St. George’s Distillery was the brainchild of father and son team James and Andrew Nelstrop who come from a farming family with 600 years history in grain growing and processing. Norfolk-grown grain has historically been sent to Scotland for whisky production and they had the idea of keeping some (thought to be amongst the higest quality grain around) and setting up their own distillery.
The distillery opened in 2006 in the Norfolk village of Roudham. Upon establishment, it was the first whisky distillery to be built in England for over 100 years (Lea Valley was closed back in 1905).
The distillery was initially intended to be micro in size, but due to revenue and customs rules not allowing stills smaller than 1800 litres (despite many stills in Scotland being smaller than this due to so-called grandfather rights), the project was soon amended to be a full scale distillery.
The Nelstrops were aided initially by Iain Henderson, formerly Distillery Manager at Laphroaig on Islay. Before Iain retired he trained the current Chief Distiller, David Fitt, who had been enticed from brewing beer for Greene King in the middle of 2007.
Due to the high quality that has been evident all the way through from the start, and is ever increasing as the spirit ages, demand continues to grow and the warehouses are constantly filling up.
The distillery take a unique approach to labelling their releases, choosing to shy away from using either a vintage or an age statement on their whiskies. Instead they choose to label by chapter, which helps to chart the history of production:
Chapters 1-4: Malt Spirits released during the early days of production – less than 3 years old so cannot legally be referred to as whisky.
Chapter 5: Limited 3 year old release – first English whisky in over a century.
Chapter 6: 3 year old unpeated release.
Chapter 7: Rum Cask.
Chapter 8: Limited edition 3 year old peated (first peated English whisky in over a century).
Chapter 9: 3 year old peated.
Chapter 10: 2010 limited edition sherry cask.
Chapter 11: 3 year old heavily peated.
Chapter 12: Unpeated 2012 release aged in ex-Pedro Ximenez casks.
Chapter 13: A 2013 Halloween-themed release.
Chapter 14: Unpeated bourbon cask aged 5 year old.
Chapter 15: Peated bourbon cask aged 5 year old.
In addition there have been bottlings for royal events, liqueurs and even a delicious mix of Pedro Ximenez and English whisky called Nelstrop’s Pedro Ximenez.
So on to the whisky:
The English Whisky Co. Chapter 11 Heavily Peated, 46%
Distilled: March 2008
Bottled: November 2011
Cask Type: ASB (American Standard Barrel)
Cask Numbers: 639, 640, 641, 642
Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: Whack of youthful iodine on first nosing. Leaving it for a few seconds, this dissipates slightly to reveal green apple, chili and vanilla
Palate: Almost a ‘dirty’ style of peat that I associate more with Irish Whiskey than their Islay counterparts. This is backed up by green apple, clove, lemon peel, ginger and melon.
Finish: Reasonable length (well it is only 3 years old), with the peat smoke and citrus notes finely balancing each other.
Overall: It’s hard to forget this is only three years old. There are signs of youthfulness, but these are almost hidden by the complexity that also presents itself. I can’t wait for five or even ten years time when the distillery reaches its full potential – it’s going to be exciting!