May 2019 - 'English'

Whenever you travel around the world it always feel good to come home - so it was at our May meeting within the welcoming halls of Chateau Caterall, that after sampling whiskies from countries around the world including Wales, India, Scotland, Japan, Taiwan and the USA over the last three years we arrived back home to taste three cracking whiskies from our very own green and pleasant land..

Some 10 years ago, there was only one distillery to talk about - that being the St George's Distillery in Norfolk - and their products were not that exciting.  Since those early days however, the growth in interest and investment has blossomed to the point where there are currently 21 whisky distilleries spread across England in various stages of development. Others are laying down casks to mature, and a few are soon to enter production, such as Dartmoor Whisky Distillery and Cooper King Distillery.

21 distilleries may sound like a lot, but bear in mind Scotland has squeezed in around 115 active distilleries with many recent additions, despite being two thirds the size of England and having only 10% of the population. There's plenty of space for us all here in old Blighty!

The first whisky we tasted was the excellent The One - Sherry Experience from The Lakes Distillery in Cumbria, which operates from a coverted 150 diary farm set up in 2011.  This particular bottling had gorgeous aromas of toffee and gentle wood smoke and a creamy taste of vanilla essence - not surprising from its maturation in ex-Oloroso sherry casks, finished off in Pedro Xeminez casks.

Second up (and the favourite on the night) was a superp and powerful Cotswolds Founders Choice - Cask Strength whisky from The Cotswold Distillery that was only founded in 2014!  This brute of a bottling at 60.9% ABV had been produced from a small selected batch of only 18 casks and had wonderful aromas of almond butter, black pepper and croissants and a taste of red fruits, butterscotch and peaches in syrup.. mmm..

Lastly we dived into The English - Red Wine Single Cask from the aforesaid St George's Distillery in Norfolk. Bottled from a single cask, it had red hue to its colour or as described on a whisky review website "The colour is that of Donald Trump - when he's really overdone it!".  It packed a powerful punch, being 56.8% ABV and had a nose of boiled sweets and woody spices, accompanied by a palate of rich dark fruits with notes of red apple.


The Future of English Whisky

It’s a very exciting time to be involved in the English whisky industry, which is in its infancy. Over the next 5-10 years we will see an incredible array of English single malt and single grain whiskies entering the market, albeit in very limited volumes when compared to our Scottish neighbours.

The English whisky distillers have seized an amazing opportunity to explore and experiment, and to take advantage of our position as New World Whisky producers.

Across the country English whisky distilleries are trialling a range of barley types, yeasts strains and fermentation periods. There is variation in the type and size of cask used for maturation, and in the type of still being used to produce newer styles of this traditional spirit!

At the end of an excellent evening, we thanked Graham and Sue for their hospitality and poured ourselves into our carriages!