Is there such a thing as 'English Whisky'?

Posted on March 13, 2017

It’s an interesting question, and one that we’ve been asked before. The short answer is that there is no one thing. We reckon that there is such a diversity in the styles of whiskies being made around England, the production processes and ingredients we’re all using, that there isn’t a discernible style that is ‘English Whisky’. On the one hand we’re making something that is very much born out of a love of Scotch – we’re scotch drinkers here and wouldn’t be making whisky ourselves if we weren’t passionate about the traditional stuff. The processes that we’re following and the kit that we’re using is all very traditional – it’s Forsyths-made copper pot stills that are distilling our spirit, and the distillery is completely manual; no automation or computerisation here. On the other hand, we’re taking a fresh look at that traditional process; examining every step of it to make sure the decisions we take are going to produce the best possible tasting whisky. Not at the cheapest price. Not with the greatest profit margin or efficiency score. But the best tasting.

So what we’re doing isn’t new, but it also isn’t necessarily that common in recent history. We’ve really thought about the malting, going with traditional floor malting at Warminster. We’ve selected an unusual pairing of yeasts to get the most flavour from our fermentations, and then we’ve let that fermentation run for a full 4 days. We’re running our stills as slowly as we can, and we’re searching high and low for the best possible first-fill casks to put that spirit into – some traditional, some innovative.

In our mind, these aren’t necessarily practices that mark us out as ‘English Whisky’ – they’re not just found in England, and they’re not found at all English distilleries. But they are common to a wider movement seen recently in what’s loosely been termed ‘World Whisky’ and that’s where we see ourselves fitting in. It’s a collection of distilleries across the world trying to make delicious single malt whisky, by going at the process with fresh eyes.

Now the real interesting question is, is there actually one discernible, identifiable style that is ‘Scotch’ anymore? Back when it was principally Scotland making double-distilled single malt whisky, it was so different to the other styles of whisky around the globe (American whiskies using different grains, Irish whisky tending towards triple distillation) that it made sense to lump the Scottish distilleries in together. But they are as diverse as these ‘world whiskies’ today! Is a medium peated, sherry casked, double pot stilled Campbeltown different in style to a medium peated, sherry cask, double distilled Japanese single malt? Should it be grouped, style-wise, with an unpeated, floral, light, lowland grain whisky, purely because they were both distilled in Scotland? With the new generation of Scottish whisky distilleries coming on line, will their whisky be more like ‘traditional Scotch’, or have more in common with their fellow new-whisky-makers abroad?


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