Holyrood Distillery, the first single malt distillery in Edinburgh for almost 100 years, has launched a cask programme that offers the opportunity to create a truly bespoke whisky.
With a limited run of only 200 whisky casks in 2020, the programme allows customers to tailor the whisky to their tastes, by involving them in every stage of the production process, working alongside Distillery Manager Jack Mayo and Co-Founder David Robertson.
Given the current restrictions, the cask programme will take place via a face-to-face consultation at the distillery, with appropriate social distancing measures taken, or as a unique virtual experience with indicative samples delivered to the participant in advance and an online session with the distillery team.
The distillery is focusing on four core new make spirit flavours – fruity & floral, sweet, spicy and smoky – with a variety of casks sourced in which to mature these impactful spirits. Cask purchasers are able to tailor their choices or explore something completely different. The unique process starts with an in-depth consultation allowing the buyer to identify exactly which flavours they’d like their bespoke spirit to carry.
However, customisation does not stop there. The buyer can then participate in every part of the journey, including the selection of:
- The type of malted barley: from a range of classic spring distiller’s, to smoked, peated or roasted malts (crystal, amber and chocolate for example).
- The yeasts used for fermentation: from distillers, or unusual wine strains to traditional craft brewer’s yeasts.
- The distillation approach, including cut points, flow rates, and distillation date.
- The type of cask for maturation, including its oak species, size, previous fill (e.g. bourbon, port, sherry, etc.) and the date when the cask will be filled.
The custom-made styles offered in 2020’s Cask Programme have been developed to follow different flavour profiles:
- Fruity and floral flavours: green, citrus and tropical fruits can be developed by leaving the new make spirit to slumber in American oak (ex sherry wood) hogsheads; or a red fruits profile can be gained by maturing in port barrique casks.
- Sweet tones like milk chocolate or vanilla/treacle toffee can be introduced into the new spirit by using roasted malted barleys and filling American oak (ex bourbon) barrels. A deeper, richer style of espresso coffee or dark chocolate can be brought out by maturing in toasted European oak (ex Oloroso sherry) hogsheads.
- Those seeking spicy notes will be able to bring out classic orange marmalade, dried fruits, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon spices by selecting a fruity new spirit filled to toasted European Oak (ex-Oloroso sherry) hogsheads.
- For fans of peat and smoky flavours, the distillery team can curate either a sweet fruity smoke using peated malted barleys and allowing it to mature in American oak (ex sherry) hogsheads; or for smoky sherry connoisseurs, Spanish oak (ex sherry wood) hogsheads.
Fifty casks have also been reserved for customers looking for a one-of-kind service. They could choose, for example, a rare wood like a Japanese oak or a cask that previously contained dessert wine or beer to flavour and finesse their whisky; or to select a barley used in a recipe from a bygone era (the distillery has access to varieties like Plumage Archer, Marris Otter and Golden Promise, for example). Whatever the request, the team of distillers will work with the buyer to design a totally unique recipe.
Co-founder of Holyrood Distillery, David Robertson, said:
“We built Holyrood Distillery with flavour at its very heart. We’re not bound by heritage; our priority is to be open-minded and produce a range of truly delicious whiskies rather than sticking to tradition and crafting only one or two styles. We know that our customers appreciate the opportunity to dive into the creative process. This programme allows people to share that journey with us and create something truly customised to their individual taste. It’s an invitation to own a piece of history – and to be guided through that process by our experts to create something really bespoke.”
Three barrel sizes are available – a barrel (200 litres), a barrique (225 litres), or a hogshead (both 250 litres) starting from £4,950, £5,450, and £5,950 respectively. The cost includes the personal flavour consultation, whisky creation and visits to the distillery and warehouse, the cask, storage for ten years, annual sampling, annual warehouse visits and insurance. Bottling costs, customised labelling, duty and VAT are not included but illustrated costs can be provided for UK customers. The fully bespoke offer is priced individually depending on each client’s requirements.
Distillery Manager, Dr Jack Mayo, said:
“As a whisky distiller there is nothing better than getting the chance to create a wide range of flavours and styles and even a totally unique whisky. While other distilleries allow you to purchase casks with whisky based on their house style, this level of customisation is unique. For an inquisitive whisky fan, this is a chance to be a master distiller for a day, and a whisky maker across the decade as you watch the development of your fledgling spirit into a mature single malt and decide when the time is right for bottling. You’ll ultimately be making whisky history in our pioneering city centre distillery in Edinburgh.”
Cask sales are limited and on a first–come–first–served basis, with a deposit of £2,000 per cask required to secure a consultation, production slot and ultimately cask ownership. The balance should be paid 30 days prior to production and cask filling.
Holyrood Distillery started distilling in September 2019 in Edinburgh’s city centre. Located right in the heart of Edinburgh’s historic distilling district – on St. Leonard’s Lane with views over Holyrood Park – the 180-year-old building has been thoughtfully renovated to produce gin, liqueurs and whisky. Currently planned to re-open to visitors by appointment only, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, production has now resumed, enabling the team to start on this diverse, customised and bespoke cask programme.