For thousands of years, people knew that leaving fruits / grains in covered containers produced alcohol, but no one fully understood why? The answer is yeast, an invisible microorganism that occurs naturally. The name fermentation comes from the Latin ‘fevere’ (to boil) and the observation that mixtures of crushed grapes kept in large vessels produced bubbles (as though boiling).
From a source of carbohydrate (fruit, grain, plants, etc), yeast-driven fermentation creates alcohol (ethanol) and carbon dioxide (the bubbles). Yeast also can provide qualities such as texture, flavour and aroma.
To make whisky (from scratch) you start by creating a low ABV fermented alcohol (a ‘wash’, or more simply a beer) from grain, hot water and yeast. The beer is then distilled (concentrated) to raise the ABV and enhance certain flavours & aromas. Fermentation and yeast have long been a focus in beer making but historically less of a conversation in whisky. So back in 2016, we decided that Derbyshire’s beer making pedigree should form part of what’s unique about the region’s first single malt whisky, made from scratch at the former Wire Works.
For our ferments, we use live brewers yeast, which is not usual in whisky-making. We collect the yeast fresh each week from our friends up the road at Thornbridge Brewery. We also do long 140 hour fermentations (>2x the average). The yeast we get from Thornbridge is used for its award-winning Jaipur IPA. With this live brewers yeast and long fermentation, we prioritise flavour & aroma and we also add to the provenance of Wire Works Whisky.
Every drop of Wire Works Whisky we’ve ever bottled has this unique, local yeast-driven flavour element and Derbyshire DNA.