First Isle of Wight whisky reaches legal maturity

The Isle of Wight distillery has announced that it has officially made the island’s first legal whisky, after the spirit reached the legally required milestone of three years years in barrel.

Put into barrel on 16 December 2015, the spirit can now be officially called whisky rather than new-make or malt spirit.

The distillery, however, has not set a release date, meaning whisky lovers will have to wait a while longer for the spirit, which is being aged in a combination of bourbon barrels and white wine casks, to be bottled.

The initial wash (9.2% ABV, un-hopped) was created by brewer Xavier Baker at Goddards Brewery using barley grown on the island. Once brewed, the wash was taken to be distilled at the Isle of Wight distillery where it was subsequently placed into barrels.

Commenting on the milestone, Xavier Baker said: “Great care and attention have been given to brewing the wash, a process often rushed in distilling. Distillers and brewers for generations have never really spoken, although the first part of whisky production is creating a strong beer.

“Our point of difference is we are approaching our whisky from a brewer’s perspective. Typically, whisky distillers will allow the natural exothermic reaction of yeast, fermenting sugars giving off temperatures of up to 40oC. Yeast will start to die at 24oC, giving off undesirable flavours that will carry across to the new-make spirit, requiring 5 years plus of maturation in oak to let those undesirable flavours mellow out and dissipate.

“Our whisky wash has been fermented as an ale between 22 -24oC for a longer, slower, controlled fermentation. This maintains happy yeast and gives a smoother, fuller flavour to the whisky. We are excited and honoured to be the first to create a legal whisky on the Isle of Wight. The process has required a lot of effort and patience over the last few years and we’re delighted that it’s now coming to fruition”.

While the whisky is currently not available to purchase, the distillery also produces a Mermaid Gin, made with rock samphire and Boadicea hops; Rock Sea Vodka; HMS Victory-branded Navy Strength and a limited-edition barrel-aged gin using oak from the famous warship, in partnership with the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

The distillery was founded in 2014 by friends Xavier Baker and Conrad Gauntlett and is based just outside Seaview.

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