InchDairnie Distillery has underlined its innovative intentions with the news that its first release, Ryelaw, will be a groundbreaking ‘rye whisky’ that brings together elements of Scotch whisky and American rye whiskey.
Ryelaw, which is made with a high proportion of malted rye, the key component in American rye whiskey, and also malted barley, the key ingredient in Scotch whisky, was distilled at the Fife Distillery on Friday 1 December and the following days. It will be filled into casks for maturation until it is judged to be ready for bottling, at which point it will be the first release from the ingenious distillery in Glenrothes, which opened in May last year.
The creation of Ryelaw marks what is believed to be the return of the use of rye in Scotch whisky for the first time in over 100 years, and the culmination of a meticulously developed year-long project at Inchdairnie.
Ryelaw is inspired by a discovery made by InchDairnie’s managing director Ian Palmer; the unearthing of evidence in the 1908/9 Royal Commission Report on Whisky and Other Potable Spirits that shows rye was historically commonly used to make Scotch whisky more than 100 years ago. He combined this finding with his desire to fuse whisky tradition with innovative technology and his forward-thinking approach.
Unique equipment, recipe and production
Ryelaw is unique in a number of ways. Firstly, it has been created using Inchdairnie’s unconventional mash filter, one of only two in Scotland, which is able to process the viscous rye grains, unlike the traditional mash tuns in most distilleries.
Secondly, its secret recipe, with its high proportion of malted rye, and the fact that it will be made and matured in Scotland, means that it will meet the legal definitions of both a Scotch whisky and an American rye whiskey. In America, rye whiskey must contain at least 51% rye.
Lastly, distillation will partly take place in the distillery’s bespoke Lomond Hill still, which was installed alongside two traditional pot stills to provide the capacity to experiment and the ability to have greater control over shaping flavour. As a result, Ryelaw will be the first rye whisky ever to be distilled in a Lomond Hill still.
While it can be described in general terms as a ‘rye whisky’, Ryelaw will officially be categorised as a single grain Scotch whisky made using malted rye. This is in line with The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009, which define the five categories of Scotch whisky and state that distillers in Scotland can only make Scotch whisky.
Pushing the boundaries of flavour
In keeping with the meticulous approach taken with the distillery’s design, choice of equipment and production processes, Ryelaw has been in development over the past year, with initial pilot distillation already having taken place in October.
Together with Palmer’s 40 years of production expertise and the experience of distillery manager Scott Sneddon, InchDairnie has developed Ryelaw with a number of partners including food and drink innovation consultants Campden BRI, malt specialists Muntons, and yeast producers AB Mauri. The rye is currently supplied by Muntons, while the next batch and future batches will be grown by a local Fife farmer.
Ryelaw will be matured in new American oak casks, with the combination of the malted rye and fresh wood designed to create a distinctive take on the full spicy flavour, which rye whisky is renowned for.
When it is released, Ryelaw will become part of the core range being created at the distillery that will include other innovative whiskies, and an InchDairnie Single Malt Scotch whisky, which is expected to be available in around 2029.
Of his decision to create a whisky using rye, Ian Palmer said: “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 ‘rye 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 that others do not have such as the mash filter and Lomond Hill still.
“We’ve spent a year researching and developing this and now we’re incredibly excited to be ready to start distilling. Rye whisky aficionados and malt whisky lovers will have to wait a good few years before we are ready to bottle it though!”