Innovative distillery creating whisky from oats

The first distillation of oats in Scotland for perhaps a century has taken place as Fife distillery showcases its ability to push boundaries and focus on flavour.

InchDairnie Distillery has revealed it is making a whisky using malted oats, inspired by the historical use of oats in Scotch whisky and by managing director Ian Palmer’s focus on using innovative technology and thinking to maximize flavour.

Finding historic proof of the use of oats for whisky is difficult, but the inspiration comes from the InchDairnie process equipment, the innovative hammer mill and mash filter combination, that can handle grain beyond standard malted barley. Equally important, from the history archives, Ian Palmer discovered evidence in the 1908-09 Royal Commission Report on Whisky and Other Potable Spirits that oats were used to make Scotch.

In keeping with the meticulous approach taken with the distillery’s design, choice of equipment and production processes, the whisky made from oats has been thoroughly researched and been in development over the past year.

With the first distillation of oats taking place yesterday, 10 June, the anticipated launch of the whisky will depend on how the spirit matures.

This is as yet uncharted territory and, in keeping with the distillery’s philosophy, it will be released only when it is ready. By then the distillery will have released its first single malt under the name InchDairnie Single Malt, while the oats distillate will be released under the name The PrinLaws Collection (from InchDairnie Distillery).

The PrinLaws Collection will be a collection of unique flavour-led whiskies from different yeasts, cereals and oaks. Every year up to two weeks are isolated for one off single campaign distillations at InchDairnie Distillery – distillations that may never be repeated, meaning PrinLaws bottlings have the potential of being some of the rarest distillates to come out of Scotland.

Managing director Ian Palmer said: ‘The objective of the PrinLaws Collection is to share with our consumers some of the work we are doing in exploring the outer edges of the whisky world for new and lost flavours.’

Breaking new ground based on history
The new distillate from InchDairnie Distillery is that ground-breaking that there is no Scottish law for specifically naming a whisky made of oats. As such under current rules the only official term for a whisky made from oats is Single grain Scotch whisky, despite this being distilled first in a copper pot still, followed by spirit distillation in InchDairnie’s Lomond still.

The oats distillate is the first chapter in the PrinLaws Collection from InchDairnie Distillery and features a mash bill primarily of malted oats to deliver a full flavour. There is no definition for whisky made from oats, so InchDairnie has borrowed the American definition of rye whiskey and bourbon whiskey and applied it to whisky made from oats, meaning that a minimum of 51% of the mash bill must be from oats.

The distillation of oats is so unusual that there is no legal definition of oat whisky in Scotland, Ireland nor North America, so InchDairnie Distillery is leading the definition. Maltsters Thomas Fawcett & Sons of Castleford have supplied the malted oats which are mixed with malted barley, while AB Mauri has been a close partner for InchDairnie Distillery in the development of the exact, but secret, yeast recipe to bring out the best flavours from oats. The spirit will be matured in a combination of American oak ex-bourbon barrels and Portuguese Muscatel casks.

Ian added: ‘Our intention with the distillery right from the start was to push the boundaries of flavour in whisky using a combination of our experience and new technology while remaining true to whisky’s traditions.

‘Creating this whisky is one of many experimental ideas we had in mind when we built the distillery and one of the reasons we chose to install specific equipment such as the hammer mill, the mash filter and Lomond still.’