Cornish whiskeyJanuary 10th, 2012
Today, Dominc Roskrow marks another day in whisky; make that whiskey history. Hicks & Healey Cornish Single Malt 7 Year Old Whiskey, to be exact.
Another ‘country’ joins the whisky diaspora
By Dominic Roskrow
The oldest whisky ever released in ‘England’ has been snapped up after a huge public demand. The whiskey is actually from Cornwall and was the result of a unique partnership of two Cornish drinks producers.
Hicks & Healey Cornish Single Malt 7 Year Old Whiskey, which adopts the Irish/American spelling of the world ‘whiskey,’ is the first new whiskey to be bottled in Cornwall for 300 years, and is three years older than the whisky from St. George’s in Norfolk. It is the result of a partnership between St. Austell Brewery and Healey’s Cyder Farm, and was only available in limited quantities from August.
Cornwall, which has its own language and culture, and which to a great extent has closer ties to the Celts of Brittany and Wales than to England, maintains a degree of independence, and the new whiskey is being promoted distinctly as a Cornish rather than English whisky. But because it is highly unlikely that whiskey from Cornwall or England would have been matured for any length of time 300 years ago, when it was last made, Hicks & Healey can plausibly claim to be the oldest single malt whisky ever produced by either country.
The new malt is the brainchild of highly respected St. Austell Brewery head brewer Roger Ryman, who knew that the humid peninsula air and mild Cornish climate would provide optimum maturing conditions. The partnership brings expertise in brewing and distillation together for the first time in Cornwall.
Healey’s Cyder Farm near Truro makes apple brandy in a unique, traditional copper pot still which was made by Rothes coppersmiths Forsyths, where most Scottish stills are made. At only 1,200 liters, it’s one of the smallest legal stills in the country.
The Cornish whiskey is made with Maris Otter barley grown in Trerulefoot, south-east Cornwall. The wash is mixed at St. Austell Brewery’s traditional Victorian brew-house, before being transferred to Healey’s Farm.
Although the new release will be seven years old, the partnership has been making batches of whiskey for much longer. Six years ago, I tasted malt spirit and whiskey aged from new make to 4 years old, but felt some of them were too flabby and appley. But the new make and the year old spirit — the latter the source for this particular whiskey — were very good indeed.
A new batch of Hicks & Healey Cornish Single Malt Whiskey will be released again next year, and will be available from Healey’s Cyder Farm and the St. Austell Brewery Visitor Center, and online at www.thecornishcyderfarm.co.uk and www.staustellbreweryshop.co.uk