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Oxford Artisan Distillery bottles first rye whisky

Organic grain-to-glass producer The Oxford Artisan Distillery has revealed its inaugural English rye whisky.

Oxford Rye whisky
Only 502 bottles of Oxford Rye Whisky Batch #1 will be available to purchase

Oxford Rye Whisky Batch #1 has been bottled at 46.3% ABV and is limited to 502 bottles, which will be available from specialist retailers from tomorrow (23 April), including Master of Malt, Hedonism, The Whisky Exchange, The Whisky Shop Oxford and the distillery’s website. It has an RRP of £95 (US$132).

The whisky was made using a grain ratio of 90% maslin (a mix of 70% rye and 20% wheat from populations grown together in the same field) and 10% heritage malted barley, which was harvested in summer 2017.

Instead of being milled, the grain is flattened in a traditional mill from the 1920s, creating coarse flakes that are made into an ‘8,000l watery porridge’ and stirred ‘vigorously’ by oar, as is the Oxford tradition.

Cold winter fermentation takes place in 5,000l Hungarian oak vats. The mash is then double distilled in the distillery’s custom-made stills, called Nautilus and Nemo.

The spirit was then matured in two virgin American oak casks for more than three years.

Tasting notes include rye spice, banana bread, hints of freshly baked sourdough and herbal notes, which complement the whisky’s creamy and nutty texture.

Chico Rosa, master distiller, said: “This whisky perfectly showcases our distillery terroir. The huge flavour impact of our grains: herbal notes from the rye, nutty caramel from the wheat and sweet malted barley combine with oaky vanilla.

“The long fermentation in our Hungarian oak vats, where lactic acid bacteria from our fields have been enjoying their new home, contribute creamy and sour notes, bringing praline to the table.

“The flaked grains which become baked around Nautilus’s steam coils, gift the whisky with extra toasty, sourdough flavours. Yin and yang, the whisky offers refreshing rye and warming Christmas spices, creamy banana bread and nutty, vanilla notes. Layers of cream, bread and herbs.”

The Oxford Artisan Distillery was certified organic in April 2020 and is the only English distiller to use genetically diverse populations of ancient heritage organic grains.

It is believed to have been the first certified organic grain-to-glass distillery in the UK.

According to figures from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), the number of registered distilleries in the UK rose from 414 to 560 in 2019.

Out of those distilleries, The Oxford Artisan Distillery was the only distillery cultivating, distilling and bottling its own organic heritage grains.

Second whisky batch

In addition, the second batch of Oxford Rye Whisky will be available to pre-order from 10am on Saturday 24 April 2021, with delivery planned for early July.

The second batch was created using the same grain mix as Batch #1, however, fermentation took place in spring 2018 in warmer weather.

This has resulted in ‘more tropical fruit characters’, according to the distillery.

The second batch was aged in new American oak casks and finished in a wine cask. Further details will be revealed soon.

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