The Wire Works

We have made our home in the Wire Works in Ambergate, and have become fascinated by the rich history of this site that now houses Derbyshire’s first whisky distillery. Read on to find out more about where White Peak Distillery produces its range of spirits.

Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site

The location of the Distillery has a rich history, from the royal hunting grounds of Edmund Crouchback in the Middle Ages to the industrialists of the 19th century. The 24km stretch of the Derwent Valley from Derby to Matlock Bath was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in December 2001. The valley is famous for technological innovation leading to the  birthplace of the factory system involving the development of ground-breaking technology for water manufacturing.

The Johnson & Nephew Wire Works

Metal has been a longstanding feature of the past, with the site originally being an iron forge owned by the Hurt family in the early 1800s. The derelict forge was subsequently transformed by the Johnson family into a wire works in 1876. Johnson & Nephew was a pioneer in wire and cable products, including supplying cable for the first, sub-sea cross channel telegraph service and numerous early suspension bridges.

Our Still House is located in the old Maintenance and Stores Sheds in the building labelled number 9 on the ariel photo. This was the  site of the original Iron Forge owned by the Hurt family.

 

Virtus Patienta Veritus

Our ethos is very much aligned with the former inhabitants of our building, the Johnson & Nephew Wire Works Company, who were a major employer for 120 years starting in the late 1800s. We’ve adopted their company motto which features on the neck label of our bottles, VIRTUS PATIENTA VERITUS, the virtue of patience and truth. This encapsulates our vision to create a premier English craft whisky brand through an uncompromising approach to product quality, a celebration of the craft of the distiller and a focus on the customer experience throughout all aspects of the business.

Johnson & Nephew

The Johnson & Nephew Wire Works existed for 120 years until its closure in the mid-1990s, and was a major local employer, known to be fair and generous in supporting local community events. The Distillery is now housed in the former maintenance and stores sheds, which once served a workforce of 500+ people. We have been lucky to inherit such beautiful buildings, rich with industrial heritage and strong links to the local community. The buildings stand proud alongside the River Derwent and back onto Shining Cliff Woods, an ancient woodland and site of special scientific interest. The history of the site and the local area has been inspirational in our bringing the buildings back to life in a way that salutes the past but with a new purpose; one that we look forward to sharing with people from far and wide.

The River Derwent

For decades the Wire Works used water extracted from the River Derwent for its wire cooling. We’ve been able to incorporate some of the former pumping infrastructure into our condenser cooling system; so we’re using the river water in the same way as the Wire Works once did. We love the fact that we’ve been able to build in this operational heritage and it’s also good for our pockets and carbon footprint!

Regeneration

The refurbishment was not all plain sailing, and with the buildings being of a certain age we had a few surprises. Most were resolved with hard work and unbudgeted expenditure! One unplanned aspect that pushed the timetable back a few months was the discovery of a temporary bat roost in the gable end of one of our buildings. Working closely with Natural England and our Ecology Consultants, a plan was agreed and carefully implemented. We love our riverside and woodland location, and part of this is sharing the space with the other local inhabitants who were here before we were!

Our beautiful, hand built 3,000 litre and 2,100 litre copper whisky stills now take pride of place in the middle of the still house, breathing life back into the building once again. The stores shed now plays host to our first dunnage area where our single malt whisky has been laid down to rest a while.

We like to think we’ve contributed to this heritage through sympathetic refurbishment of our buildings, re-use of the old cooling water system and the installation of our copper stills.