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Members of the Nelstrop family have been farming in Norfolk for generations. As early as 1335 one William Nelstroppe was recorded as owning a farm in the area and by 1772 the family were well established and running a mill in Ackworth, a business they later relocated to Stockport and continue to operate today.
James Nelstrop was born into this rich farming heritage in 1945. A career in business and farming would take him all over the world, before he returned home to Norfolk and introduced the first centre pivot irrigation system in England. Later he moved to Lakenheath where he converted a worn out vegetable farm into the first Whole Countryside Stewardships Scheme farm of organic sheep and cattle.
At the age of 60 however, when most would be readying themselves for retirement, James was hatching a plan with his son Andrew to create the first whisky distillery in England for more than 100 year.
In October 2005, they submitted planning permission for a family-owned facility on the banks of the River Then. The application was successful and building work on the new St. George’s Distillery commenced early the next year.
In order to bring some expertise to the project, the family tempted Iain Henderson, renowned former distillery manager at Laphroaig, out of retirement. After guiding the fledgling distillery into production, Henderson spent four months training David Fitt, a former brewer with Greene King to take over as head distiller and whisky maker, a role he has now filled since 2008.
The English Whisky Company unveiled their first release in 2009 with a series of limited edition “Chapters”. Their cause was given a significant boost however when a deal was struck with retail giant Marks & Spencer to supply spirit for an own-label English Whisky bottling. Since then, their range has grown enormously to include a diverse selection of different expressions, each offering a variation on their versatile spirit…
A quick peak at the company website reveals an impressive array of bottlings… There’s The Original, Smokey, Rum Cask, Smokey Virgin, Triple Distilled, Double Cask Bourbon & Oloroso, 1st Fill Bourbon 10 year old, Smokey Oak, Virgin Oak Small Batch and a Queen’s Coronation Celebration Decanter – and that’s before you even get to their Norfolk grain series.
My first encounter with the spirit of St. George’s came some years back at Glasgow’s Whisky Festival, where I enjoyed a small taster of their Chapter 6 bottle. I remember thinking at the time that it was a very pleasant dram so was delighted when blog reader Gareth Holmes offered to send me a sample.
*I wrote this review some time ago but for one reason or another I kept pushing it back in the publishing schedule. Sadly it’s been so long I doubt you’d be able to get a bottle without paying silly auction prices for the pleasure. Nevertheless, I decided to publish the review anyway as I haven’t told the story of this particular distillery as yet and this was an undoubtedly good dram for one so young.
Smell: Fresh and fruity. Vanilla, Lemon & lime. Apple and raspberry. Honey and cream. Almond marzipan and a little touch of coconut.
Taste: Caramel and toffee. Honey. Warming cinnamon and a touch of pepper. Malty biscuit and cereal.
Thoughts: Undoubtedly benefits from the higher bottling strength and lack of chill filtering. Made for an attractive purchase at £44 a bottle.
Chapter 6 was the English Whisky Co.’s first bottling of mature 3 year old whisky. It showed without doubt that this new distillery was very much on the right track and while the bottling may be long since confined to the history books, I hope that this review may have encouraged you to give the distillery a try – assuming of course you haven’t already.
For more on the English Whisky Co…