A Cat in a Hat in Norfolk – The English Whisky Company Malt ‘N’ Rye

For those who have been reading this blog for sometime you might remember that just over a year ago I managed a small adventure. Living in Belgium my partner surprised me with a trip to De Molenburg distillery outside of Mechelen, which led to a chat a few months later with Charles Leclef and my partner solidifying herself as the best present giver I have ever known. Just recently she surprised me again with another distillery trip, this time a bit closer to home. This World Whisky Wednesday we’re looking at the St Georges Distillery and their Malt ‘N’ Rye.

We’ve arrived….

A socially distant tour of the distillery was in order, and we were also lucky enough to be the only two people on the tour, with Nick telling us everything we needed to know. Now I’ve spoken about St Georges distillery and The English Whisky Company previously, covering the Smoky and their brand new Eleven Year Old release. Their history was covered in long form through the articles and I encourage you to read them, but a quick recap is always welcome.

Near a century since the closure of the last English whisky Distillery, barley farmer James Nelstrop looked to restart the proud tradition in England. Joined by his son Andrew, the father son duo began planning their distillery at the start of the millennium. Applying for planning in 2005 the Nelstrops received permission in 2006, so they started work along the river Thet to utilise the climate of the area, the access to quality barley as well as the Breckland water basin. Coming on board was famous Laphroaig Alumni Iain Henderson, eager to get involved, as well as some Forsyth designed stills.

Reportedly, the Nelstrops arrived at the distillery one morning to discover it lit up and functioning. Entering the still room there they found Iain Henderson, seated and smiling. Apparently he had been distilling through the night to make sure that the spirit was acceptable, telling the Nelstrop family if it hadn’t been ‘I’d have been on the first flight back to Glasgow.’ Got to love the dedication there, and distiller David Fitt learnt from Iain over the following months to lead the distilling team.

Nowadays the English Whisky Company holds a host of bottlings as their range has increased, with their first and Englands first whisky in over a century bottled in 2009.

Warehouse 1 with Nick as our guide

A quick recap indeed. As for the distillery itself, it is amazing. Small distilleries always seem to have much more character, whether that is due to the close ness of the teams or just because it’s independent St Georges really is a brilliant place to visit. The growth that they’ve had over the past few years, expanding their maturation, speaks volumes about how the product is being seen and enjoyed around the world. It’s the little touches, like the bottling room where two people working all day can label a thousand bottles of whisky in a day, that give the distillery that enjoyment.

So was the tour good? I like to think the below picture can answer that.

A damn happy Somewhiskybloke

The English Whisky Company is a damn fine sight and a damn fine tour, something every whisky lover should add to their list. Plus, if you chat real nice to the tour guide Nick he might sling a few extra drams at the end of the tour.

Speaking of drams, today we’re looking at the Malt ‘N’ Rye, so what goes into the whisky?

The Norfolk Malt ‘N’ Rye is a Single Grain Whisky, with a base of malted barley and rye distilled, matured and bottled at St Georges distillery. Aged in American Oak for an unspecified amount of time, the whisky is non chill filtered before being bottled into a 500ml bottle at 45%. The term ‘Vintage Single Cask’ makes its way onto the label, but a handy little label around the neck of the bottle informs us of multiple casks being used, and as there were 1962 bottles of this whisky produced that seems like a mighty big ‘Single Cask’. Potentially it means this is a limited series, I’m sure we’ll find out at some point in time. Let’s dive into the whisky.

Why is that dapper cat in a bowler hat? Apparently it was invented in Holkham, Norfolk in 1849.

It starts with a whiff of sweet apples, peeled, sliced and laid on some gingerbread before being dusted with black pepper. There’s some apricot jam over rye toast, complete with grapefruit juice and some lime zest. It moves to honey and icing sugar with some raspberries and Haribo gummy bears and Allens lolly snakes. The spice and grain notes move away as the confectionary gets stronger, towards pineapple lumps, fruit bonbons, gobstoppers and some milk chocolate with a bit of fresh shaved ginger.

On the palate it holds plenty of sweetness, icing sugar over peaches, fruit rollup, honey and a touch of almond skin. Oranges, lemons and a touch of salt and rosemary crackers move in before it heads towards tropical fruit juice of pineapple, guava and rockmelon before some wattleseeds. A breathe of violet pollen brings in the finish, short but sweet with lemon sherbet and candied rose petals.

I’m a grain fan, I love the different flavours that come off a good grain whisky and they tend to be cheaper than malt whiskies of a similar age. I’d be curious as to the mash bill of the Malt ‘N’ Rye, it was sweeter than I was anticipating and the rye was more of a passing thought than a full heavy flavour. Whether it is worse than a northern Single Grain can’t really be said, tasting it against a young North British I have they’re just different whiskies.

Did I like it? Yes. It took its time and grew on me, I’ve had this bottle for less than a week and have been sampling it over time and I am hitting different depths of flavour each night. Would I buy it again? Yes, yes I would. One bottle down, time to source another of the 1962 bottled.

But what to drink it to? It’s a difficult one to choose from, not really striking any moods but feels good for almost any time of day.

Trust me, it grows on you.

If you would like to learn more about The English Whisky Company, click here to discover their story, and here to see their range of whiskies.

This review is not sponsored or endorsed by any distillery, St Georges/The English Whisky Company or otherwise, and is entirely the words of the author Somewhiskybloke.

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