England

Oxford Rye Whisky Batch 2

Oxford Rye Whisky 2017 Harvest Batch 2

What they say:

Oxford Rye Whisky Batch #2, bottled at 47.4% ABV, has the distillery’s classic Oxford Rye house-style: herbal and floral with creamy butterscotch notes, nutty and spicy banana bread, but with an elevated sweet wine flavour of berry jams, dried fruits, leather and tobacco.

The whisky in this batch was matured in virgin American oak casks and freshly emptied Vintage Port casks. Having spent many years in production the Port casks bring the very best characteristics of Portugal’s famed Douro wine valley to the Thames valley, and the character of Oxford’s only Rye Whisky.

Master Distiller, Chico Rosa comments: “The goal with this whisky was to bring you to Oxford; which for me is rye fields and old libraries. It’s herbal, nutty and cured. Like our diverse fields of grain, this is a diverse experience of sensations.”

Adding: ”The first release was our pure expression of rye – virgin oak, fruity, with a herbal and bready character. With this batch, I wanted to highlight a different side of our rye – the herbal nuttiness and rye goodness, while also bringing a decadent and musky hint of Vintage Port. Showing their years the Port casks add a layer of complexity, without overtaking, only complementing.”

The Oxford Artisan Distillery is the only distillery in England to use populations of ancient heritage grains; painstakingly sourced, revived and bulked up over many years and grown sustainably using methods last used back in the 19th century. As a result Oxford Rye Whisky has a flavour that cannot be achieved from commercial grain.

To create this expression, the grain ratio was made up of 90% maslin (a mix of 70% rye and 20% wheat from populations grown together in the same field) and 10% heritage malted barley – which was harvested in the summer of 2017. The grain was not milled, but instead flattened in a very loud, eccentric traditional mill from the 1920s. The resulting course flakes were then made up in to an 8,000L watery porridge.

Spring fermentation – which has delivered richer fruit characters compared with Batch #1’s winter fermentation – was undertaken in 5000L Hungarian oak vats. The porous oak helps the distillery to have a consistent and stable in-house fermenting culture, allowing microflora to give fruitier flavours and creamier notes. The mash was then double distilled in the distillery’s bespoke custom-made stills, named Nautilus and Nemo, where the grains get baked into smoky sourdough notes. Then finally, the new make spirit was matured in virgin American oak casks and freshly emptied Vintage Port casks.

Tasting notes

  • NOSE: An incredible herbal freshness led by aniseed and violets, with a touch of banana and praline leading to toffee. Red apples, hazelnut and peppery notes.
  • PALATE: Creamy butterscotch, strawberry jam and blackcurrant with raisins, cobnuts, walnuts, honey and ginger cake.
  • FINISH: An intense sweet and spicy finish of banana bread, berries, tobacco, leather and peppermint.
  • OVERALL: Herbal and floral with rich berries and banana pairing with fresh nuts and creamy caramel wrapped in a dusty book of fortified wine making.

What I say

The second batch of Rye Whisky from The Oxford Artisan Distillery using similar production methods to Batch 1 but features a maturation involving ex-Port casks.

  • ABV 47.4%
  • Age NAS
  • Bottler The Oxford Artisan Distillery
  • Bottling Batch 2
  • Cask American Oak and Port Casks
  • Category Rye Whisky
  • Cost £95
  • Origin The Oxford Artisan Distillery
  • Outturn 973 bottles
  • Region England
  • Released 2021
  • Vintage 2017

My tasting notes:

  • Appearance Full amber gold (10/20), quick, medium tears and long, medium-fine legs.
  • Nose Sweet and estery, apples and blackberry, blackcurrant, cherry, polished woody oak, vanilla, cereal, porridge, banana, tobacco leaf, floral and herbal, nutty almonds and hazelnut.
  • Taste Medium-full bodied, creamy and polished in texture, highland toffee & butterscotch, apple & blackcurrant, red cherries, gentle gingerbread spices a little Caramac then vaporous with cinnamon and menthol peppermint.
  • Finish Medium-long, sweet polish, creamy banana and vanilla muffins/cupcakes.
  • Overall Quite fresh and minty, there is a definite red and black fruit nature contributed by the Port casks, this diminishes slightly the cereal nature I discovered in Batch 1 but reveals much more sweet fruit and butterscotch.

Score 84/100

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