The Oxford Artisan Distillery is an interesting project. These four whiskies are all based on a grain harvest of 2017, with several different grains growing together in the same field, including multiple ancient heritage rye strains, wheat strains and even a few oats and thistles.
Whisky making was a thing in England back in the 19th Century, but died out in 1905. It began again this century, and now – according to whisky expert Becky Paskin – England has more than 25 whisky producers. The Oxford Artisan Distillery is the only whisky producer worldwide to be working with heritage grains.
Oxford Artisan Distillery Rye Whisky Limited Edition #2
47.4% alcohol. This is matured in virgin American oak and freshly used Vintage Port casks. Highly aromatic: mealy and rich with apple and toffee aromas, as well as some woody hints. In the mouth this is sweet and rich; seamless and smooth, with lots of vanilla and coconut. Lovely intensity, showing texture and spice and quite a bit of fruity character. 8.5/10 (this was £95 but has sold out)
Oxford Artisan Distillery Rye Whisky Limited Edition #3
This spent 17 months in virgin American oak and then 19 months in Moscatel de Setúbal casks. Sweetly aromatic with honey, spice, pear and a bit of caramel on the nose. Spicy and delicious on the palate with some sweet baked apple notes and a honeyed richness. This is really good. Rounded with rich, spicy fruit. 8.5/10 (£120)
Oxford Artisan Distillery Rye Whisky
The spirit was fermented for a long time in Hungarian oak, and then matured in American oak casks. This is primary, quite raw, and intense. There’s marmalade and toffee, as well as some sweet vanilla and some fine woody, spicy notes. It has an ease and a warmth to it, with a soft coconut character on the finish. There’s a lot to like here, with savoury iodine and spice notes on the finish, as well as notes of pine and cedar. 8/10
Oxford Artisan Distillery New Make Rye Spirit
45% alcohol, 2019 harvest.
Intriguing aromatics of aniseed, green herbs and apple. The palate is warm, rounded and really distinctive, with a soft, smooth herb, fennel and textured pear fruit. It’s rich, smooth, intense and delicious, with some real purity. Even at this young age, it’s really soft, smooth, complex and beautiful. 8/10