World Whisky Day 2024 – Poland

Every year to mark World Whisky Day, we ask one of our distillers to design a one-off New Make Spirit recipe inspired by a nation of their choice. For 2024, Luke (one of our distillers, erstwhile TaeKwondo champion and ‘Spirit of Holyrood!’) chose Poland as his inspiration, creating a recipe inspired by Polish Baltic porters, crafted with a Scottish twist.

 

Luke’s recipe, World Whisky Day – Poland, is available exclusively from our distillery shop for World Whisky Day 2024.

 

Here, we invite Luke to take us on a deep dive into his thinking, and this year’s recipe:

 

world whisky day poland

Available exclusively from Holyrood Distillery’s onsite store. Friday 17th May from 11:30. 

10cl
60% ABV
£13.00
Limited to 265 bottles

building a link

The idea behind this World Whisky Day recipe was to link Edinburgh and Poland. There is a vibrant Polish community here in Edinburgh and I wanted to celebrate that by linking the two nations’ favourite drinks.

 

The recipe is inspired by Baltic Porters, which are synonymous with Polish Breweries, with the oldest being produced by Żywiec Brewery, first brewed in 1881. If Poland has a national beer, it’s the Baltic Porter. Such is the Polish heritage tied up in this beer, that Poland even has an annual Baltic Porter Day! (The third Saturday in January if you are interested…)

“There is a vibrant Polish community here in Edinburgh and I wanted to celebrate that by linking the two nations’ favourite drinks.”

Baltic Porters History and Production

A Baltic Porter is a strong, dark and robust style of beer (typically 7-10% ABV or over) that originated in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. The roots of the Baltic Porter can be traced back to the 1700s, when British brewers created a stronger English Porter for export across the North Sea to the Baltic states.
“A Baltic Porter is a strong, dark and robust style of beer that originated in the Baltic region of Northern Europe.”

In their earliest forms, Baltic Porters were brewed using wood-kilned brown malts, imparting a smoky, roasted essence with a hint of bitterness. Fermented with top-fermenting ale yeasts, they were often generously hopped as a preservation technique and to balance the weighty malt flavours.

 

 

Baltic Porters were extremely popular, and began to be recreated by local brewers, including those in Poland. With the advent of industrialisation, local brewers changed and tweaked their production techniques, until they created recipes with their own unique characteristics. Ale yeasts were replaced with the bottom-fermenting lager yeasts, and there was a gradual elimination of the smokey flavours imparted from brown malts, which were replaced by a blend of modern pale malt, Munich, Vienna, and roasted malts. This remains the signature style of today’s Baltic Porters.

Recreating a Polish Baltic-Style Porter

I wanted to use a selection of malt and yeast varieties that mirrored the flavour profiles of a traditional Polish-style Baltic porter. These boast a complex flavour profile with a balance of malty sweetness and roasted bitterness. The sweeter malt character can include notes of caramel, toffee, chocolate, and dark fruits like raisins or plums. The roasted malts lend bitter flavours reminiscent of coffee, cocoa, or even hints of liquorice. I wanted to ensure that our Baltic Porter-inspired New Make found the right balance between sweet malty flavours and bitterness but also had the same recognisable flavours.

Crafting the Mash Bill


Scottish Pot Still Malt (80%)

I selected Scottish pot still as the base malt to further fuse Scotland with Poland. This Scottish staple is neutral and subtly sweet, laying the perfect foundation for our Specialty Malts, which we used to build the classic Baltic Porter flavours.


Cara Gold (8%)

This gave the rich fruity aromas, with intense sweetness and subtle spiciness, adding depth and complexity.

Crystal 240 (6%)

Rich caramel notes with undertones of spiced coffee and dark fruits, Crystal 240 brings a luscious sweetness.

Chocolate Malt (4%)

Chocolate Malt is where we get those bitter coffee and cocoa notes from.

Black Malt (2%)

Infusing those characteristic liquorice flavours with a subtle nuttiness, Black Malt adds a nuanced depth to mash bill.

 

The heavily roasted malts make up only 6% of the overall mash bill for this recipe. It was really important to remember that we were making a whisky here and not a beer. We’ve used roasted malts quite a lot, so I know it’s very easy to overdo it when using Chocolate Malt and Black Malt. While I wanted there to be some bitterness present in the New Make, I obviously didn’t want acrid, unpleasant flavours. It had to be the right proportion to add the right complexity and depth, without taking over. The proportion we used gave us the perfect balance.

to Lager or not to lager

Traditionally a Baltic Porter is used making lager yeast. This requires a longer, colder fermentation. As a whisky distillery, we often have to change aspects of the beer recipes we use as inspiration. This was the case with our yeast selection. We chose a different yeast as we felt that the lovely toffee popcorn flavour of the Hornindal Kveik yeast works very well with the mash bill that is the heart of our recipe. This is based on what we have learned using lager yeast in the past. 

 

Lager yeast differs from traditional ale yeasts as it prefers much colder temperatures to work to its full potential. We lack the equipment required to crash cool the yeast, as would be traditionally done, so instead chose a yeast that boosted the flavours found in our malt.

 

While today’s Baltic Porters are made using lager yeasts, we opted to use an ale yeast.

This is more like the original Baltic Porters that left Britain and started the Baltic Porter tradition!

Pinnacle MG+ (5kg)

A highly efficient distillers strain, imparting tropical fruit flavours, including apple, stone fruits, and pineapple, Pinnacle MG+ adds a delightful complexity to the palate.

Hornindal Kveik (1L):

Originating from Norwegian farmhouse ale tradition, Hornindal Kveik contributes burnt orange and lemon notes, along with a hint of spice, further enhancing the sensory journey.

Aiming for the Future: Whisky Release

In addition to its debut as a new make spirit, ‘World Whisky Day – Poland’ holds promise for the future. We will be ageing this spirit for release as whisky. Baltic Porters are often aged themselves, so this holds a lovely synergy, in producing a whisky that is representative of both nations. We will be aiming for release in 3-5 years, so it will be really exciting to see how the flavour of this New Make evolves and matures.

 

All that’s left to say is I really hope you enjoy the recipe and raise a glass in celebration of World Whisky Day!

 

Na Zdrowie! Sláinte!

“I started my Holyrood career as building caretaker and somehow ended up learning the fascinating art of distilling, when I’m not making whisky most of my time is spent studying and teaching the art of Taekwondo while currently holding the rank of 5th Dan black belt. Also like a wee trip to Tynecastle Park on a Saturday to watch the Hearts.”

Luke McGowan

holyrood distiller

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