ONE of Scotland’s oldest independent Speyside whisky distilleries has teamed up with one of the youngest brewers in the area to produce a beer-flavoured single malt.
And while they may vary in size and age, they have one important thing in common – their roots.
Both have blossomed in Speyside, one of the most iconic regions in Scotland for its food and drink products.
Seb Jones, 29, of Speyside Craft Brewery, was chosen by global giants, Glenfiddich, as a collaborator in its new Experimental range of unique whiskies.
The range includes a whisky-flavoured by the maturation in casks that have held IPA (India Pale Ale), a beer created by Speyside Craft Brewery.
Brewery MD, Seb, and head brewer, Adam Blackwood, have been working behind the scenes with Glenfiddich’s master blender, Brian Kinsman, for the last 18 months to create the right beer to flavour a selected single malt whisky.
The process involved creating three separate beers of different strengths and levels of hops.
Up to nine freshly-emptied American oak casks at a time were filled with the experimental IPA, varying the time it spent penetrating the oak before emptying the beer and re-filling them with whisky.
Seb says that, for the brewery team, the recipe formulation was a key part of the process.
“Adam and I worked closely with Brian and his team to get the flavour profiles right,” he said.
“It’s a process you can’t hurry – some of the casks sat with the IPA in them for months to make sure the flavour of the beer penetrated the casks to right level. It couldn’t be allowed to dominate the whisky but had to bring something extra to it.
“It’s been a testing time for the team but an enjoyable challenge.
“Working with Brian and his team has been a real privilege, and we’re delighted to be part of this radical new range.”
Three variants of the beer was produced in the search for the optimum recipe match, most of which had to be discarded once the recipe was approved.
The partnership between Speyside Craft Brewery (Est. 2012) and its giant neighbour (Est. 1886) began 18 months ago with a phone call from Seb to Brian, expressing interest in a collaboration.
The timing could not have been better as Glenfiddich were at the early stages of planning a radical new range of whiskies, seeking to work with creative mavericks in the food and drink industry to create new flavours.
Seb added: “I called Glenfiddich’s head office and left a message for Brian, and thought no more about it until a week later when he called me back.”
Brian said that the phone call out of the blue from Seb was real serendipity.
“The idea behind the Glenfiddich IPA Experiment was quite unusual but one we were passionate about,” he said.
“We wanted to play with flavours to see what we could create. Using beer somehow was part of the plan, and fortunately we had the call from Seb. When I called him back it was clear he shared our passion for creating innovative favours, taking risks and pushing boundaries.
“We worked together to pioneer a new single malt scotch imbued with zesty citrus and tangy hops from the oak casks that had previously held a bold, new Speyside IPA. This took us to new levels of experimentation in a way no distillery has ever done before.”
The IPA Experimental whisky is launched worldwide in September, and Seb will be taking part in these events in cities around the globe.
The 6% ABV IPA beer will be available from Speyside Craft Brewery by December, with primary focus on exporting to many of the 184 countries where Glenfiddich whisky is sold. Extra capacity is being developed at the brewery to meet the anticipated demand from global sales.
Speyside-based Glenfiddich are the largest producers of single malt scotch globally, securing 10.5 per cent of market share.
The award-winning Speyside Craft Brewery was founded by Seb in November 2012. Based in Forres, Moray Speyside, it produces a range of beers that are sold all over Scotland. It employs seven staff.
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Speyside Craft Brewery contact details…
Contact: Peter Jones