Wryly Wrinkling the Nose – East London Liquor Company Rye

Isolations a funny old thing. I’ve manged to relax more, get more work done than I normally can, and I’ve even grown bored of looking at the same four walls all day long and set about painting one.


The paint to finish the other half will hopefully arrive soon

The odd thing is I keep having choice paralysis when it comes to my whisky, despite my dwindling supplies. I spent a few minutes just staring at my samples the other day, and then decided to make some food. Can’t review on an empty stomach. After much umming and ahing over my choices, I thought it would be easiest to row up the samples and roll a dice to see what gets reviewed to keep it fresh, and wouldn’t you know it we’re headed back to London again this week, for the East London Liquor Company’s Rye Whisky. World Whisky Wednesday just keeps on rolling.

Current troubles aside, English Whisky is thriving at the moment. While the size of the distilleries is small comparative to their northern and western neighbours, some two dozen whisky distilleries are scattered through the country.

It’s in London that you have the highest concentration of the distilleries however, with three represented through out London, Bimber in the west, The London Distillery Co in the south, and East London Liquor Company in the east. Head a bit outside of they city and you’ll find Copper Rivet Distillery, surely its enough for a trip to London sometime. Now while The London Distillery Co was the first established whisky distillery of the trio, and Bimber has received more praise than a cute dog that learnt to walk on its hind legs, East London Liquor Company hold the honour releasing the first London City Whisky in over a hundred years.

Founded in 2013 and based in Hackney, East London Liquor Company was founded by Alex Wolpert, independent film maker and former bar tender. A small distilling, production began in July of 2014 and the distillery enjoyed success with its British Wheat Vodka and multiple gin lines, but the moment for headlines was in 2018 when they ran a crowdfunding campaign, raising over £850,000 in 24 hours and running to finish the campaign with a tidy £1,326,450 raised with a £750,000 target.

Whisky wise while they have also have a Single Malt and a Sonoma Distillery collaborated blend, it’s the rye whisky that’s the dice determined I’d look at. I’ve had quite a few ryes over the past few years, a few from England and a few abroad. While I’ve never really been impressed by what the distilleries out west do with rye (it’s good stuff, just not to my taste) I’ve been quite happy with the English and European rye whiskies.

ELLC’s Rye Whisky was the first whisky they released and the whisky that holds the title of first London whisky in over a century. A little different, the whisky is a combination of pot and column distillation and matured in three separate cask styles, ex-Sonoma Distillery and Kentucky Bourbon casks for two years, a following six month finish in ex-peated casks and a final finish in ex-Pedro Ximinez Sherry casks. Mash bill wise we’re looking at a 42% Rye and 58% extra palate malt, however this was for batch one and that mash bill and casks will apparently vary. It doesn’t state any age so we’ll hazard a guess at three to four years old, given that distillation began in 2014 and the product was released in 2018. I should point out that this is the 2019 release and not the initial release from 2018, I can’t expect the whisky has changed that much. Let me know if you’ve tried both.

20200428_183218~2.jpgLets take some notes

The nose opened on cola cubes, a great start, and then it went downhill. Heavy homemade cherry brandy, thick dark molasses and something tosses aniseed and clove rock at your nose. It turns quickly to old wood that’s been varnished too poorly too often and has started to peel, and a definite hit of paint thinner. How do you call the smell of carpet in a dive bar? Stale black tea leaves, a hint of lavender and jasmine that was nice, and then heavy tannins with nail varnish remover dusted with pepper. And then someone’s gone and put a car freshener in there somewhere.

The palate holds the rye in the spice, a bit of biscuits and then its blown away quickly by the aniseed. Tart lemon citrus burnt caramel and charred sugar, old prunes and burnt rosemary. A pint of stale stout and the taste of silver that has been left to tarnish. The oak is there but its car freshener artificial, shockingly so, and then it just gives way to nothing. The finish is maraschino cherries.

I spend a few weeks in a hostel in eastern Berlin a few years back. The draught beer tasted off and I offered to clean their beer lines for them, to which the bar manager said he didn’t know the last time that was done, turns out it hadn’t been done in years. Cleaning those lines was hard work, and the nose and palate of this whisky took me right back to the smell of stale rank beer that came out of those lines.

There were bits and pieces to this whisky where I saw something special, something that could be an amazing whisky. Unfortunately, it was covered up by so much that was just wrong. I would say it is a cocktail whisky, but I feel like most cocktail bartenders I know would slap me in the face if I offered them this. Is it a good spirit with horrible casks, or a poor spirit with great casks? Somewhere along the way something seemed to fail.

I do not want to hate this whisky. I want to love it. I want ELLC to be celebrated and I want to enjoy their whisky, but this? I’ve no doubt that those at ELLC are hardworking, incredibly passionate people but it just did not at all translate into this whisky. English Whisky is rising, and there’s so many amazing whiskies out there. But I couldn’t recommend this whisky to anyone, and that makes me sad.


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