Yorkshire’s very first whisky distillery set for public opening

The Spirit of Yorkshire distillery in Hunmanby, North Yorkshire is set to welcome visitors when it opens on April 17.   Pictures by Richard Ponter.
The Spirit of Yorkshire distillery in Hunmanby, North Yorkshire is set to welcome visitors when it opens on April 17. Pictures by Richard Ponter.

Yorkshire’s food and drink scene is already at the heart of what makes our county so great, but a new enterprise promises to give it an entirely new dimension.

For the first time, single malt whisky is being produced in Yorkshire, in the heart of the Yorkshire Wolds, an area considered to be the country’s capital of one of whisky’s primary ingredients - malting barley.

Spirit of Yorkshire co-directors David Thompson and Tom Mellor.

Spirit of Yorkshire co-directors David Thompson and Tom Mellor.

A large proportion of all malting barley produced in England is done so in the Wolds, making the village of Hunmanby an ideal location from which to launch Spirit of Yorkshire, a bold new venture driven by successful beer producer Tom Mellor and his business partner David Thompson.

Mr Mellor grows barley over 350 acres on his Wolds farm that is also home to his multiple award-winning Wold Top Brewery. During production, all whisky starts with a beer-like liquor called a wash and so a move into whisky distillation - in a part of the country dominated by its key crop - was a burning ambition that is only now being realised after years of hard work.

The distillery has been developed on Hunmanby Industrial Estate with guidance from the late renowned whisky expert Dr Jim Swan. It is located just three miles from Mr Mellor’s farm, which is the source of all the barley and spring water used to produce its unique single malt.

Whisky production began 10 months ago and the ‘new make spirit’ must mature for a minimum of three years before it can be called a whisky. However, a number of other spirits produced from the same process will be available to customers in the next six months.

Tom Mellor in the processing area of the distillery.

Tom Mellor in the processing area of the distillery.

To celebrate the progress so far, Spirit of Yorkshire will officially launch with tours of the distillery between 10am-4pm on Easter Monday - April 17 - when its adjoining Pot Still Coffee Shop and a visitor centre will open to the public.

It is anticipated that 15,000 people will visit the distillery in its first year.

Mr Mellor said: “Making a whisky from scratch requires curiosity, commitment and, most of all, time. We’ve invested heavily in all three, taking the best of tradition and following our instincts to produce what promises to be a unique, noteworthy whisky.”

Co-director, Mr Thompson, added: “There’s something deeply satisfying about creating a whisky instilled with the spirit of the people and the place we live. From sowing the barley to distilling the New Make Spirit and finally laying the casks down to mature, it’s exciting to think that people will enjoy the fruits of our labours in 10, 20 or even 30 years’ time.

The logo and barrel stamp for Spirit of Yorkshire is a direct nod to the thousands of gannets that gather on the cliffs at nearby Bempton.

The logo and barrel stamp for Spirit of Yorkshire is a direct nod to the thousands of gannets that gather on the cliffs at nearby Bempton.

“This is the first whisky distillery in Yorkshire. We grow all the barley on Tom’s farm and the water comes from a borehole on the farm but it has taken four years to get the distillery in place.

“This area is fundamentally the best malting barley area in the country so we thought, how can we put it to good use in this region? So we send our crop to Muntons maltsters in Bridlington and they send it back malted.

“The beauty is, we can say exactly which field each batch of barley came from.”

A gannet that appears on the whisky barrels and in the distillery’s logo has been inspired by the large colony of the species at nearby Bempton Cliffs, in keeping with its local provenance.

Mr Thompson said the first objective was to create an easy drinking signature malt produced in bourbon casks, before the distillery looks to add to its range with more complex whiskies, using the likes of sherry and red wine casks.