There is certainly no shortage of distilleries in this day and age.
They come in all sizes and specializations.
Every now and then you stumble across one whose liquid emissions have not yet been absorbed and praised by the mainstream, which is always a rewarding and gratifying experience.
Then you come across distilleries that have a distinct approach that makes them unique without deliberately pursuing to be perceived as a novelty.
Belgrove Distillery combines the best of both of these aspects.
Peter Bignell is the brain and driver behind Belgrove Distillery’s copper still.
His dedication to both his craft and recycling makes other distilleries pale in comparison when it comes to sustainability and small carbon footprint.
In essence, Belgrove Distillery is based on the foundation and spoils that is Peter Bignell’s farm.
An overproduction of a rye corn harvest resulted in him looking for ways to use it in other manners, i.e. the production of rye whisky.
Gesagt, getan – he built is own still from scratch, which he powers along with water heating by utilizing leftover cooking oil, which is also used to fuel his farm vehicles with biodiesel.
Now, all of the above make Belgrove Distillery an endeavor worth supporting, but there is more to it.
What takes Belgrove Distillery to the next level is not merely its closed loop operation but the fact that its rye whisky emissions are something else.
Belgrove’s golden sunshine coloured Oat Whisky smells like a sweet summery day in the tropics has been caught in a bottle, which is backed by a creamy, nutty palate and finishes with a hint of peppery smoke. A journey of delight, start to finish.
A favourite of the Belgrove range is the Peated Rye Whisky, which packs a bit of a punch with its sixty percent ABV.
The fact that the alcohol aspect is not overpowering and is instead dominated by a mélange of smoky meat honey and vanilla notes is testament to the alchemy Bignell channels when it comes to expertly calibrating the nuances of his whiskies. It is further substantiated with an earthy taste reminiscent of a rainy summer’s day.
Sounds exaggerated and overly metaphorical?
I dare you to taste it and then try to capture the experience in mundane words.
The Belgrove Rye Whisky opens with a profile that proves hard to put one’s finger on: There is bread, chamomile and scents of pickles, the palate is fruity and simultaneously floral, getting a tad more intense with a grainy finish.
A smooth operator that convinces with its creamy texture.
The Belgrove Rye Whisky expression that has been matured in Shiraz Casks takes things to the next level: Dark chocolate, Christmas spices, honey, vanilla, sweet- and spiciness.
Describing it as “more-ish” would be an understatement par excellence.
One that makes you lust for another dram.
An interesting variant is the Belgrove Apple Hatched, which is its barrel aged distilled apple cider.
The emphasis is obviously on apple flavours, which it does in spades running the gamut from overripe to baked apples, backed by pepper and herbal notes and a finish reminiscent of a creamier version of a good French Calvados.
Needless to say that it did not take long for the world of whisky aficionados to take note of Belgrove Distillery, which resulted in his operation being inundated with praise and accolades and many making the pilgrimage to Kempton or to alternatively order its limited releases online, which due to its exposure are now notoriously rather hard to come by.
Let alone bands like Queens of the Stone Age holding court in Tasmania only to go out of their way to buy the remainder of Peter Bignell’s stock to sustain them on tour, which almost resulted in your humble narrator not having access to some of Belgrove’s expressions.
Peter Bignell is a renaissance man thriving on overcoming obstacles and the effort he puts into each step of Belgrove’s DIY rye whisky production pay dividends in the taste department and is well worth you making the effort to do yourself the favour to look out for its rare bottlings.
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Photo by T