Yorkshire conjures up many memories and mental images for me. A fiercely proud group of people who love their home and anything made from within God’s Own Country. From brutalist structures of the industrial revolution to vast moors and beautiful scenery, it has it all.
Amongst its well-documented achievements, the county offers food and drinks that have stood the test of time have been produced, protected and maintained to become mainstays across the UK: from Sheffield there’s Bassett’s sweets and Henderson’s Relish; from York there’s a whole host of Rowntree’s confectionary (Fruit Pastilles, Smarties, KitKats and Polos to name but a few); from Leeds there’s the institution of Marks and Spencer; from Bradford there’s Tetley Tea, which itself is rivalled by, and – to these discerning tastebuds – bettered by Harrogate’s eponymous Yorkshire Tea. These have proven to be staples of British food and drink and somewhat rooted with history and provenance. It is a surprise therefore that there is a new player and product on the scene which is close to our hearts, which is a first for the county: the first Yorkshire single malt whisky.
The Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery first fired up its Forsyth stills in May 2016 in the coastal village of Hunmanby. In October 2019 it became the first distillery in Yorkshire to sell a single malt whisky, doing so under the brand name of “Filey Bay”. The distillery have kept their Yorkshire roots at heart though and have looked to manage and maintain all ingredients “from field to bottle” from within the county – the barley being grown in their own farm in Hunmanby.
That first (and second) bottling has become a success story and a collectors’ piece for whisky drinkers and Yorkshire folk alike. The whisky being sampled here is the first main release from the distillery which will form part of its core range, and follows that same initial flavour profile, namely “Flagship”.
This single malt features whiskies aged 3-4 years old made from their own barley and water from the SOYD farm, which have been matured in ex-bourbon barrels. The spirit has been captured at 46% ABV and a 70cl bottle costs ca, £55 GBP.
Very sweet and tingly from the off. Lemon bonbons and soft squishy sweets – like the Haribo egg-shaped sweet. That dusty sugary type sweetness. Just like the candy sticks that used to be sold in packs that made them look like cigarettes. Speaking of dusty, I can smell a cereal or porridge oat type flavour as well as returning to Ye Old Shoppe where I can smell barley sugars and pear drops too. Finally there’s a delicious pastry-like set of smells in there too, like apple turnovers and vanilla danishes. Like the ones that stop you dead in your tracks when you walk past a bakery.
That last pastry smell presents itself first here when it hits the lips, this time is apple strudel. Those sweet apple and pastry flavours are joined by warming gingery and cinnamon spices. There’s a nice peach flavour in there too. In fact, second and third sips, this profile’s pudding has an extra large dollop of custard served with it, through a soft vanilla flavour and texture adding to this dessert-like experience. There are some lighter, sweet, nutty flavours there too – am thinking hazelnuts and almonds (marzipan). The spices do intensify towards the end there too courtesy of the oak.
Once the oaky and spicy tingle has quickly subsided, the finish reminds me of the flavours in your mouth when you bite hard into a bonbon and then you can’t get any further into it and then have to deploy the minutes of chewing… niche but a very vivid memory that this is evoking.
Well, this is a lesson in not judging a book by its cover. I must admit, going into this knowing the whisky be an early release of young malts I was expecting some initial punchy, pure spirit power and whilst it does kinda shoot straight up the nostrils when giving it a first sniff, it is far from being harsh in any way and is really rather light and sweet. I was also expecting the main flavour to be vanilla due to its youth and the bourbon influence, but again it was so sweet, fruity and citrusy, that the expected experiences were just taking aback sear and helping round out the flavour profile. It has such light body that this might not fit the bill for your classic whisky drinker, but to me it is something new and exciting. I love the name and simplicity of it too. It’s called flagship. It honest. It’s transparent. It’s a statement of intent. It also implies that it is the ground upon which this distillery will build its range over time with the light, citrus and sweet flavours going to be their profile and signature base. With that in mind there’s a lot to offer and to look forward to. I tasted this as part of a Tweet Tasting alongside their Moscatel and STR finishes (notes to follow soon) and these just take it into a different direction but with a discernible base. The tasting packs can also be bought directly from SOYD (click here) and are presented in, what I think to be, one of the most gorgeous and stylistic packages for a sample set that I’ve ever seen. At £50-55 for a bottle, that might be too steep for those who look at just a whisky’s age, but in terms of flavours, it’s a great new start and an exciting future for another fine Yorkshire product. God’s own country has a new spirit.
Sample disclosure: This sample was received as part of a Tweet Tasting event organised by Steve Rush @TheWhiskyWire as a promotion of The Spirit Of Yorkshire Distillery and their Filey Bay brand. All notes are however intended as an honest, fair and independent review of the whisky itself and not a promotion. Please drink responsibly. Please drink wisely.