Spirit of Yorkshire, the county’s very first single malt whisky distillery

Spirit of Yorkshire, the county’s very first single malt whisky distillery

This week, we’re digging into the origins of Yorkshire’s first whisky distillery – say hello to the aptly-named Spirit of Yorkshire.

English whisky has really made its mark on the whisky map in the last decade or so, bolstered by new and exciting distilleries popping up all over the country. In 2017, Spirit of Yorkshire opened to the public after very little build up, though it had been busy filling casks up long before that. The stills were fired up for the first time in May 2016 to nobody’s knowledge, quietly working away. Nobody knew it existed for its first year of life.

David Thompson and Tom Mellor with Filey Bay

The distillery is based in the village Hunmanby, near Filey Bay on the Yorkshire Coast (now you can see where the whisky’s name came from). It’s the work of Tom Mellor, who came from a farming and brewing background, and his long-time friend David Thompson, who is well-established in the marketing side of things. It then acquired the services of the late Dr Jim Swan, a distillery consultant, expert, and hugely influential character in the whisky industry, working with many new distilleries during their origins. 

Spirit of Yorkshire is an impressive field-to-bottle operation, excluding the malting, which is done round the corner in Bridlington. It started off as a barley farm, though pivoted to become a brewery in 2003 when it couldn’t continue as a business simply selling barley. That history, combined with excellent pot stills, the knowledge of its founders, and expert advice from Dr Jim Swan set them up very nicely for success. 

Spirit of Yorkshire whisky glass

Speaking of stills, it’s worth mentioning that Spirit of Yorkshire is equipped with two of the largest Forsyth pot stills operating in the UK outside of Scotland, second only to The Lakes Distillery in Cumbria. One of these (the spirit still, used for the second maturation) has the option to send vapours through an attached four-plate column still, before the vapours are returned to the pot. This acts like a mega-version of the kind of purifier used by distilleries such as Ardbeg. Spirit of Yorkshire use the regular two pot still setup around 50% of the time, and the additional column for the other 50%. The two spirits are then matured separately, before it’s decided whether they will be brought together during the blending process down the line.

Spirit of Yorkshire Filey Bay poured into glass

Rather intriguingly (and unusually), the wash isn’t mashed and fermented on-site, but is produced at the team’s nearby sister brewery Wold Top, with the same specification used for both beer and whisky. It’s then driven five minutes down the road to the distillery, something which certainly wouldn’t fly in Scotland. Spirit of Yorkshire is also another distillery which is looking into the terroir of its barley, though it’s more intrigued (or “on the fence”, as the team puts it) about the concept rather than a convert to the cause.

What did you think of the Filey Bay this month? Don’t be afraid to chat whisky with us on our social channels – we always love to hear your thoughts!

Jess 🥃 

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Pour & Sip video