achieve this White Peak need to their own rum. Step one, the distillery has just taken delivery of 4 tonnes of dehydrated sugar cane syrup direct from Colombia. To be able make use of fresh sugar cane you have to be positioned very close to the crop because once its harvested the cane begins to ferment very quickly. Hence, they have come up with the inventive approach to dehydrate the sugar cane. The spirit comes off the still as clear of water with all the colour from the casks although some do use caramel colourings. So for any rum fans out there this is another bottle to go on the next shopping list.

Tasting notes

Lightly peated new make at 63.5%

Nose: As you would expect there was that strong smell of spirit coming through but there was a lovely refreshing fruity undertone to this. Forrest fruits and maybe some floral notes too.

Palate: Here the fruity notes were clear. The blackcurrants and raspberries with hints of banana and maybe figs. At the back end there were more of the malts and cereals.

Overall this was a lovely drinkable new make spirit. Refreshingly surprising give the abv.

2 year old spirit – Ex-bourbon cask (Heaven Hill) at cask strength.

Nose: Still young on the noise with some of the edge of the new make being smoothed. Again, lovely fruity notes coming through strong. Green apples, lemons, coconut and vanillawith a touch of smoke and brine.

Palate: More malt or sweet cereal and smoke. Biscuit and brine. The fruit coming through strong offset with some toffee. Finishing with savoury and smoke.

2 year old spirit – Ex-wine cask (STR) at cask strength.

Nose: Similar to the first two drams but with welcomed addition of red forest fruits, with nutty and dark chocolate.

Palate: Palate is very developed for a young spirit with toffee and raisons and sulphur and spice and cherry and the list goes on. Adding some water really opened this up with more milk chocolate notes and even a hint of mint. Again a lovely spirit.

The next club virtual tasting from Elixir Distillers is set for the evening of Wednesday 12thAugust.

You May Also Like
Worm tubs whisky mat
Read More

Worm Tubs

July has started very well indeed. Not only are days warm and nights long but events at the club have been going from strength to strength. On Wednesday 10th July the club met once again at The Bottlescrue in St Pauls for a geeky night of whisky fun. The theme for the night was distilleries that use worm tub condensers…
Read More
Read More

Macallan & Mortlach

Macallan. The heaviest hitting distillery of them all? Certainly the one that consistently pushes out increasingly old, limited and expensive releases, and one with an extensive and well-funded fan base and unbelievable auction results. Brilliantly marketed to the public, the distillery increasingly seems to suffer from an image problem amongst whisky aficionados…
Read More
Read More

And so it begins…

The inaugural meeting of the London Whisky Club took place in Jez Bhatt’s offices at Putney Bridge on Wednesday 23rd May 2018. Attendees were Jez Bhatti, Jason Vaswani, James Hope and Michael Hay. The four of us had all been regular participants in Roy Duff / Aqvavitae’s YouTube live stream chats, and on one chat Jez and Jason suggested having…
Read More