Archive for the ‘English whisky’ Category

Whisky Returns to London

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Author - Dave Broom

It’s hard to know precisely what a distillery looks like these days, but I’m not expecting one that shares a building with a boxing gym, an Islamic Arts Centre, a cinema, and a bar. The blue neon sign declaring “The London Distillery” looks like some post-modern irony rather than a working plant. Outside, the muddy coffee waters of the Thames flow under Albert Bridge. Not, as I said, the location you think of when talking whisky.

In the tiled, high-ceilinged main room is a highly burnished, 650 liter copper pot called Matilda, built to the firm’s specifications by Christian Carl. At the other end of the room is the mash tun and stainless steel fermenters. Most excitingly, there’s clear spirit running into the large receiving vessel.

Although in the 18th and 19th ceThe London Distillery Companyntury the Thames and its tributaries were home to many substantial distilleries, the last dedicated whisky plant, Lea Valley, closed at the start of the 20th century. The notion of English whisky laid dormant for over a century, that of London whisky even longer. This is a significant event: whisky making returning to London after 100 years.

This is a chance for CEO Darren Rook and distiller Andrew MacLeod Smith to start creating a London style. It also indicates a relaxing of the attitude of the UK Excise, who had to have their own regulations quoted back at them in order for Rook and his team to be granted their license to distil spirits (rather than the license to rectify granted to gin distillers). Distilling whisky in the capital is a symbolic moment in the development of a national English whisky industry.

The way they are approaching it is hearteningly forensic. That trickle of clearic in the vat is the first runnings, not an end product. The next few months will be a period of assessment of the options open to them, “to find what excites us,” as Rook says.

Darren Rook and Matilda

Darren Rook and Matilda

Barley strains (brought in as grist) will be looked at as will yeast strains. “The idea is to use yeasts which have historically been used by London brewers,” says Rook. “At the moment we are trialing Young’s and an old Whitbread one. We’re working through the decades to discover which strain works best for which style.”

Matilda is equally flexible. The vapor can be run through a condenser, or diverted to a copper rectifying column should they wish to distil in a single pass. The plates in the column can also be removed, effectively extending the length of the lyne arm. At the moment, though, double distillation is being used, with the heads being returned to the next batch of wash and the tails into the second distillation.

Each distillation, handily enough, will give sufficient spirit for one standard cask; there’s no sign of quick-fix, small cask maturation being used. “It will be ready when we think it’s ready,” says Rook. “If that’s 25 years, then so be it!” He then floats the idea that chestnut casks might be trialed along with new oak, should they make a rye and corn-based whisky. Options open.

Consultant distiller John McDougall smiles. “Anyone can build a distillery,” he says, “it’s making it different that’s the tricky bit.”

Cornish whiskey

Tuesday, 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  and

Review: St. George’s Chapter 11 (cask strength)

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

St. George’s Chapter 11 (cask strength), 59.7%, £65

St. George’s hits pay dirt! The competition is fierce for young, big, oily, heavily peated whiskies: Kilchoman, Connemara Turf Mor, BenRiach Birnie Moss. This, though, is good enough to mix it in that sort of company. The peat growls like a Harley-Davidson, punches pepper and peat throughout, but best of all, it flicks licorice and hickory kisses just like a real life Laphroaig. Chapter 11 isn’t quite in that league yet…but it’s certainly moving in the right direction. —Dominic Roskrow

(Currently not available in the U.S.)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 87

Coming in May: daily whisky reviews

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

The Summer issue of Malt Advocate will be out June 1st. (It will be our 20th Anniversary issue!) In it, we have a record number of whisky reviews too: almost 90! Nearly all are new releases.

I’m going to share with you a sampling of these reviews before they are published in Malt Advocate. (It’s my way of saying “thank you” for taking time out of your busy schedule to check in here.) I’ll post up at least one new review every day for the entire month (including weekends).

Stay tuned…

And you wonder why whisky companies don’t import their whisky to the U.S.?

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

It’s not always because they don’t want to. Sometimes our government’s bureaucracy makes it nearly impossible for them to do so.

Yes, we addressed this issue before here with Amrut from India. Well, here’s another example of your U.S. tax dollars at work.

It’s true that “straight” whiskeys here in the U.S., like straight bourbon and straight rye whiskeys, must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. But it’s ridiculous for our government to require a whisky outside of the U.S. be aged in new charred oak barrels to be called a “single malt,” as described below by the importer of Amrut and (hopefully, some day) The English Whisky Company.

Many of you will recall that last year I wrote lamenting about the TTB’s decision to not allow Amrut to be designated as a “Single Malt Whisky”. After appeals and clarification they relented allowing US consumers to enjoy another Single Malt Whisky.

At Purple Valley Imports we are focused on bringing world class single malts to US consumers and have been working to offer the English Whisky Company Single Malts to the US market.

Well, the powers that be are up to the old tricks again.

We recently presented The English Whisky Company’s Chapter 6 and Chapter 9 to the TTB Beverage Lab for analysis. (Any “Whisky” not from Scotland, Ireland, Canada or the US must go through lab testing).

Although the English Whisky distilled spirits taste, smell and drink like Single Malts the TTB department has deemed that we may call these “Whisky or Whiskey” but not “Single Malt”. Their reasoning? Well, the spirits are not aged in “new oak charred barrels”. 

As all of you are aware the majority of distilleries in Scotland use ex-Bourbon barrels. Bourbon is aged in new oak charred barrels and can only be used once. So, technically whisky is being aged in “new oak charred barrels that have had bourbon pass through them”.

The English Whisky Company, is the first new distillery in England in over a century. Located some 250 miles from Scotland they produce “Single Malt” Whiskies using barley grown and malted in England. (By the way some 60% of the barley used for Scottish Malt Whiskies is grown in England).

Andrew Nelstrop, Managing Director of The English Whisky Company commented: “We use only English barley, malted in England. The whisky we are producing at present was also peated in England. I am not aware of any distillery that can claim they use 100% barley, water and yeast produced in their own country other than ourselves”.

So, here is a small Distillery producing a wonderful dram (can I  call a whisky that isn’t from Scotland a dram?), that the US will not allow to be labeled as “Single Malt”.

Yet, they will allow whiskies from a distillery in Wales (which is much further in distance to Scotland then the English Whisky Company is) to do so.

Well while the rest of the world enjoys The English Whisky Single Malts, the consumers in the US can only dream. 

We are appealing this from here and from the UK. As always we appreciate your support and comments


Raj Sabharwal

Guest Review: St. George’s Chapter 9, 46%, $60

Friday, August 13th, 2010

The name’s a little misleading — this is actually the second whisky to be released from England’s only distillery. It’s only three years old so don’t expect too much depth, but it’s a significant step up from the first release, it’s made by legendary former Laphroaig distiller Iain Henderson and it’s peated, so expect a treat. There’s not much happening on the nose, with some fluffy fruit masking a touch of charcoal smoke. But on the palate it goes through the gears, with melon and pear giving way to a wave of licorice before the peat kicks in and stays. It’s a bit like seeing a talented teenager try out for a sports team: lots of talent, no obvious weaknesses, but not yet big enough to front up to the first team, and in need of some muscle. Nevertheless, surprisingly balanced and rounded, and a sign of good things to come. (Selected British whisky outlets.) – Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 80

Edinburgh retailer “betraying Scotland” by selling English whisky?

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

I don’t think so, but some people apparently do.

english-whisky-2Royal Mile Whiskies in Edinburgh, Scotland, is going to sell the English Whisky Company’s “Chapter I” next month. The Deadline Press & Picture Agency reports here that some people think that such a move is “betraying Scotland.”

Have a look at the article. What do you think?