Stanley Biggs delves into the history & key ingredients of whisky making, all at the first Distillery of The Peak District.
It all begins with research.
Most of our days are taken up with delving further into something historic, either a public figure, industry, or great building. More often than not, our research leads to new discoveries, and sometimes new directions. For our Speedwell Campaign, we were treated to both.
In fact, much to our delight, our recent research took us on a journey that we could not have predicted - Lewis Carroll would have been proud.
“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” - Zora Hurston*
While researching the history of American Gangsters, namely Bonnie & Clyde, we began to realise that we could not mention gangsters without the key influence for their rise in 1920s America, Prohibition.
From 1920 – 1933 the production, importation, sale, and transportation of alcohol was banned across the United States of America, leading to a new era of outlaws, bootlegging and jazz.
The era is still a huge inspiration and influence to this day, with Boardwalk Empire and Peaky Blinders paving the way in most recent times.
We set about at once to see how we might be able to feature this part of history into the Speedwell campaign. It didn’t take us long to realise we could finally work with a company we have greatly admired for some time now. Our very own local distillers; White Peak Distillery.
White Peak Distillery is the first Distillery of The Peak District, and after six years, will soon be launching the very first whisky of the Peak District.
History is literally in the making - or is that distilling?
Situated at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the historic River Derwent and Shining Cliff Woods alongside, the old iron & wire works is now the atmospheric home of the Distillery. To see the buildings once more being a centre of industry is truly a delight.
Not only does this historic site have a function once more, but it is also now contributing to the locality, with the distillers working closely with their local farmers and other businesses (such as ourselves) to highlight and bring to the fore the history of the area. Their enthusiasm for their endeavours is contagious.
Like ourselves, the White Peak team have been careful to pay homage to the local history. One such way is the naming of their gin, which we utterly loved.
“Rock-a-bye-Baby” was supposedly contrived in the very woods encroaching on the Wire Works site. Betty Kenny is meant to have rocked her children to sleep in the great ancient yew tree nestled within the Shining Cliff Woods, a short walk from the Distillery.
Their ‘Shining Cliff’ Gin (available in four variations) is named in honour of this local legend and the gin still that creates the gin is affectionately called ‘Betty’ in her memory.
As a side note... it is rather delicious neat.
It was during one of their delightful tours that we learnt their processes are very much parallel our own, with both brands striving to celebrate craft and making things properly. White Peak Distillery’s focus is on heritage, provenance and flavour. Like our clothing, most of the work occurs before you begin, in the form of research. Research of best practices, of sourcing the best ‘ingredients’, and then the careful selection of suppliers.
We were interested to learn that White Peak's Craft Cask Aged Rum took a little over a year to come to fruition – about the same amount of time it took us to create our Eight-Panelled Caps; from first sketch to finished garment.
It is the experience gained from one project that allows you to expand onto others.
We learnt many lessons from our caps that allowed us to create and develop our range of trousers, again, all in around a year.
The parallels between rum and whisky making have allowed The White Peak team to create a unique rum, all while the main star continues to mature. That experience continues to mould and shape future additions.
It was at this stage of the tour that we began to realise the enormity and significance of their venture. So, in the time it takes to distil gin & rum, and for us to design & create a garment, the whisky distilling process was far from over, in fact it was only just beginning.
The single malt 'spirit' can only be called 'whisky' after it has matured for at least three years in a cask.
The cask room, with vast rows of barrels quietly sat side by side, has got to have been our favourite part of the tour.
Much like how different yarn can impact our finished knitwear, different casks can impact the finished profile of the whisky.
White Peak Distillery have had to wait five years while their ‘Wire Works Whisky’ matures and that wait is very nearly over. From February 2022, the first Whisky of The Peak District will be available, and we will be delighted for them.
They truly are the masters of patience, and it has certainly allowed us to gain a new appreciation and perspective of what 'slow industry' really means.
We would love to invite you to be the first to hear of when the wonderful 'Wire Works Whisky' becomes available.
See the full SPEEDWELL Campaign here.