English whisky is whisky produced in England. There are currently at least six distilleries producing English whisky. Though England is not very well known for making whisky there were distillers previously operating in London, Liverpool and Bristol until the late 19th century, after which production of English single malt whisky ceased until 2003.
England, like Scotland, has a history of producing single malt whisky. However, the production of English single malt whisky ceased around 1905 with the closure of Lea Valley Distillery by the Distillers Company Limited, one of the forerunners of Diageo.
- Lea Valley Distillery, Stratford, London (founded in the late 19th century) — produced both grain and malt whisky.
- Bank Hall Distillery (Liverpool) — produced grain and malt whisky
- Bristol Distillery (founded in the 17th century) — produced grain whisky which was "sent to Scotland and Ireland to make a Blended Scotch and Irish whisky, for whisky purpose it is specially adapted, and stands in high favour".
- Vauxhall Distillery in Liverpool (founded in 1781) — produced grain whisky
In 2003, St Austell Brewery & Healey Cyder Farm announced the first production of a "Cornish" single malt whisky in 300 years. Although no substantial evidence exists that whisky was ever produced in Cornwall, it was the first commercial whisky to be produced in England in almost a century. The partnership released a seven-year-old whisky in September 2011.
The English Whisky Co. Ltd, founded by farmer James Nelstrop in 2006, started production and released a three-year-old product in 2009. This has been followed by sequentially numbered Chapter bottlings with varied alcohol by volume and flavour profiles.
The Adnams Brewery in October 2010 began production of vodka and gin, but in 2011 started to lay down stock of new spirit to be aged into single malt whisky.
In 2013 The London Distillery Company began production of the first single malt whisky in London since Lea Valley Distillery closed in 1903.
Two other English distilleries also producing whisky as of 2014 are The Lakes Distillery and The Cotswolds Distillery.
English Whisky Distilleries
Hicks & Healey
|Type||Single malt English whisky|
|Manufacturer||St. Austell Brewery & Healey's Cornish Cyder Farm|
|Country of origin||England|
In September 2011 the partnership released a 7 year old single malt and opted to use the spelling "whiskey". Whisky commentator and author of the Whisky Bible, Jim Murray, described the whiskey as “among the best debut bottlings of the last decade”. Some of the proceeds from the sale of the bottle went to local charities.
Hicks & Healey whisky is made with Maris Otter barley grown in Trerulefoot, south-east Cornwall. The wash was fermented at St Austell Brewery’s traditional Victorian brew-house, before being transferred to Healey’s Cyder Farm. The wash was then double distilled in a 1,200 litres (320 US gal) copper pot still made by Forsyths, in Rothes, Scotland. The spirit is aged in American bourbon charred casks in Cornwall.
St. George's Distillery
|Type||Single malt English whisky|
|Manufacturer||The English Whisky Co.|
|Country of origin||England|
St George's Distillery in Roudham, Norfolk, began production in 2006. It produces single malt whisky. Its first whisky came onto the market in 2009 and was three years old. The grain for the whisky comes from Fakenham, the yeast comes from Kingston upon Hull and the water comes from the Breckland. The company that operates the distillery is called The English Whisky Company.
The company founder James Nelstrop described it as a 45-year-old dream to make whisky in Norfolk and said that barley has historically been sent from Norfolk to Scotland to make whisky. His initial idea was for a microdistillery, but after an unsuccessful application to HMRC for a distilling license to operate pot stills with a capacity less than 1800 litres (known as undersized stills in the UK) the company reverted to the minimum standard of 1800 litres and a license was approved.
The building suffered a small fire on 27 July 2010. The building where the whisky was stored was not affected in the fire and the company was operating normally soon afterwards.
To denote a progression in their release schedule, St George's Distillery has used a sequential bottling system. Starting with Chapter One on February 2, 2010, the distillery has released a range of aged malt spirits and single malt whiskies. In general odd numbers in the Chapter range have been made using peated malt.
Currently the company has released 11 Chapters with Chapter 7 being finished in a rum cask.
In 2011 St George's Distillery created a limited edition botting for the Royal wedding of Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton, released at 46%abv. This was followed in 2012 with a commemorative release for Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.
St George's Chapter 14 whisky was named the European Whisky of the year by the whisky writer Jim Murray in his Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2015.
Since completion in October 2010 Adnams Brewery has produced a number of spirits including gin & vodka. In 2010 and 2011 Adnams distiller John McCarthy produced spirit to be aged as single malt whisky. Currently the distillery uses a mix of used American oak hogsheads and new French oak to age the single malt spirit. Below the distillery in the old brewery cellars casks are stored in the whisky cellar & brewery museum.
Within the Copper House Distillery are sited:
- A Beer Stripping Still – capacity 1000 litres per hour,
- An 8.5 hl Copper Pot Still with London style head (contains 3 rectification plates) & Carter Head attachment,
- A copper, twin sequential rectification column with 42 plates,
- A final polishing column for vodka spirit,
To the rear of the Copper House are situated processing and alcohol storage tanks made from 304-grade stainless steel with a Korn 320 grade finish by Astra Kompanija of Alytus, Lithuania.
Next to the “stills room” are a chilling & filtering plant, hand bottling line and packing rooms.
The London Distillery Company
Planning for TLDC began in early 2010 after a chance meeting on Burns night between Taylor and whisky writer Joel Harrison. The idea to open a London-based whisky distillery was Taylor's and was introduced to Rook by Harrison. Although they met in 2010 the business was not formalised until June 2011 after Rook resigned from his role at drinks retailer Master of Malt.
Production of London's first single malt in over century began in December 2013 and they experimented with rye spirit production in 2014. TLDC will release the UK and London's first Rye whisky in 2017 made with 100% rye grain.
The Lakes Distillery
In late 2011, Lakes Distillery founder, Paul Currie, (whose father Harold Currie founded Arran Single Malt Distillery) announced they had successfully received planning permission from the Lake District planning department in Cumbria to convert the former Victorian Model Farm at Setmurthy near Bassenthwaite Lake into a Distillery.
Building work started in April 2013 and the distillery opened on 15 December 2014 with the unveiling of bespoke entrance gates. The distillery operates a visitor centre with tours available, a shop, a bar and bistro. It is expected to employ 25 people.
The distillery produces gin, vodka and blended whisky. The distillery also started production on a single malt whisky in early 2015 that will be available from Q1 2018 onwards and will be called The Lakes Single Malt.
East London Liquor Company
The inaugural whisky release will be a Rye Whisky, which will launch at the end of 2018. Whiskies will be created in rotating batches with each batch having a variation in production, cask finish, or mash bill. These will include combinations of pot and column distillation, and barrel finishes including new American oak, French oak, and chestnut, and ex-wine, ex-rye, and ex-bourbon barrels.
Other English whiskey producers
There are several other whiskey producers in England with products due to come to market soon, from 2016 to 2018. The Cotswolds has a small distillery, as do the counties of Devon, Kent and Yorkshire. In 2020, there should be at least 10 English malt whiskey producers.
- Cornish take on Scotch, BBC news, Thursday, 1 May 2003.
- English Whisky page at Royal Mile Whiskies commercial website.
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- English whisky bottled for first time in a century, BBC news, 10 December 2009.
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- Rowley, Tom (9 February 2014). "English distillers race to profit from the £4bn whisky boom". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 23 March 2014.