FRIENDS whose whisky distillery has swiftly grown to a turnover topping £1.6m scooped The Press small business of the year award.

Judges commended Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery for its rapid success, launch of a new whisky in lockdown and focus on community and sustainability.

Tom Mellor, co-founder, told guests at the business awards ceremony: “It is a great honour to be given this award, especially against such great competition. I feel humbled.”

Tom and David Thompson discussed making Yorkshire’s first whisky in 2011 and fired up the stills in May 2016.

They built the distillery and learnt the craft from whisky expert, the late Dr Jim Swan, so they could impart their own ideas into the spirit.

Since 2016, turnover has grown from £38,500 to £1.6m in 2021 with a 2022 forecast of £2.1m. Its capacity means the business has the potential to be one of the largest whisky producers in England.

Highlights of 2020/2021 include celebrating the first full year of whisky production, having waited three years for their spirit to mature long enough to be called a single malt whisky.

They released Filey Bay Moscatel Finish shortly after the first lockdown began and made it available to pre-order online so it was delivered when they could bottle it safely.

They launched their next finished release in July and followed that with a limited release of 1,500 bottles to celebrate Yorkshire Day 2020.

Despite lockdown, and thanks to their small but multi-functional team, they have launched eight whiskies since March 2020, with sales of these 24,424 bottles contributing £1m to their 2021 turnover of £1.6m.

Their sales strategy and careful cask management ensure they have exceptional quality whisky always ageing for future releases.

Their strategy is also to take advantage of the growth in whisky tourism by offering tours and distilling experiences. Their training means all employees are able to host tours, make drinks, and sell products.

Spirit of Yorkshire has welcomed more than 60,000 visitors since opening its visitor attraction in 2017.

During the pandemic, staff were protected with furlough, home working and workplace distancing measures for the core team.

They employ 18 local people, while The Pot Still Coffee Shop brings the community together for food, live music and events.