First English Peated Single-Malt Whisky Released
The latest is Scotland's nemesis to the South: England. It's hard to believe that England hasn't had a significant whisky distillery. Gin still comes from a few prominent stills. But perhaps the Scots and Irish have been so established, nobody bothered to challenge them.
Until now. The English Whisky Company's St. George's Distillery at Roudham has released its third whisky expression. The first was a limited run of Chapter 4, 18- month old Peated Malt Spirit that was so pale as to make me doubt it was actually whisky in my glass. The second was a non-peated single-malt, aged three years, which sells for £34.99, or $51.00. This month, the company released Chapter 9, a three-year old expression and hails it as England's first peated Single-Malt Whisky. Price, £39.99, or $57.00.
Managing director Andrew Nelstrop said: "The whole point behind Chapter 9 is to find a peated whisky that appeals to everyone, not just the real peat fanatics out there." The three-year-old spirit takes its peaty taste from drying barley over smoking peat, which then infuses into the grain.
It's hard not to think that the company is emulating Islay distillery Ardbeg, which set the whisky world afire a few years ago when it began releasing young whiskies before they reached the 10-year mark, which has been the traditional minimum age-statement for premium single-malt whisky. Ardbeg's phenomenal success with expressions called "Very Young," and "Still Young," which quickly became collectible and have traded into the hundreds of dollars per bottle, has led to a series of young whisky releases.
There is a practical, if risky, reason to release young whisky from a new distillery--it starts bringing in much needed revenue. This is why many new distilleries with ambitions to sell premium whisky also sell vodka and gin in the early going. The white spirits don't need aging, and can be sold right away.
Barrel aging in ex-Bourbon barrels, Sherry casks and the like is what gives whisky its true character and quality.
Chapter 7 will undoubtedly benefit from the novelty of being the only peated English single-malt. But the English Whisky Co. will have to earn its points with the established arbiters of quality if it wants to sustain premium pricing. And that's going to take a bit more time in the barrel. But it is off to a very tasty start.