Posts Tagged With: English Whisky Company

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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Tasting Notes: The English Whisky Co – Chapter 9 

English Whisky Co – Chapter 9 (Peated)

Based down in Norfolk, the English Whisky Co has been making ripples in single malt production as England’s primary whisky distillers. Their marketing from day one has been very clever as it invites people along the distillery’s own journey and development, by inviting drinkers to enjoy each “chapter” within their whisky making book. The Chapter 9 release is their second peated expression, and being such, their first readily available release (with the first one – Chapter 8 – having sold out pretty quickly!), which has been matured solely in  ex-bourbon casks and has been bottled at 46% ABV. 

Nose

M: Dry smoke. Pretty gentle, and ‘clean’ smoke, Bit of oak in there too. There’s a sweet, tingly smell there too, that reminds me of Parma Violets.

Taste

M: Really firey. Fresh. Young. Then, when you’ve got used to the booze, there is malt and caramel. After a bit of time and/or a bit of water it mellows to a smooth caramel flavour with a gentle smoky backbone. Like the tingly sweetness of “fruit” flavour sweets like love hearts. Just a touch of the Laphroaig medicinal/iodine about it.

Finish

M; Fantastic peat embers. That firey kick subsides and coats the throat with a silky sweet texture and a good smoky aftertaste. Great balance.

Verdict

M: I’ve tried a few of the English Whisky Co’s chapters now but this is the first time I’ve tried a peated one and I like what I’ve tasted here! It’s not a smoky heavyweight but it’s far from being bantam! (I even found myself groaning at that one). Overall it is pretty light, refreshing and has that surprising characteristic of more-ish for a smoked whisky. My preference is usually to leave a smoky dram until the end of the night and just have the one, but this is one that I could definitely get back in the ring with for a second round. I’m not exactly getting “salty chips” like the Dram Team’s tasting notes though, but am happy to have another go.

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Whisky: Scotch Independence?

As we approach 18th Sept 2014, the debate rages on throughout Scotland and the UK about whether or not the Scots should vote for Scottish independence. For whisky drinkers, this mirrors one question that has often considered too: do I stick to just scotch whisky or not?

scottish flag

Whisky: Scotch Independence?

The answer is that only you can really decide. But! It would not be right (almost rude, in fact) to rule out other whiskies without trying them first, so here’s a potted geographical tour of the big names that the non-scotch world has to offer:

Jameson's - Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey

Jameson’s – Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey


Bushmills 10 Year Old - Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Bushmills 10 Year Old – Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey is known to have a long and vibrant history, similar to the Scots. In fact it seems that no trip to the Eire capital, Dublin, is complete without a trip to the Jameson’s distillery (or the Guinness factory for that matter). Jameson’s is a regular favourite amongst most pubs and bars and, due to its kudos and mass production, is now readily available in most shops and supermarkets and stands proud as the flagship Irish dram. Similarly, Bushmills from Northern Ireland is increasingly adorning the shelves and optics of local public houses and offer a triple distilled blend and a 10 year old single malt as their entry level drams, which could prove to be your tipple of choice. Bushmills also lays claim to be being the oldest Irish whiskey with its history hailing back to 1608!

Across the pond, the US is renowned for its sipping whiskey and bourbons. The big marketing powerhouses of Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam are always competing heavily against one another for your money (e.g. Jim Beam’s recent claim of making history with Mila Kunis battles with the annual claim of September as Jack Daniel’s birth-month) and both have their strengths and weaknesses, but always get the job done with their charcoal-rich hearty measures, whether neat or with a mixer. North of the US border, you have the Canadians, who are more known for their rye whiskies (i.e. made with rye rather than malt) and most famous is the self-titled Canadian Club whiskey, which packs a unique punch, and can be delicious on its own or with a mixer (usually with its Canadian comrade Canada Dry ginger ale).

Yamazaki - Distiller's Reserve

Yamazaki – Distiller’s Reserve

Moving across the Pacific to Japan, you come back to predominantly premier single malts, and there is none bigger than the Yamazaki, within the Suntory whisky family. The Yamazaki is certainly harder to find in pubs here in the UK and you generally have to seek it out in some of the more upmarket bars, mainly due to the price and prestige that the brand associates. That said, it is still a fine dram and their staple Yamazaki 10 is a good place as any to start exploring whether or not Japanese whisky is for you. In 2014 they have also released their “Distiller’s Reserve” within their core range which cleverly demonstrates their use of different casks (including their signature Misanura oak), and has been made widely available via supermarket deals within the UK.

Further south, Australia’s mark on the whisky world is gaining considerable pace, including the 2014 World Whisky Award winning dram hailing from Tasmania, courtesy of Sullivan’s Cove.

Travelling from east to west, we come across India’s largest offering to the industry via the Amrut company whose expressions come very highly rated by whisky guru, Jim Murray. (As too are the John Distilleries expressions from Goa, India). Amrut have progressively built up a varied back catalogue of whiskies including peated and unpeated versions of their product and even a fusion of the two, with their core range demonstrating a great spectrum of complex and rich drams.

English Whisky Company - Fine Single Malt

English Whisky Company

Traversing back into Europe, the last two decades or so has seen an explosion in different countries making their names known within the whisky community, with Sweden’s Mackmyra, Holland’s Zuidam, Denmark’s Stauning and France’s Warengham distilleries representing their respective nation’s biggest fare. To the casual drinker however, the largest problem with these (relative) newcomers though is that they are scarcely available in public within the UK and often need to be bought especially from merchants or at whisky-specialist bars.

Coming back full circle into the UK then, the last 10-20 years has also seen a similar emergence of new players in the market with Penderyn offering celtic magic via their single malt from Wales, as well as the eponymous English Whisky Company and Adnams single malts, both based in Norfolk, getting their patriotic labels on the shelves. What this goes to show is that whilst it may have all started in Scotland, the variety and choice of whiskies available is getting larger and larger and whether you become a scotch purist or a multinational dabbler, the whisky world is your oyster. M

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