The Whisky Ambassador Guide to English Whisky
With the resurgent worldwide interest in Scotch, our southern neighbours’ interest in whisky sadly often doesn’t get a look in. However, England does have a history of producing single malt, at least until 1905 with the closure of Lea Valley distillery.
However, it wasn’t until 2003 that St. Austell Brewery & Healey Cyder Farm announced the first production of a “Cornish” single malt “Whiskey.” Since then, numerous distilleries started up, and, as of 2017, have served as a welcome addition to the UK spirits trade.
In the spirit of Saint George’s Day, we’ve put together a list of some of the staples of the Whisky business in England.
Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery
Tasked with creating Yorkshire’s first single malt Whisky, the Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery has sought to blend the traditions and techniques of Scotch, amending them with use of locally, sustainably produced elements. All barley and spring water used in the production of Spirit of Yorkshire have been grown and sourced from the local family farm. Featuring some of the largest copper stills outside of Scotland, production was started in May 2016.
As in Scotland, spirit produced has to be matured for three years to qualify as Whisky. However, whilst the production hasn’t quite reached the legal qualification for Whisky, various formulations of Spirit of Yorkshire’s maturing spirit is available for purchase until that date. As Yorkshire is a large and disparate area with its own vibrant culture and heritage, it’s an exciting wait to sample Yorkshire’s first whisky.
Cooper King Distillery
Similarly located ten miles outside of York, Cooper King took influence from a very different source to Scotland: Tasmania. Having visited eight distilleries across Tasmania, Abbie & Chris, the distillery founders, decided to move the innovative and distinct approaches of the antipodeans back to England and set up Cooper King in their light. As such, the Tasmania-sourced stills are unlike any other in Europe.
Nonetheless, Cooper King’s base is firmly in Yorkshire, being named after Chris’ great-great grandfather, who documented Chris’ ties to Yorkshire. All Barley is similarly 100% sourced from Yorkshire. With an emphasis on taking a green and sustainable approach, Cooper King’s plans are to run on 100% green energy, planting a tree for every bottle sold and planting a woodland and orchard on site.
Cooper King’s whisky is still maturing, but their gin will be available to all founders very soon, within Spring 2018. We for one can’t wait to sample their produce!
Located in the beautiful North Cotswolds, Cotswolds Distillery was formed from a desire to honour the local heritage, using local raw materials, traditional distillery techniques and create a home for English Whisky. To this end, the Distillery is located in a village, with all staff members living nearby, the neighbours helping with the bottling and fruit peeling, and the spent grains from the mash going to feed the local cows.
Whilst Cotswold Distillery produces everything from Gin to Absinthe, its won particular praise for its own Single Malt Whisky. A rich, fruity and easily drinkable whisky, the Cotswold Single Malt has flavours of tannin-rich malts and dark, spicy fruit, tasting a little like marmalade before finishing in a treacle-esque, long, resinous finish. Cotswold have also filled a variety of different casks, planning to release different bottlings during the coming months and years.
Isle of Wight Distillery
Currently the only distillery on the Isle of Wight, founders Xavier and Conrad wanted to express the unique properties of the Island into their spirits. All spirits are cut with local spring water to deliver layered complexity and smooth delivery characteristic of the island way of life.
IoL Distillery have been laying down Whisky since 2015 with Isle of Wight barley, with the spirit left to mature in both Bourbon and white wine casks before being moved to either sherry, madeira, cognac, port or even peated whisky casks. Importantly, whilst their whisky isn’t available commercially, their gin produce is, and a number of stockists on the island and throughout mainland UK now stock them.
Hicks & Healeys Distillery
Whilst a Cider farm doesn’t sound like the best place to find whisky, company founder Kay and David were the first to begin selling English Whisky, notably producing it in “Cornwall’s first distillery in 300 years.” Supposedly, every bottle produced by the Cornish distillers will vary slightly. Their whisky, at seven years old, started selling in 2011, also advertised as England’s oldest whisky.
For a list of the locations you can take the Whisky Ambassador course in England, click here.