Whisky Advocate

Cornish whiskey

January 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

No Responses to “Cornish whiskey”

  1. George says:

    What a completely irrelevent post, you can’t even purchase it!

    • sam k says:

      Irrelevent (sic)? Would we somehow be better off being totally ignorant of its very existence? I think not.

    • Matt MacLean says:

      Here’s a purchase link: http://www.staustellbreweryshop.co.uk. It’s looks a bit pricey, however isn’t it relevant to ones desire or accumulative habit? For me personally, I’ll pass on this one.
      Note to Editor, interested in your response to my inquiry, via email to you? Thanks again, MM

      • Matt MacLean says:

        I checked this shop link at the bottom of the article posted and it doesn’t appear to list or show the spirit for sale. Oh well!
        Looking for your email John, thanks MM

  2. Matt MacLean says:

    Appreciate articles like these John, they make me realize how grand the Whisky market really is. Not sure If I will every be able to pick one of these beauties up, however you may have or will be able to taste and tell us how it is. Thanks again, for your efforts in telling us what the future holds in Whisky land!

  3. Ben McNeil says:

    Good grief! The first run went for 150 pounds for a half-litre! That’s like Macallan 25!

  4. Jason Craig says:

    I don’t understand the meaning of this sentence:

    “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.”

    • Danny Maguire says:

      I suppose it’s paying lip service to Cornwall’s contention that it’s not part of England but a seperate country on its own. Good luck to them if that’s what they want.

    • MrTH says:

      Seems pretty straightforward to me–Roskrow is saying that likely there has never before been a whisky aged as long as seven years in either Cornwall or England.

      • Jason Craig says:

        Ah…I see. It’s the “oldest” in terms of being aged, rather than “oldest” in terms of how many centuries ago they started making it. The latter is often what whisky-makers tout, and I fell into an assumption trap. :)
        Roskrow might revise “oldest” to “longest-aged” for clarity.

        Thanks, MrTH. And apologies to all for the nit-pickery.

  5. Danny Maguire says:

    It’s an interesting idea, and another one to go on my list to visit. The only problem is finding the time to do it.

  6. JohnM says:

    I have a bottle of this, but I’ve not opened it yet. There was very little fanfare about the company distilling malt until they released it, I think. I’ll be keeping an eye on how they’re doing. I assume that this article was written recently and “next year” means 2013 for the next release?

  7. Dominic Roskrow says:

    Just a few things.
    Firstly, my principle role in Whisky Advocate is to write about new world whisky, much of which is in very limited in quantity and which sells out locally in hours. But we cover it because we’re sort of providing a historical snapshot of an evolving whisky world. We’re plotting an emerging story from its inception – we’re doing what journalists are meant to do – we’re trying to report the news first.
    As for the two countries comment, there are elements within Cornwall – and Roskrow is a pure Cornish name – that see Cornwall as a separate country, and Healey & Hicks describes itself as Cornish whiskey – with an e- and not English whisky. When whisky was last made in either Cornwall or England it was not aged, and the oldest St George’s is five years old.
    The company has not committed to its next bottling – but it’ll probably be next year.

  8. Bob Siddoway says:

    I don’t know why, but I’m really loving the look of that bottle. Too bad I will likely never taste it…

  9. lawschooldrunk says:

    C’mon, Dom, tasting notes! You know you wanna tell us!

  10. MrTH says:

    What are they using for wood? American, European oak? Do they use some former apple brandy barrels?

    My interest is piqued–I’m thinking about visiting Cornwall this year, and will mark this for a visit (although what I’m thinking about in January and what actually happens in October don’t often match up). Having visited several Calvados distilleries in Normandy, I’m as curious about the apple brandy as the whiskey.

    • Danny Maguire says:

      I’ve had some of their 10 year old cider brandy, memory says 42% ABV. I like it but it won’t be to everyones taste.

  11. Rick H says:

    Great article, Dominic!

    Sadly Cornwall’s people stood up to the invading English king in the 1400s and as such were punished beyond what Wales was (both nations being conquered around the same time), losing much of the recognition of their identity in the process. Cornwall probably is indeed a country and it, along with Brittany, are the only two of the six Celtic nations at risk of cultural obliteration due to the insistence that it is English. Parts of Somerset, Dorset, and all of Devon have lost their Cornishness already…

    But it is good to see another Celtic nation distilling. Now if only Isle of Man can distill…

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