Monthly Archives: October 2017

Venue Visit: The English Whisky Company

Last Friday (20th Oct) the Whisky Unplugged boys set off on a road trip to Norfolk for a weekend of camping, jokes and drams. The primary target en route was, of course, the English Whisky Company (EWC, formerly the St George’s Distillery).

Whilst S and T had been to the distillery before, this was a first time visit for M and we had read that the site had recently opened up a new cafe/shop area (barely 5 weeks ago!), so we were all keen to experience it, as well as stock up for the weekend ahead.

Upon arrival it was clear to see that EWC had invested heavily in the new visitor centre, which looked very modern compared to the more traditional distillery building sitting alongside it. The new centre was a clean-looking combo of exposed wooden panelling, a giant, curved metal roof and large panes of glass–with the obligatory stack of barrels outside.

English Whisky Company

Upon entering, the sheer size of the centre made us pause to take it all in, before the large collection of cabinets and shelves caught our attention, filled with whisky bottles from EWC and the world over. The vastness of the structure was emphasised by the fact that we were the only people there apart from the two staff members in their respective areas: one in the shop front, and one in the cafe section. Unfortunately, the clatter of empties in the distance signalled that serving hours were over. Instead, we decided to peruse the stock before talking to the staff members at ease about all things whisky.

This is where things then took an unfortunate downturn.

Perhaps there were still teething problems in operating the new visitor centre, but sadly our presence did not seem to inspire the staff to take an interest in us. Once we had looked over the shelves, we eventually had to initiate the conversation to talk whisky and try some samples before we bought anything. This is when we found out that the distillery’s sole front of house staff in the shop did not a) like whisky, or b) know much about whisky or the distillery she worked for. Now, there’s nothing wrong per se with not liking whisky. However, one could argue that liking whisky is not commensurate with being able to appreciate or discuss its characteristics. Hopefully, EWC see the value in training their staff so they can be brand (and whisky) ambassadors.

The Norfolk

Making any form of conversation proved to be a real struggle and the staff member just did not seem to know much about their products, beyond the basics (e.g. the now defunct chapter-naming that EWC whisky was previously inspired by so that people could follow the chapters in their whisky making book). Given that we had collectively travelled 10 hours to make this trip, and are passionate about whisky, this was pretty disheartening. This was the same week that their expression “The Norfolk – Parched” had received an award from Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2018 as best European whisky. Whether Jim floats your boat or not, this could be a great hook to engage visitors with–perhaps EWC are not interested in awards, which would be refreshing in itself!

Though a perfectly nice staff member (they weren’t rude at all, for instance), the more we asked about the distillery, the recent rebranding, the different expressions, the more awkward it became. I know we can tend to be whisky-bores but we hoped that such an environment would provide a space to properly geek out about our love of it!

When it did come to samples, although we were offered plenty to choose from, we had to keep asking to taste different expressions, which again, just added to the awkwardness of the visit. The tiny plastic thimbles did not allow the chance to appreciate what was on offer too much. We were keen to review The Parched but that will have to remain a quickfire affair, for now. Not even designating the driver to the staff could coax more fulfilling measures!

EWC – The Kitchen

We were left very confused by the new EWC visitor centre. Apologies, “shop and kitchen”. It’s not a centre and it’s not meant for visitors. Perhaps that was our misconception. This new space is for customers and café patrons, with whisky lovers a distant third. As if to underscore this, a couple came into the store during our visit and promptly bought two jars of whisky-flavoured chutney and then disappeared. Perhaps that is EWC’s target market, the casual customer, not the discerning whisky drinker. That doesn’t quite chime with the premium feel they place on their whisky (or prices) but maybe they have worked out that it is more profitable to be an outpost of fine goods and food to passing trade, than a beacon for whisky lovers. Maybe their distillery tours are fantastic and those interested in whisky should bypass the shop altogether in favour of these. Timings didn’t allow us to test that theory out, but based on current experience, Whisky Unplugged won’t be returning anytime soon. Shame. Although this visit took the wind out of our sails, we recovered to have a great weekend and some new reviews will soon follow!

M, S and T.

Categories: The English Whisky Co, Venues | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tasting Notes: Penderyn – Madeira

Penderyn – Madeira

Penderyn is the brand name of the only single malt whisky currently made in Wales (formerly known as The Welsh Whisky Company). Based in the beautiful landscape of the Brecon Beacons, the distillery has been making whisky since 2001 and has since expanded its repertoire to include their own vodka, gin and even whisky cream liqueur. To the matter at hand though, and it’s the distillery’s first main output into the whisky world stored in ex-bourbon barrels and then finished off in a Madeira cask before bottling.

ABV: 46%



M: A real Madeira cake sweetness (the power of suggestion!) but it is quickly blown away by an almost chlorine-like alcoholic burn.


M: Sweet fudge, vanilla and caramel at the start but again quickly burnt away leaving a spicy, crisp, and pine-y attack with only a hint at Madeira.


M: Long with a lasting taste of young wood at the back of the throat and quite an acidic finish.


M: As a Welshman, I wanted to enjoy this so much, but I’m sad to say that this is disappointing for my first Welsh whisky and it is just not to my tastes. Others out there seem to love it and the various Madeira releases from Penderyn regularly receive elaborate reviews and 90+ scores from Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible. Unfortunately, for me though, it’s just not yet the sweet nectar I was wishing for. I’m hoping that it is just maybe hankered by its youth and this only affects the tastes temporarily as it gets older and the barrels and their whiskies mature. I’m also interested to see if their peated expression can hide some of the burn with the smoke and I reckon that their first 10 years old expression will definitely be one to keep an eye out for!

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Tasting Notes: Glen Moray 30 Years Old (Murray McDavid)

Glen Moray 30yo

September 2017 marked the 120th anniversary of Glen Moray distillery having been first opened and having constantly crafted the water of life. Loyal followers of the distillery on twitter have been using the hashtag #glenmoray120 to tag their celebration of the occasion. Having recently reviewed their regularly available Elgin Heritage 12 and 15 year old expressions, I was delighted that September’s Dram Team delivery contained a new and limited expression from Glen Moray. The mini miniature contained a dram of a 30 year old independent bottling by Murray McDavid under their “Mission Gold” range. There’s limited information available on the whisky itself but as a Murray McDavid release, it has been hand selected from a vintage cask and aged up to the ripe old age of 30.

49% ABV


M: Creamy. Really creamy. A real vanilla bomb. Very little boozy prickle in the nostrils. Really rounded honey and cream. Some gentle sweet fruits there too like papaya. 


M: Vanilla custard. Just like Portuguese tarts. Sweet oak in there too, which intensifies on the way down too.


M: The alcohol only shows itself on the finish as it warms on the way down. Suddenly that 49% is really prominent and leaves a peppery kick.


M: Having tried a few of Glen Moray’s NAS cask finish series releases, I’ve enjoyed their light body and varying flavours and that was what I came to expect of Glen Moray. Delicate and woody. The recent comparison of the 12yo and 15yo however, evidenced a stark difference in flavours and body as a result of a few extra years, so the prospect of 30 years in barrel made me think that this dram would basically taste like chewing a stave. Instead it seems that 30 years have infused nothing but pure vanilla sweetness with a finish that is just sooooo smooth, and at just under 50% ABV, this dram is dangerously easy to drink. At £225 RRP for a bottle though… a small sample is all I’ll be able to enjoy at this stage…

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