Wednesday, September 30, 2020

English Whisky Special

Another Zoom tasting!

For our September tasting, once again held via Zoom, we had a selection of whiskies from across England to try. It wasn't so long that England didn't produce any whisky at all, but now there are an increasing number of distilleries not only producing the stuff, but putting some impressive bottlings out onto the market, and we had five to try.

Filey Bay
We kicked off the evening with a dram from what is, by geography at least, the closest working whisky distillery to Manchester. It's Filey Bay in North Yorkshire, and we had a bottle of its First Release, which came out towards the end of 2019, once the spirit had passed the three year mark.

It certainly tasted young, with not a lot of wood in it yet, although it was nice and biscuity. The real sages in the group felt this tasted like great quality whisky, although it was obviously still very young and therefore perhaps a bit rough around the edges. It was short-lived on the palate, although quite smooth considering its youth, while others did think it burned a bit. The whisky is all grain to glass on the same site, and we certainly think it's one to watch as it moves up in age in the coming years. This was 46% and £63 when you could get it, although it now goes for upwards of £100 on auction sites.

Next it was a move much further south, to the Cotswolds in fact, and another inaugural release, from the Cotswolds Distillery. As with Filey Bay, this distillery was established with the help of whisky guru, the late Jim Swan. We felt this had more about it straight away, with a very good nose like a sweet pastry or strudel.

There was a little bit of dryness too, and we felt this was better than some of its English rivals of a similar sort of age, although those who added water felt this killed the whisky a bit. Aged in a mixture of red wine and bourbon casks, this was again 46% and was just £50 when it came out - a bargain! But if you want to buy a bottle now it'll set you back a cool £300. So perhaps best wait for something newer from them.

The English
For our third drink of the evening we visited the oldest of this new breed of English distilleries, the English Whisky Company in Norfolk, which at one time was the first English distillery to bring a whisky to the market in a century. A sign of the age of the distillery is that they are now producing an 11-year-old, which is what we had before us.

We got toasty nuts on the nose, with a little bit of ashtray. Adding water diminished that a bit, and made the drink sweeter. At 56.8% this had a real cask strength feeling to it, which did polarise the club members a bit, with some of our Zoom breakout rooms giving this the thumbs up and others less keen. The finish was a bit short. A single cask whisky, one of 311 bottles matured in a red wine cask, it was £75 when you could get it although it's now sold out.

The Lakes

After a short half-time break, we were on to the fourth whisky and a return to the north of England and The Lakes distillery. Possibly best known for its The One blend, featuring a mixture of whiskies from the four nations of the UK, we had a bottle of its higher end Whiskymaker Reserve No 3.

Spicy, with citrus on the nose, and burnt orange, dark fruits and even cherry. In short, lots going on, with a different sort of taste and some unusual flavours. Very enjoyable, although the nose was perhaps more of a highlight than how it tasted on the palate, yet still a very well balanced drink overall. At 54% and £65, this had a bit of "all the sherries" in it, from Oloroso, PX, cream sherry and then red wine, as if that wasn't enough.

To finish off we had something even more special, and it was from one of the hottest names in whisky this year, super trendy London distillery Bimber. This was a bottle of a recent release, an unpeated whisky finished in a peated Islay quarter cask, which sold out of its 1,750 bottles in under an hour.

This whisky was, to quote one member "on another level" to even the very good ones we'd had earlier in the tasting. A lot to it, perhaps with more on the palate than the nose, but it really came at you in layers. Waxy and greasy with a mixture of subtle tastes, that helped it to taste much older than it really is. At auction these bottles will already cost you more than £100. It's 54.1%.

And so it came to our dram of the night voting, and it was the Bimber which came out on top with 10 votes, while the slightly more polarising English Whisky Company bottling picked up 7, while the others also attracted at least one vote each. Bimber certainly one to watch - but then so are all these developing English distilleries.

Thanks to the committee and club members who all took part in another successful tasting. We're counting down the days until we can return to in person tastings at the Britons Protection, but in the meantime, these lockdown specials are continuing to prove hugely successful!

The full line-up

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