The St. George’s Distillery made headlines back in 2006 when they became the first English whisky distillery (dedicated to single malt) in over 100 years. As with any ‘new’ business venture, there are successes and lessons learned throughout the way, and the English Whisky Company (EWC) have worn their heart on their sleeve in that respect as they have shared that journey with their customers. Originally, their single malts were released under the banner of “Chapters” – literally telling their story to consumer as they progressed. Being based in England, we have had the opportunity to join in that voyage and share our notes along the way: (Click here for notes on the English Whisky Chapter releases).
In 2016 the EWC dropped the Chapter branding however as they landed up their two signature single malt releases and future house styles taking their ‘Classic’ and ‘Peated’ releases and restyling as The English: Original and The English: Smokey. We visited the distillery in 2018 and duly procured a bottle of their Original bottling (click here for notes). Fast forward a few years, and we have got our hands on a bottle the sibling Smokey release.
The English Smokey is described by the EWC as:
Aged to perfection in specially selected bourbon casks. Only exceptional casks made the grade to mature The Smokey English Single Malt Whisky.
Tasting Notes: A gentle aroma with hints of vanilla, aniseed & ginger; a creamy palate a little peat initially and then the smoke bomb! Finish is long, spicy, and smokey.English Whisky Co – The English: Smokey
What we therefore have is a solely bourbon cask matured single malt whisky, peated to 45ppm, bottled at 43% ABV without age statement, currently available at RRP £45 per 70cl bottle.
Just raising the glass in hand and I am greeted by a nice warming billow of peat smoke. Only a mild peat smoke, though. We’re not talking full-blown Islay here. That said, the soft smokey style is reminiscent of smelling the ashes from a charcoal bbq. Behind that there’s a light, summery, and grassy smell with some sweet vanilla, caramel, and toffee apple flavours too. A little ginger and peppery spice round it out.
The sweetness now takes centre stage with a cast of: Barley. Grass. Toffee. Apples. Pears. Malt. Maybe even a chocolate malt. And there’s a gentle spice and little rasp of smoke at the end. Maybe even a little herbal flavour too.
Light, fresh, sweet, and… well… Smokey.
I found that this was really rather easy to drink. I know that peated whisky can be a ‘Marmite’ affair, whereby you either love it or hate it, but I fall into the former category there, and I think this would only really be enjoyed by my fellow members in that tribe. What you have then however is a spectrum of peated whiskies, from the lightly smoked side to the absolutely earthen charred bastards. This whisky definitely falls within the former camp and would suit those who prefer that side of the peaty scale. The peat smoke is strong enough that it does take the lead role at first, but it is joined by a strong supporting cast. You can smell it fairly strongly upfront, but once you get used to that peat smoke – and it doesn’t take too long – then the whole whisky becomes a really simple and sweet affair. In fact, over a couple of glasses, I found that the smoke ends up taking a back seat to the flavours and sweetness of barley sugars and orchard fruits, whilst that slightly herbal or bitter note and gentle spice at the end is a reminder of the whisky’s peaty and bourbon cask origins. A casual and lighter sipper for the discerning peathead.
Sample disclosure: I was provided this generous sample bottle directly from The English Whisky Company. All notes however are intended as an honest, fair, and independent review of the whisky itself, and not as a promotion. Please drink responsibly. Please drink wisely.