Welcome to Grain Stories.
Grain Stories is our Master Distiller’s experimental whisky playhouse, celebrating the diversity of all our English-grown heritage grains. Our grains are like no other and each has its own tale to tell.
“Every whisky we produce has its own narrative and with our exclusive use of heritage grain, the different varieties we use play a vital part – it is these distinctive grains which are the thread that binds every chapter in this tome of Grain Stories whiskies.”
Presenting Chapter One: our ode to corn.
Distilled from diverse corn varieties grown in England especially for us and harvested in 2017, and matured in Cask #1, our Heritage Corn Whisky is something special; floral, herbal, creamy and spicy, with notes of shortbread, raw nuts, banana and ginger cake.
As with all our whisky bottlings, this is a limited edition expression and will never be repeated.
AROMA: Floral and herbal with notes of honey and wormwood. Dough, buttery biscuit, raw almonds and banana finishing with vanilla, allspice and cinnamon.
PALATE: Creamy and smooth with banana and ginger cake notes. Sweet and nutty with a hint of grass and liquorice root.
FINISH: Warm yet refreshing. Herbal and Spicy.
OVERALL: Floral and herbal. Shortbread and nuts. Banana and ginger, refreshing spice.
Our Heritage Corn Whisky has a particularly unique, serendipitous origin.
John Letts, our Head of Grain & Sustainability, grew up in Canada surrounded by corn fields, but it was a modern hybrid corn used to make products like corn flakes and high fructose syrup. A few farmers grew a little multicoloured 'Indian' corn (technically North Eastern 'flint' corn) that was once grown by native people all over North America. Some native groups also grew a slightly sweeter corn - the ancestor of our modern, super-sweet 'sweet corn'.
In 2010 John collected samples of both 'flint' and 'sweet' corn from gene banks all over the world and added this to corn he'd obtained from Canada. Planting all of it in a research plot in his garden, he allowed it to cross-pollinate, producing a large range of cobs with genetically diverse seeds. John did this for five years, after every harvest selecting out the earliest ripening plants with the healthiest and most productive ears.
In 2017 John harvested about a ton of corn (by hand!), half of this was dry, but the other half was still damp and began to germinate (malt) on the barn floor as it was being cleaned. After flaking and crushing all of this maize, he sent it to the distillery where our distillers got straight to work.
The grain ratio the team used contained 51% corn, a mixture of 'sweet’ corn and 'flint' corn seeds, half of which had germinated (malted) along with 34% rye, 10% wheat and 5% malted barley. Lactic maceration was undertaken prior to mash, the corn was fermented dry as a paste after milling and before mixing with water and the other grains for three days boosting creamy characters and textures.
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.
“Although the second most abundant grain used is rye which is quite noticeable through its spicy character, the corn is oily and its charm comes through with butter and biscuity notes that elevate the spirit. The whisky is full of the distillery’s characteristic floral and herbal tones coupled with shortbread and unroasted nuts while banana and ginger cake flavours interplay with the whisky’s smooth velvety mouthfeel, finishing with spicy and green grass vibes.”
The artwork for our first ever Grain Stories expression was created by Ian Murray, a world class illustrator based in Stockport, Cheshire.
Ian has a very particular way of working; writing down key words, interpreting the words into drawn images and then working on combining and manipulating the images until an idea (or ideas) form. For our artwork, he solicited his friends’ handwriting for the annotated notes used in the background (telling the story of this expression in the words of our Master Distiller) and printed the image of our Head of Grain on aged paper he found in his father’s workshop years ago and had subsequently buried in the garden to age. As Ian says, ‘I thought it quite fitting that it came from the soil to be used on your project’. A dream to work with, Ian took the very unique story of our corn whisky and brought it to life more beautifully than we could have imagined.
For the eagle-eyed amongst you, there is a lot to search out in this label, from the rain that fell on our 2017 harvest to the temperature the spirit was distilled at and the cask number of our Heritage Corn Whisky. Perhaps, one day, we’ll tell all.