English Whisky Update

Two reports landed in our Inbox at the beginning of June, one of which is the first report from the newly formed English Whisky Guild. Both paint a very optimistic picture of the future demand for Single Malt Whisky. In 2023, Scotch Whisky exports exceeded £6bn for the first time! Worldwide, exceptional demand is driven by China, the U.S., and what is termed as Travel Retail. For the U.K. India could also represent enormous pulling power if an impending Trade Agreement permits.

Brand strength, heritage, age, cask type/finish, scarcity, storyline, and experience all contribute to the value of Single Malts. Even so, New World Whiskies (NWW’s), of which English Whisky is a part, are attracting extraordinary levels of attention and value already. Apparently, White Peak distillery in Derbyshire (an occasional buyer of Warminster Malt), operating out of a former Wire Works, very recently sold its first numbered bottle for a record price of £9,000! Of course, the purchaser will probably never open it, but instead hopes to sell it at auction in 10 years time for a very handsome profit. You see, the market is not just about “drinkers and gifters”, it is also about “collectors and investors”. 

Warminster Maltings - Traditional English Floor Malt

Among the fields of barley

Not only that, at Warminster, we know that some of the English Whisky distilleries are bringing something new to the party. Along with the contributions to the flavour of the spirit that the local water makes, and then the barrel, or barrels (many are decanted into a second cask), these new distillers are also enthusing about the complex flavour contributions made by heritage barleys. We are talking about our Maris Otter (1965), and even our Plumage Archer (1905). When collectors and investors get to hear about and appreciate this, early releases are surely bound to attract a whole new excitement and demand.

Along with this, our English Distillers are also providing credible storylines, the story of the provenance of their spirit. Where the barley is grown – just down the road from the distillery – and in the case of Warminster Malt customers, the traditional hand-made and very gentle and exact method of malt production. Those distilleries in Scotland who still operate a ‘floor maltings’ are all basking in the impact of that £16m price recently realised by Ardbeg Distillery for its Cask No.3, made in 1975, and made when they still operated their own ‘floor maltings’. ‘Floor made’ malt clearly makes an enormous difference, of which “scarcity” is only a part.

The Whisky market worldwide is predicted to grow by 20% per annum to 2027. It is unlikely that will apply to us at Warminster Maltings, because we just do not have the capacity to meet it. A nice problem to have, some would say, but potentially a problem all the same.

Visitors to the Maltings

It feels a bit like the good old pre-Covid days again, with group visits to the Maltings punctuating our Calendar, once more. At the end of May, we entertained a 16 person delegation from Taiwan, which was a whole new dimension for us, as 14 of them spoke no English. They were visiting the U.K. to explore the English Whisky industry, and one of our Distillery customers suggested they should visit the Maltings. How my description of the process translated, I have no idea, but they took lots of photographs of themselves against the backdrop of our germination floors, and our Mediaeval looking implements.

In Mid June, we then hosted 23 members of the Salisbury Young Farmers Club to an evening tour. As well as educational, this is all about investing in our future, because some of these are the people we hope will be growing barley for us in years to come.

XK Club drivers and their cars along the southern elevation

A week later, I invited a handful of fellow members of a classic car club, in which I am involved. We all drive Jaguar XK sports cars from the 1950’s, and I lined them up along our now very tidy southern elevation. Back in the day when these cars were “the daily driver” for those fortunate enough to be able to afford them, our Maltings was very much still operating in its very original state. To me the cars seemed to belong, and they made a great photograph.

Then the following day, we entertained a delegation from the wider European malting and brewing industry, who were visiting the U.K. for a pre-harvest study tour. We were their last port of call, before they rushed back to Heathrow Airport. As they departed, the tour leader gave me a present for my trouble – x2 standard size bars of Swiss chocolate. I accepted, of course, but I do not know whether that tells me how out of touch I am with modern protocol, or whether that was a vivid insight into the state of the German economy?

Our European visitors

My next group have a very special interest. They are trying to save their local pub.

Teas in the Garden

Weather permitting, we plan to open the garden again for teas on the second Wednesday of the months of July, August and September. So the first of these is Wednesday 10th July, 2.00 to 4.00pm. The regular team led by Pat Whitty, will be delighted to see anyone who would like to take advantage of this special treat. Pat’s scones and cakes have a reputation that precedes them, and the garden is looking very flush at the moment. The cost of our cream teas will be £8 per person.

Heritage Week

Another date for your diary: Friday 6th September, 11.00am and 2.00pm. As we do every year, we are supporting this annual event with Free Tours of the Maltings, but on this one day only, as we still have to continue our normal duties.

Nearly finished, awaiting the steps

It is probably worth pointing out that we have, at last, after 23 years, completed our Restoration Programme of the malt houses, the final project of which has been the reinstatement of the original kiln roofs 3 and 4, both of which were destroyed by fire in 1924. These have now been transformed into usable spaces, one of which will hopefully become our Maltings Museum. The tours will show off both the inside and the outside of what we have achieved.

Tours have to be booked in advance, at the Warminster Civic Centre, Telephone: (01985) 214847. Please come along.

Robin Appel
& Lisa Conduit