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article imageReview: English whisky makes its mark Special

By Tim Sandle     Aug 24, 2016 in Food
Thetford - Whisky and England haven't recently fitted together in terms of spirit production. This is slowly changing with the first English whisky distillery in 100 years recently opening. The distillery is also open to visitors, and Digital Journal paid a visit.
When it comes to whisky some nations are more synonymous with the spirit than others. Scottish whisky dominates much of the world market, followed by Ireland, and the U.S. There are other up-and-coming nations too, such as India and Japan. England? The country wouldn't, until recently, have featured in any top list of production or best buys.
This is slowly changing with the steady growth of English whisky, produced from the St. George's Distillery in the county of Norfolk, close to the town of Thetford.
This way to St. George s Distillery.
This way to St. George's Distillery.
The main building that forms the St. George s Distillery  Norfolk.
The main building that forms the St. George's Distillery, Norfolk.
The distillery is bespoke, having been designed and built by the Nelstrop family of farmers to produce the English malt whisky for the first time on English soil for over one hundred years. In terms of the history of whisky, there was plenty of English whisky produced in the 19th century; however, in 1903 the last distillery in England — Lea Valley Distillery — closed and no whisky was produced until St. George's began its initial production in 2006.
The motif of the English Whisky Company  on display in the main building.
The motif of the English Whisky Company, on display in the main building.
As well as showcasing the different types of whisky, the distillery has a guided tour. This is given by a knowledgeable host who describes the history of the distillery and the whisky making process. The process was set-up by Iain Henderson, a distiller from Laphroaig (a Scottish whisky distillery of some renown.)
The main processing area at St. George s Distillery  the two stills can be seen in the background.
The main processing area at St. George's Distillery, the two stills can be seen in the background.
The distillery uses locally produced barley, locally drawn water and yeast, from elsewhere in England, for the whisky production.
The whisky making process begins with malting and mashing. Mashing involves mixing coarse dried barley with hot water. This creates a wort, which is then fermented with yeast.
A close up of where the wort is produced. Here water of varying temperatures are used.
A close up of where the wort is produced. Here water of varying temperatures are used.
Processing and distillation occurs in two 1800 liter stills. The first is a pot still; the second still is used for final distillation.
A close up of the second still that produced the distillate set to become whisky.
A close up of the second still that produced the distillate set to become whisky.
The distillates then pass through a "spirit safe." Here the colorless, fiery spirit is reduced to maturing strength.
The spirit safe at the St. George s Distillery. A spirit safe is a large  padlocked  glass walled  u...
The spirit safe at the St. George's Distillery. A spirit safe is a large, padlocked, glass walled, usually brass bound container found at whisky distilleries which allows the distiller to analyse and manage the spirit coming out of the pot still without coming into contact with the spirit itself.
A closeup of the spirit safe and the bottles used to assess alcohol content of the liquor produced f...
A closeup of the spirit safe and the bottles used to assess alcohol content of the liquor produced from the stills.
The whisky filled into casks and then left to sleep until the distillers consider it ready for bottling.
Various casks of whisky are stacked into Warehouse 1.
The main warehouse at the English Whisky Company  where the various chapters or whisky are stored in...
The main warehouse at the English Whisky Company, where the various chapters or whisky are stored in casks.
On entering the area you can breathe in the delightful aroma caused by the Angel's Share escaping (this is a term given for the amount of alcohol which evaporates from the casks during maturation).
A display barrel of whisky showing the gradual loss of liquid from the barrel over time  the so-call...
A display barrel of whisky showing the gradual loss of liquid from the barrel over time, the so-called "Angel's share."
Bottling is undertaken by hand, one bottle at a time.
Different types of whisky (by smell, taste and finish) are produced by holding the whisky in different barrels, such as U.S. bourbon barrels, oak barrels and sherry casks. Chapter bottlings also vary by alcohol by volume, as well as flavor profiles.
Casks of maturing English whisky. The wood from the cast helps to impart the overall taste and aroma...
Casks of maturing English whisky. The wood from the cast helps to impart the overall taste and aroma.
Different editions of the whisky are called 'chapters.' I sampled two — Chapter 6 and Chapter 11. Both of these whiskies were very different.
Chapter 6, said to be the distillery's best seller, is fresh and fragrant on the nose with a hint of spice. On the palate there is an initial taste of wood, vanilla, fruit, nuts and malt. The finish is clean, with a touch of citrus. This whisky is only three years old, which is typical for an American bourbon but very young compared to most Scotch. It loses little by way of its age, however, and makes for a pleasant drink.
In contrast, Chapter 11 is a peated whisky. The aroma is sweet and creamy with hints of pepper. The taste brings out peat and pepper that tingles each corner of the mouth. The finish draws out savory dry peat and a rich fruitiness.
As well as the different chapters, there are special editions, such as some created for Prince Charles to use for charitable work.
A barrel signed by Prince Charles  at the English Whisky Company. The whisky will one day be auction...
A barrel signed by Prince Charles, at the English Whisky Company. The whisky will one day be auctioned for charity.
St George's Chapter 14 whisky was named the European Whisky of the year by Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2015.
Some bottled English whisky on show at the distillery.
Some bottled English whisky on show at the distillery.
The distillery tour is interesting. It is a less polished experience than some tours of distilleries and all the better for it: here is a working distillery where the staff display good knowledge of their product and a passion for their craft. It is worth a visit.
English whisky may not be the most well known, but it is coming along strongly.
The official logo of the English Whisky Company  on display on the main warehouse.
The official logo of the English Whisky Company, on display on the main warehouse.
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