Anyone for a wee dram of English whisky?

England, a country known for its milky tea and warm beer, has a new home-brewed beverage on the market – whisky.

by: Avril Ormsby | 31 Jul 2007

Despite whisky distilleries existing around the world, including in Japan, Sweden and Austria, England is believed to have been without one for about a century.

Now a family of Norfolk farmers are to take on their great Scottish and Irish whisky-making neighbours to distil the so-called 'water of life'.

"I think the English angle will work," said Andrew Nelstrop, managing director at the English Whisky Co. at St. George's Distillery, in Roudham.

"I still think there are parts of the world that still like English things."

Whisky distilling is becoming popular in England, with at least one other distillery being built, Barley Bridge, in the Lake District. The last mention of whisky distilleries in England was in the late-nineteenth century when four existed.

It is not clear why they disappeared, but they were overtaken in popularity by breweries and gin distilleries. The Nelstrop family decided to diversify into whisky because it "seemed a sensible idea".

About two 2 million pounds has been invested in the Norfolk distillery and its first pre-release of whisky is expected in three years.

Next month, it opens its doors to the public, and whisky drinkers and buyers from around the world, have already shown interest in snapping up casks. The single malt shows a sweet, toffee flavour, Nelstrop said.

But the Bourbon barrels, in which the whisky matures, are from Portugal and the United States, and the award-winning master distiller, Iain Henderson, who has created malts for Laphroaig and Chivas, is from Scotland.

The whisky cannot be called Scotch though.

Ian Bankier, chairman of the Whisky Shop, the largest specialist whisky retailer in the UK, said he intends to stock it when it is ready. But he said it will struggle to compete with Scottish whiskies.

"Nobody is going to catch up with Scotland," he said. "It is too dominant in everybody's consciousness because of its history and evolution.

"But the English whisky might catch on locally."

"It is going to be easy to sell in the first year, when there is enough novelty value for collectors," said Nelstrop. "Then hopefully it will continue to sell because buyers like it."

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