While the bulk of the world’s most renowned whiskies hail from Scotland, it’s not the only place in Britain to make the spirit. More and more English distilleries are popping up in all corners of the country, from Cornwall to the Lake District, and with styles from single malt to rye malt to blends.
Whether or not English whisky will establish its own style remains to be seen, says John McCarthy, head distiller at Adnams, whose Rye Malt Whisky was rated an outstanding 98 points by IWSC experts last year. “I think it will be a few years before English whisky becomes a style,” McCarthy says. “Some distilleries in England are copying Scotland, while others are ploughing their own furrow.”
Today, in celebration of St George’s Day, we present five top-scoring whiskies from IWSC 2019, all distilled in England.
This starts with an elegant and powerful nose, with layers of aromas. The palate is luxuriously rich, with a nice balancing edge of wood spices. The long and powerful finish has sweet nuts, toffee and treacle tart. Maybe even pecans. 46.6%
£48, Lakes Distillery
Incredibly expressive and fresh, this has a big and pronounced set of aromas, including new oak and spicy notes, plus orchard fruit and stone fruits. Apricot jam and baked apples, too, with a touch of cinnamon dusting and custard. A well-balanced and beautiful palate with spicy notes leads on to a herbal, long finish. A fantastically fresh and expressive whisky. 47%
This is an outstandingly fresh example, with well-integrated alcohol. It takes water nicely to open up and show its delightful pear and milk-chocolate aromas and a complex, clean palate. The finish is led by caramel and fresh honey; it is long and lingering. This is a superb example made in a clean and focused style. 60.9%
£64.95, Cotswolds Distillery
The nose has a wide array of citrus notes, with orange marmalade and vanilla. Later on, aromas of stewed apples and fresh pears show up. It is perfumed and elegant, with a light but viscous palate and big but mellow finish. Sweet and savoury notes are in balance, supported by silky tannins and smooth alcohol. A very well-made whisky. 42.5%
A malty and earthy start on the nose, with plenty of vanilla. The fruit and grain notes are in balance, creating a complex and exciting composition of flavours on the palate. The finish is spicy and long, with an appetising aftertaste. A fantastic example. 50.4%
£58.95, Master of Malt
Find out more about English whisky from Adnams head distiller John McCarthy: