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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

St George's Distillery, Norfolk, England

English whisky sounds like an oxymoron. How can whisky be English? Well apparently there is no reason why not, it just can't be scotch whisky, and here we go with some more Scotch and Irish whisky industry myth busting.  Apparently a good distillery doesn't require a special, preferably magical, spring of gentle soft water, a hundred years of tradition and a master distiller who has worked on the site since he was 6 years old and was born in a cottage in the distillery grounds.   Apparently you can just build a distillery and make good whisky.  Who knew (other than the folks at Penderyn)?  You can also build a nice gift shop and a small cafĂ© to go with it and attract a healthy trade in tourists.

A different spin on the distillery tour, in that rather than a standard  tour guide (usual attire at the large Scottish tours include tartan skirt, blue jumper, a branded rain jacket or fleece and name tag) after a short video (I have seen better) the distiller comes and talks to you about the distillery and the process and then leads you around the small site.  I really enjoyed this interaction with the person who actually makes the whisky.  This particular distiller had been working in the brewing industry prior to coming to St Georges just a few years previously.  He was not born in a cottage on the site.  He also discussed St Georges water source, a hard water at 360 ppm Calcium, which is very different to the soft water espoused in Scotland.  Even Glenmorangie who famously use "hard water" in Scotland only has 160 ppm Calcium.  The process, other than aforementioned water hardness, is exactly the same as the major distilleries in Scotland with pot still double distillation at its core (unlike Penderyn) and as far as I could tell it would meet all criteria for being single malt scotch whisky if the whole operation was transplanted north of the border.  The other difference is they claim due to warmer climate in Norfolk, the whisky matures quicker so even the young expressions were comparable to the 10 to 12 years single malts from Scotland.

At the end of tour we tasted both the peated and non-peated expressions and I bought a bottle of Chapter 9, the peated one, and if you want you can read my review (3 out of 4stars).  I liked them both.  English whisky can be good.   I also a bought a coffee mug with the words "I would be rather be drinking English whisky" but that has since gone missing from my office!

I later realised that I had now visited a distillery in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (Jameson) and only a trip to Bushmills in Northern Ireland would be required to complete a distillery visit in every country in the British Isles.

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Hull Distillery Company Ltd, Hull, England

Hull Distillery Company Ltd, Hull, England

You won't find this mentioned on very many whisky blogs because it is not a whisky distillery.  In fact it doesn't even exist anymore, but over time the site has transformed into the Saltend Chemicals Park (or SCP) operated by BP.  The site is not open to the public (or even part of a "British Petrochemical Trail") but because of my job (Amazingly I am not a full time whisky blogger!) I was able to get a tour of SCP which still produces industrial alcohol / biofuel today from grain in August 2016.  The history of the Hull Distillery Co Ltd  goes back to 1924 when Herbert Green opened an industrial distillery and in 1925 he sold it to DCL.  By 1963 DCL had three divisions, a Drinks Group that manufactured Scotch Whisky, Gin and Vodka, a Food Group that included United Yeast Co, and Peerless Refining Co. and an Industrial Group principally involved in chemicals and plastics.  In 1967 sold their Chemcials and Plastics business to British Petroleum (BP) including the Saltend Distillery.

Now an interesting footnote in UK distilling history but no samples on this tour... which was probably for the best.

Ref: http://saltendchemicalspark.co.uk/history

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