The past year has been rather strange, however, nonetheless a one new English distillery has popped up despite the troubles of 2020/21. The Oxford Artisan Distillery, the UK’s first certified Organic Grain-to-Glass distillery and a few months ago it announced it’s first release: Batch #1. The distillery heavily focuses on its grain and so produces its 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.
This batch #003 was harvested in the Autumn of 2017, just after the distillery’s opening. 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, the grain is flattened and the resulting course flakes are made up in to a thick porridge. Fermentation for this batch took place over six days in the distillery’s bespoke 5000L Hungarian Oak vats, using their own in-house fermenting culture. For this special anniversary bottling of Oxford Rye Whisky Batch #3, the liquid was first rested in American oak casks and then underwent a second maturation in Moscatel wine casks, sourced directly from Portugal. The Moscatel (Muscat) grapes are turned into a sweet, fortified wine in the Peninsula de Setúbal region. It is a particularly aromatic grape variety with citrus, flowery, lichee and pear flavours and pronounced sweet fruity notes.
On the nose: you’ll be greeted by notes of oranges, red grapes, pineapple, pear drops, lemon bonbons and brown sugar. These initial notes are closely followed by green herbaceous notes, cinnamon and wafts of oatmeal. Notes of mixed spices, nutmeg and treacle start to emerge. Rounding-off the nose are notes of a tropical nature, marshmallows and a hint of fennel. On the palate: those orange and pineapple notes are ever-present, followed by apples, pears, nutmeg, cinnamon and peppermint. Notes of lemon bonbons, black pepper and star anise start to appear, as well as tropical notes. Completing the palate are notes of marshmallows, parma violets, green herbs, a hint of currants and a lovely creamy note. The finish: is long, buttery-sweet and waxy, with lingering notes of herbs, mint and a buttery note.
Our verdict: This is the third time we’ve tried anything from the Oxford Rye distillery and I think it is fair to say we were pleasantly surprised. The fact that this is only a 3-year-old whisky is quite something. It’s packed with enough depth in flavour to make you think you are tasting something a little older. That said, it would be nice to try something a little older in the future from them but as a first whisky release – this a rather tasty dram. The Oxford Rye Whisky Batch #3, is bottled at 51.2% ABV and doesn’t really require any water in my humble opinion but you may want to leave for 5-7 to breathe before indulging.
Oxford Rye Whisky Batch #3 consists of 551 bottles, priced at £120, and will be available from specialist retailers including Master of Malt, Hedonism, The Whisky Exchange, The Whisky Shop Oxford and theoxfordartisandistillery.com.