It’s very easy to order a Gin and Tonic without caring about where it came from, but my tour of the White Peak Distillery has changed my perspective.
Back in October I was very kindly given the gift of a tour of the www.whitepeakdistillery.co.uk just off the A6 between Belper and Matlock, Derbyshire, in a picturesque spot called the Amber Valley. So, with my veins still pumping the festive excesses around my body, I cashed in my voucher and attended the tour on Saturday 4 January, along with my wife.
Set beneath the historical Shining Cliff Woods www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/woods/shining-cliff/ on the banks of the River Derwent, White Peak Distillery is a three year old Whiskey Distillery which, along with their passion for Whiskey, have a wide range of gins in their arsenal which are receiving nationwide acclaim as the brand grows year on year. Set in one of the smaller units of the former Johnson & Nephew Wire Works factory, the distillery and tasting room / cafe are a modern and impressively welcoming setting, of which White Peak Distillery can be rightly proud.
Due to recent flooding issues, the shop is currently located across the river in one of the industrial units. Ongoing problems with the bridges on-site mean the tour beings with a short minibus drive from the temporary shop to the full time distillery on the opposite bank of the River Derwent.
Our group were greeted by company founder Max Vaughan, who was extremely engaging and clearly very passionate about his craft. He was fully hands-on and drove the mini bus before giving us a short introduction to the tour in the tasting room, including a history lesson about the site and how White Peak Distillery came to be located here.
Max then took us into the distillery where we were given an in depth tour of the facility with Head Distiller, Shaun Smith. Clearly another passionate, highly skilled and knowledgeable member of the team, Shaun is a key factor in putting the brand on the map. I was completely engrossed with the science behind the hugely impressive distilling process but Shaun’s approach was easy to understand and absorb. No question was too silly and was answered concisely without losing any of the necessary information. I am sure everyone on the tour learnt something new. I know I did.
Following the distillery tour we were invited back into the tasting room. Sitting around an impressive central table we enjoyed four different gins along with a little nip of Make spirit, which will become White Peak Distillery Whiskey when it has aged for three years and one day. Having had a little taste I can’t wait for that day to arrive.
Max conducted the tasting session, talking us through each gin, explaining the botanicals which contributed to the taste of each one, where the botanicals were foraged from and why they were specifically chosen, all the while happily fielding questions and generally making everyone feel relaxed and at home. Indeed the layout of the tasting room and the approach from Max made it feel more like a relaxed night at a friend’s house rather than a paid-for distillery tour. True, it’s the first tour of this nature I have been on, but if I knew they would all be like this then I would certainly attend more.
Once the tasting was concluded we piled back into the minibus for the return trip. Everyone seemed keen to support this wonderful business and indulge themselves further with a little purchase. Indeed I treated myself to a bottle of Riverside Gin www.whitepeakdistillery.co.uk/product/riverside-gin/ which is a collaboration with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. £5 from each sale is donated to the Trust which in itself is a wonderful gesture, and the gin is delicious too, so it was a big win all round.
In fact the whole tour was a big win. It was a thoroughly lovely experience which surpassed my expectations and at £12 a head I would recommend a visit to anyone who has even a passing interest in where their favourite tipple comes from. It is a perfect gift, and I spent the weekend happily telling anybody who would listen what a great time we had had.
It’s great to see innovative, passionate companies making the most of their local surroundings, helping to regenerate and improve areas which have seen better days, and White Peak Distillery do this and more. They are a jewel in the Amber Valley and I look forward to seeing their growth in the coming years.