Early each year, we go full Derbyshire. We produce single malt spirit using local barley, grown right here in Derbyshire. These special batches of Wire Works Whisky are an extension of our Derbyshire provenance, and the full life cycle our whisky enjoys here at the Wire Works.
The Derbyshire barley is floor-malted at Warminster, the oldest maltings in England. Warminster has been malting barley using traditional methods since 1855 and continues to use the same methods today.
The malt house is designed so that the barley undergoes a different process on each floor, before being transferred to the floor below for the next stage. It’s manual and time-intensive work for the maltsters.
Initially, the barley is steeped in water for three days to artificially start the germination process. Then, the malt descends to the germination floor, where it is spread out and then turned and ventilated regularly to maintain a slow rate of germination. The barley is known as green malt at this point.
After 4-5 days the grain has been modified, providing access to the starch within and producing the enzymes required to convert the starch to sugar in our mash tun. The malt is then transferred to a kiln where temperatures are controlled carefully over 16-18 hours, preventing any further loss of starch to the barley while preserving the enzymes for use during mashing.
The final step of the process is separating the dried rootlets from the malt grains, before the malt is sent out to distilleries, ready to be used in whisky production.
The Derbyshire barley we’re using is unpeated, and so a seasonal departure from our core lightly-peated expression.
It will be a few years before we’re happy to release this unpeated Wire Works Whisky, but we’ve been sampling the new spirit at various cut points, and we’re already very excited for the future. We’re running shorter foreshots at the start of the spirit run, which adds some very fruity notes to the spirit (lots of banana).
We’re also running deeper into the distillation (down to 63% instead of our usual cut of 67%) which emphasises lots of malty, biscuity notes from the altered mashing regime (lots of raking and no recirculation).
We’re filling a wide range of casks, to give us an understanding of which casks will suit the flavour profile of this Derbyshire barley; we’re leaning towards casks that favour a longer maturation, to preserve some of the malt flavour in the final whisky.
We’re also filling at different ABVs, to draw different flavours from the wood.
We’re going to have some fun sampling this spirit as it matures!