The English Whisky Co

Tasting Notes: The English Whisky Co – The English (Original)

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The Englishman holding the English Whisky at the English Distillery

Since 2006, the Norfolk-based distillery has been making whisky and operating under the name of St. George’s Distillery, run by the English Whisky Company (EWC) – the “cheeky bastards!” as actor David Hayman once put it. Following some recent transatlantic grumblings however, the St. George brand has been put to bed here in Blighty and the EWC has now re-branded itself as the English Whisky Company outright, and with it released two new mini-ranges: “The English” and “The Norfolk” – which will run along side the ongoing chapter naming convention. For the purpose of this exercise, we are examining the “Original” release of The English (as opposed to the Smokey release), which is a no-age-statement single malt release, bottled at 43% ABV.

 

Nose

After the initial boozy blast there is lingering sweetness here and all of the whisky’s constituent parts seem to reveal themselves: barley sugars, malt, and vanilla. The scents then melt into a toffee-rich sweetness with a feint smell of lemon/grapefruit tartness afterwards.

 

Taste

More of the same is delivered with a vanilla-centric flavour this time. That said, it’s still pretty malty and has an overall fudgy flavour (maybe it’s had a stir with the caramel stick?) and has a slightly astringent sharpness again at the end.

 

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The English

 

Finish

Vanilla sweetness dominates again, but now there’s a little bit of a spice element at play, that I hadn’t picked up on the nose or when in the mouth. It’s a pretty short finish though with the alcohol appearing and disappearing pretty quickly.

 

Verdict

Overall, this is a pretty easy-drinking whisky. All the key components are there for this to be an enjoyable “whisky drink” but, when compared to many other single malt whiskies, it seems more like a box-checking exercise for a non-peated whisky. To be fair, that’s probably what EWC are aiming for too. It has got a good malt character, but falls short of being interesting for any particular reason. It’s not unpleasant by any means, although a few more years in the barrel could probably remove that more astringent sharpness. A little bit of water actually kills it dead, and leaves more of a piney/chemically aftertaste. It is probably more of a whisky for the uninitiated or someone who is after a quick and easy malt without wanting to make lists of tasting notes (which is what some of us want, you know, from time to time!). Of course, it’s true novelty is that it is English and, by that nature, will therefore ensure that it shifts the units and so, in conclusion: Original it is not. Easy drinking it is.

M

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Original or Smoky?

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Tasting Notes: The English Whisky Co – Chapter 16 – Peated Sherry Cask

The English Whisky Co – Chapter 16

Okay, so for those of you who have read our previous post about the WU visit to the English Whisky Co’s new shop/café/chutney-outlet, you will know that we weren’t exactly blown away by their hospitality (see here, if not). Having said that, it didn’t stop the wallets coming out and bottles being bought.

After surveying the scene, I went all-in on the Chapter 16 Smokey PX Cask Matured chap! So let’s open the box… and the first thing we’re hit with is a message telling us to enjoy…good start!

Nose

Boom…no doubt we have a young’un here…phew I can tell from the nose that water is gonna be a necessary addition here, however like the whisky soldier I am I persevere. Yep there’s sherry here and it’s flowing through like mist through a valley of peat. (So poetic it hurts…) Smoke, yes, but not overwhelming. For newbies to peated whisky this isn’t one to fear. There is also a freshly harvested gain hint as well, especially if you rub a bit on your hands, yep I do that, weirdo I know! It’s fair to say that that could be it for the nose, but let it warm up and revisit it and there’s more depth, oak tones almost fruity red wines or, dare I say, a faint hit of mulled wine.

Taste

Okay so there’s the proof that water is needed, because it’s lively and even a little pokey but overall, satisfyingly tasty. Fruit cake, glacé cherries, a definite sherry hint and then there it is that smoke (obvs, as the kids would say). It’s not a thick whack around the head like an Ardbeg 10 or Bruichladdich Octomore but rather a wafting of smoke from the croft’s fire. I likey it’s a tasty chap that’s for sure.

Finish

It has a finish, and that’s a good thing! For me it’s a “more, more, more” finish. I instantly want to go in again for another sip. However, I resist and a short but pleasing warmth builds and the embers of smoke and a touch of sweetness hang around for you to enjoy.

Verdict

So let’s sum this little English Whisky imposter up. I’m gonna say it…it’s too expensive. There…elephant in the room mentioned. I am not saying it’s cheap tasting because it certainly isn’t, it’s a quality spirit, but just not £49 worth. It is a perfect winter’s night, fireside companion. Its more-ish with plenty of flavour to keep you happy but it doesn’t have real depths like other peaty numbers. Then again, maybe it’s not meant to be competing with those big boys. Chapter 16 – Peated Sherry Cask is definitely still in short trousers, but who doesn’t still wanna be running around in short trousers…..?

8/10

T

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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.

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