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Ambergate, Derbyshire
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Enjoying Some Quality Local Tipples At The White Peak Distillery, Ambergate

Published On Sunday 4 Sep 2022 by Sticky Beak
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The Bank Holiday weekend came super-early for The Man Bird and I when we made our way to a personal tour and tasting session at White Peak Distillery, kindly arranged by the lovely Rosie.It’s pretty easy to find, located next to/behind the British Car Journey Museum.

Fledge had volunteered to be taxi for us which meant that His Nibs would be able to partake of some alcohol on this occasion, a fact that had him merry already! We made our way over the bridge and river Derwent, through the gate and around the back to the White Peak Distillery, located in the former Johnson and Nephew wire works, which gives its name to the distillery’s whisky.

There was still a tour in progress, so one of the team very kindly got us some warm drinks sorted out whilst she went to find Rosie. I thought it was really nice that the tour hadn’t finished bang on time, it shows that each tour is tailored to the needs of its participants and is interactive; each group will have differing questions, levels of knowledge about the distilling process (surprisingly complex when you probe beneath the surface!), and obviously larger groups will take up more time by their very nature.

Whisky is produced in several countries and is a global commodity, but White Peak Distillery is very much local; a Derbyshire brand in both name and spirit (no pun intended, but it’s a good one, you have to admit!).Located in premises steeped in history and with more local history in its surroundings, it is only logical that these influences will make their presence known in the brand.

For example, the Wire Works Whisky has a magnificent bottle that resembles wire as it is being twisted into cables, and if you look at the font on the Shining Cliff Gin bottles it may strike you as a bit unusual when compared to others - the reason is that it emulates the Victorian script on the Griff Pioneers sign at the entrance to the woods at Shining Cliff.

Delve deeper into local history and you’ll encounter Betty and Luke Kenny; charcoal burners in the 17th century who lived (eventually, although they travelled from Papplewick originally) and worked in the Shining Cliff Woods as they raised their eight children. Another curious feature on the Gin bottle labels is the ‘Betty Kenny’ Yew tree that Betty is supposed to have sung the lullaby ‘Rock-a-Bye-Baby’ to her  babies as they rested in its boughs – imagine that!

Each type of Shining Cliff Gin has the same distinctive label; varying colours depict the different types: blue for Original, yellow for Citrus, white with striking pink font for the Bakewell Pudding one (which also has the most beautiful pink hue to its liquid) and a parchment tone for the Spiced Gin.

As well as producing their own spirits, White Peak Distillery does collabs with other local organisations and we were lucky enough to sample the Riverside Gin that was done in conjunction with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to raise funds for this wonderful group. As its name suggests, this particular Gin has botanicals to flavour it that are foraged from along Cromford Canal and the locale in general.

This unique specimen has a taste that Rosie readily admits has a ‘Marmite’ effect; I poked my snout right into the glass and remarked that it has a distinct medicinal aroma to it, one that I actually didn’t dislike, although His Nibs was less enthused! As an ex-nurse, I’m well used to cleaner, sharper smells of medical environments and let’s face it, a lot of Mother Nature’s finest plants are used to heal in tinctures, tisanes and ointments – why not use them in Gin making? The character came through in the tasting as well, but adding tonic softened them; I was curiously charmed by this, The Man wasn’t!  

Rosie took us through all the Gins one by one, letting us taste them at our leisure and say how our own palates were reacting to them. His Nibs’ favourite was the Original Shining Cliff Gin (it’s also the most popular seller in general), whereas I was drawn to the Cardamom and Coriander thrall of the Shining Cliff Spiced tipple. White Peak Distillery tweaks their spiced recipe for the festive season  -pleeeease can I come back and try this?? 

The Citrus Gin has the most amazing lemon aroma that makes you smile the moment you smell and taste it, and the addition of tonic water brought out the other botanicals in the Gin so that they could shine alongside the Lemon and Orange.

There are a couple of Bakewell Pudding Gins on the market (I haven’t tried them) and I admit that I thought that this would be quite sweet; turned out that it actually wasn’t! You get the Cherry hint at the back, with a rounded, Almondy note also peeking out, but the first thought I had when my palate reacted was of the soft, buttery pastry case of a Bakewell Tart. The Man was more in agreement with Rosie that the Almond/Frangipane was what caught his taste buds’ attention, and I love how we all experienced something different thanks to our palates all being so individual.

Next up was the Cask Aged Rum that White Peak Distillery produce (as well as their Gins) in Betty, the 600litre still, named after Betty Kenny. The Cask Aged Rum is fermented for a whopping 14 days before being matured for a minimum of 12 months to let its character develop.

This minx has just scooped a Great Taste Award in 2022 and as we took our first sips it was easy to see why; creamy Vanilla and Caramel notes swirl in the mouth, warming Ginger adds its opinion and I got my favourite spice, Cinnamon, clearly on my palate. If you want to make it last a bit longer then it goes fantastically well with a good quality Ginger Beer – this had our taste buds galloping with delight!

I think that my body knows that my lack of will-power is a nuisance and tries to stop me indulging in some very scrummy morsels, both liquid and solid. Well documented in this blog is the love/hate relationship I have with Meringue - I love it, it hates me – but less well known is the same state of affairs when it comes to Whisky. I adore that peculiar warming sensation that you get when sipping a wonderful Whisky/ey, but sadly it doesn’t stay in my body for long before it is making its exit and I have learned that this isn’t going to change *sob*.

White Peak Distillery released their first Wire Works Whisky early in 2022 and this lightly-peated, single Malt is proving very popular. Local Brewer’s Yeast is used in the production of this, Derbyshire’s First Whisky (!) which is then left to mature in STR (shaved, toasted and recharred) and Bourbon casks where its complex character slowly develops. For those who appreciate a fine Whisky, this World Whisky Masters ‘Masters Medal’ winner is certainly worth taking the opportunity to try – and if you don’t partake of the grain yourself, then given as a gift for someone who does, you’ll earn yourself some serious brownie points!

I love it when local businesses support each other and, in collaboration with Thornbridge Brewery, White Peak Distillery has released a Gold Medal-winning, limited edition Whisky, ‘Necessary Evil Finish’. This savoury stout finish, single malt got its name from the use of the casks that held Thornbridge’s Imperial Stout a mere 72 hours (maximum!) earlier and benefits from a long fermentation time, releasing a multi-layered taste of sweet, bitter and smoky notes when savoured.

Our final tipple was the 1876 Single Malt Cocktail, which as its name suggests is a ready-to-enjoy, pre-mixed cocktail made from White Peak Distillery’s single malt spirit, simple sugar syrup, Angostura Bitters and Absinthe rinse. This was jolly drinkable (no doubt Whisky aficionados are gasping in horror now!), especially if you like something a bit sweeter.  Yet another nod to the distillery’s heritage is in this cocktails name: 1876 was the year that Johnson and Nephew established their wire works on the site.

To say we’d had an enjoyable, fascinating afternoon at White Peaks Distillery would be a massive understatement! Rosie had given us a memorable experience, and we didn’t feel we’d missed out on anything by not picking the distillers’ brains on the finer chemical processes of producing Whisky, Gin and Rum – it’s been a fair few years since I did A-level Chemistry!

For those who either personally love Gin, Rum or Whisky or know someone who does, then this is the ideal place to book a tour; it’s small enough to really get down to the nitty-gritty of learning about the individual products and meet the people behind them, but large enough to be worth the journey. There’s also the bonus of a very well stocked shop where you can buy your favourites that you’ve literally just sampled – either for yourself or as a gift – as well as glasses to pour them into, and some items of wearable ‘merch’.

What the staff members in the shop don’t know about the spirits isn’t worth knowing, so you can be sure that you will walk out with the perfect tipple for you or your gift recipient. You can also shop online if you can’t get in person to White Peak Distillery at www.whitepeakdistillery.co.uk/shop

Hot Wings awarded to this simply brilliant Derbyshire Distillery and all its enthusiastic, highly knowledgeable team. His Nibs and I didn’t shut up rattling about our personal tour and tasting session for the entire evening, we’d loved it that much! Thank you, Rosie, for inviting us along

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