Every Grain Stories whisky has a story and we’re excited to tell ours, starting with our Heritage Corn Whisky.
Grain Stories is our Master Distiller’s experimental whisky playhouse, celebrating the diversity of all our English-grown heritage grains.
Whisky gives grain everlasting life, just like the written word gives a story. The grain is perpetuated by its distillation into whisky and is linked forever to the time and place of its field and harvest.
As part one of our Grain Stories series, find out about the origin of our Heritage Corn Whisky below.
A happy accident
Our Heritage Corn Whisky has a particularly unique and serendipitous origin.
In 2010, John Letts, our Head of Grain & Sustainability, collected samples of both 'flint' and 'sweet' corn seeds (also known as maize) from gene banks all over the world.
John added these samples to corn seeds he acquired from Canada, planted them in a research plot and allowed them to cross-pollinate, like rye. What started as an experiment swiftly transformed into something much more.
Cross-pollination produced a larger range of cobs with seeds that were unique and genetically diverse. Each year, over a period of five years, John selected the earliest ripening plants and the healthiest ears, harvesting approximately a ton of grain. Half of the grain was dry, but the other half germinated (malted) on the barn floor as it was being cleaned.
After harvesting all the grain by hand, John flaked and crushed the maize and sent it to The Oxford Artisan Distillery immediately for distillation.
The mixture of sweet corn and flint corn seeds, half of which were germinated, produced an amazing sweet corn scent and flavour even before it went into our stills.
Our heritage corn
Boasting bold and vibrant colours, our corn is incredibly beautiful and unique; it’s not like the standard corn on the cob you’ll find in supermarkets.
As with any crop, a longer ripening season brings incredible concentrated and rich flavours and an amazingly rich and full aroma.
The grain that entered our stills consisted of 51% corn, a mixture of half germinated 'sweet’ corn and 'flint' corn seeds, 34% rye, 10% wheat and 5% malted barley.
Once the corn had been distilled, our Heritage Corn Whisky was ready for the next stage: resting in a New American Oak cask.
Tasting notes and aromas
Our Heritage Corn Whisky evokes a delicate floral and herbal aroma with notes of honey and wormwood. It also offers a beautiful blend of dough, buttery biscuit, raw almonds and banana aromas finishing with vanilla, allspice and cinnamon.
As for taste and texture, expect a creamy and smooth experience with notes of banana and ginger cake. You might also notice a slightly sweet and nutty taste with a hint of grass and liquorice root.
Having been fully matured in New American oak for three and a half years, the highly active wood has gifted the creamy spirit sweet vanilla, allspice and cinnamon notes.
A first taste
When sampling your first tipple, you might first notice the aroma of flowers and herbs (pine), followed by scents of pear, marzipan, banana bread and vanilla ice cream, finished with cornflake, Nutella and cinnamon.
The initial sip may appear very smooth with a sudden spice kick from the rye to finish. You might also notice hints of peppermint paired with cacao and vanilla, creating an oaky feel.
The beautifully complex taste is a result of many elements – the grains, the fermentation and distillation processes, the cask and seasons.
Unique farming leads to unique flavours
At The Oxford Artisan Distillery, we firmly believe that our farming methods create unique grains, quite unlike modern commercial grain, and make truly excellent whisky flavour profiles.
Eschewing pesticides and chemical fertilisers, all of our crops are grown sustainably, contributing to an abundance of wildflowers, insects and birds across our farms.
Working with the best British organic and regenerative farming partners to grow our ancient heritage grains, we use our master distilling skills and our one-of-a-kind stills to produce the best possible flavour profiles of those grains.
This is sustainable artisan production at its best; regenerating the land, supporting biodiversity and managing every stage from seed to still to glass. If you’d like to learn more about our sustainable farming methods, read our farming guide.
Crafted using genetically diverse corn seeds and regenerative farming methods, enjoy the beautifully unique flavours of our limited edition, one of a kind, Heritage Corn Whisky today.