How to make your own whisky

Edinburgh's Holyrood Distillery has launched a new cask programme offering customers the chance to make their own single malt whisky

Words by Laurel Bibby

Ever fancied creating your own, bespoke whisky, to your own, bespoke tastes? Now’s your chance, as Edinburgh’s Holyrood Distillery launches a new cask programme offering customers the opportunity to craft their own custom-made single malt.

Working alongside the Holyrood Distillery team, participants will be involved at multiple stages throughout the whisky’s production process, choosing everything from the cask in which it’ll be matured to the types of malted barley and yeasts used in the distillation and fermentation processes.

Participants will work with distillery manager Jack Mayo to craft their unique whisky

The programme will be offered either as an in-person consultation at the distillery in Edinburgh – socially distanced, of course – or an online session with samples delivered to participants in advance.

Following the consultation, the whisky will be developed and created before participants are invited to the distillery for the cask filling. Three cask sizes are available – a 200-litre barrel, a 225-litre barrique, or a 250-litre hogshead. Once filled, the cask will be stored in the Holyrood warehouse until ready for bottling.

Holyrood is the first single malt whisky distillery in Edinburgh in almost 100 years (the last being Edinburgh Distillery – or Glen Sciennes, as it was also known – which closed in 1925).

Opened last summer by Canadian couple Rob and Kelly Carpenter and industry stalwart David Robertson – who has 25 years of experience working for Diageo, The Edrington Group and Whyte & Mackay – the distillery lives in a renovated 180-year-old listed building which was originally home to the Edinburgh and Dalkeith Railway terminus. As well as single malt whiskies, Holyrood also produces a range of gins and liqueurs.

Robertson co-founded the distillery with Canadian couple Rob and Kelly Carpenter

“We know that our customers appreciate the opportunity to dive into the creative process,” says Robertson. “This programme allows people to share that journey with us and create something truly customised to their individual taste. It’s an invitation to own a piece of history.”

“As a whisky distiller, there’s nothing better than creating a wide range of flavours and styles and even a totally unique whisky,” says distillery manager Dr Jack Mayo. “For a whisky fan, this is a chance to be a master distiller for a day and a whisky maker across the decade, as you watch the development of your fledgling spirit into a mature single malt.”

Four key styles have been made for this year’s programme – fruity and floral, sweet, spicy and smoky – developed by maturation in a range of casks.

American oak barrels will yield whiskies with citrus and tropical fruit flavours (ex-sherry wood) or notes of milk chocolate, vanilla and toffee (ex-bourbon), for example, while spicy whiskies can be crafted by choosing European oak (ex-Oloroso) hogsheads. For a peaty, smoky flavour profile, meanwhile, participants can opt for either American or Spanish oak (ex-sherry) hogsheads, or they can choose rare woods like Japanese oak, or casks that previously contained dessert wine or beer.

Two hundred casks are available for this year’s programme, with sales operating on a first-come-first-served basis and prices starting from £4,950. Click here to find out more.