A Trio from the English Whisky Co.

English whisky

English journalists take such a gimpy, puerile attitude towards whisky made outside Scotland.

You’ll recognise the brand of clickbait doggerel. It’s ubiquitous when Jim Murray’s annual kilt-shy top five hoves into view. “The best whisky in the world has been announced, and guess what … it’s not Scottish”… “Scots left reeling as xyz named No.1” … “whisky from Australia – yes, really!” … “By Rabbie Burns’ bollocks – have a butcher’s where this grog’s from.”

I suppose, on the British Isles, the tendency is to think of whisky much as the French think of wine, which is to shrug at everyone else’s with derisory insouciance. Grudging exceptions made, in our case, for America and Japan.

Perhaps I’m judging harshly. My friends and colleagues are always surprised when I launch into rhapsodies on whiskies from Sweden, Australia, India, Holland. There isn’t much so-called world whisky on mainstream shelves; the distilleries tend to be small, crafty affairs, and so they don’t often pick up the column inches. But when these distilleries are releasing whiskies – often exceptional whiskies – that are 10, 13, 20 years old, reading a constant slurry of “you’ll never guess” headlines becomes more than a smidge grating.

And of course the yuckiest, gushiest, most eye-rollingly predictable hackery is reserved for England’s whiskies themselves.

The way these journalists grizzle you’d think that England started making whisky out of “how do you like them apples?” pettiness, deliberately to piss Scotland off. And that hordes of frothing, righteous, maniacal Jacobites are forming ranks near Berwick; standing by to claymore the impertinent plagiarists into Sassenach sashimi. Which, patently, they aren’t. Or, at least, no more than they were already.

Honestly, you can’t read an article on the subject without patronising guff or – more commonly – a breed of “we’re-coming-Jocks”, elbows-out, oi-oi bellicosity dribbling its way through the copy. The problem, simply, is that journalists don’t seem capable of writing about whisky – from anywhere – without comparing it to Scotland’s. Other countries aren’t given space to shine – or shrivel – on their own merits. And of course, centuries of mutual loathing being what they are, it’s especially delicious to compare the English to “them up north”. Particularly for the English themselves, whose knowledge of history is astonishingly selective, and to whom condescension is second nature.

It’s nonsense to compare anything to Scotch. Firstly, because comparing “to Scotch” implies that all Scotch is of generally equal quality, which is piffle, and secondly because it implies that all Scotch is magnificent, which is equally fallacious.

As we have said unto death on Malt, particularly in 2018, there is an awful lot of Scotch being bottled these days at which your kitchen sink would turn up its nose. Just as there is Scotch that represents whisky at its most dazzlingly beautiful. There are also utterly fabulous whiskies being made in dozens of countries worldwide, each of which is equally capable of bottling an absolute stinker.

It is quite simply impossible to compare entire countries directly when it comes to the style and quality of their whisky. And absurd even to attempt it. Most importantly, it is time to stop holding Scotland, Ireland and America as untouchable, perennial yardsticks. As the appointed, entitled custodians of matured aqua vitae. That hegemony is over, the world of whisky has become a more diverse place, and drinkers are all the luckier for it.

With that, it’s time to have a go at this trio of English Whiskies from St George’s distillery in Norfolk. I enjoyed tottering my way through their original “chapters” series, but I’ve not really caught up since the new look packaging and range consolidation. Time to amend that. To which end we have “Original” (unpeated) “The Smokey” (peated) and “Sherry Cask” (also unpeated). The former two clock in at 43%, and the Sherry is cask strength. (Which I didn’t notice until it walloped me in the nose.)

The English – Original

Colour: Marlborough Sauvignon. Very light.

On the nose: Very simple, if pleasant. Soft malt, milk rusks, white flowers. Apples and pears. There’s not much of the cask really – a waft of vanilla and pepper.

In the mouth: Fireworks continue to not appear. Grassy, dairy, slightly lemony, cereals, malt, light vanilla, honey. All fairly humdrum, with not much intensity. Decent, if not especially fulsome mouthfeel, but really rather anonymous.

Score: 4/10

The English – The Smokey

Colour: Same as the Original.

On the nose: The English Whisky Co do smoke well. And they have done it well here. Kildalton-esque, but rounder and with less TCP. Ham hock beside mineral, salt-soaked stone. But – again – not much behind that. Pears. Honeydew melon. Pine. Still a bit simple.

In the mouth: Loads of pine and minerality on the upfront palate – real walk-along-a-beach stuff, complete with the ashes from last night’s campfire. But no real fruit to speak of in support. Texture’s still decent. Lots of maltiness with a few dabs of vanilla.

Score: 5/10

The English – Sherry Cask

Colour: Mid-Gold

On the nose: Most expressive nose of the trio; baked apples, brown sugar, Amontillado and honeycomb. A light sultana. Golden syrup. It’s still young, but any immature notes have been shaved off, and the sherry doesn’t dominate the robust malt. Pepper and a little pencil shaving.

In the mouth: Palate’s a whopper – and sweet. More apples and honeycomb. The syrup is almost treacle and the honeys are immense. But not as immense, it must be said, as the somewhat dominant and fiery alcohol. Tread carefully. Sultanas, grapes and toffee fudge.

Score: 6/10


Unlike Mark, I happen to be a fan of the English Whisky Co, but The Original and The Smokey leave me rather cold. Feels like they’ve been dumbed down a little, doubtless for the mass market. Which, as an ambitious distillery consolidates and grows is, I guess, understandable. But it doesn’t mean that you and I have to like it. I’d spend an extra tenner and get The Cotswolds.

The Sherry Cask is rather more fun, if a little wild and unruly. Alas, I can’t see it in more than miniature form on their website. But perhaps a miniature is enough.

No must-haves in the trio though, which is a bit of a shame. But all three of them are miles better than a load of Scotches I’ve had this year. And you can tell the Scots I said so.

Adam Wells

In addition to my weekly-ish articles on Malt I write about whisky for Distilled and cider for Graftwood and Full Juice Magazines. Somewhere amidst all that I've also done the WSET Diploma in Wine and Spirits. I share my home with several hundred bottles, one geophysicist and a small fluffy whirlwind called Nutmeg. For miscellaneous drinks banality, find me on twitter at Twitter.com/DrinkScribbler

  1. Alastair says:

    Your website is exactly the type of wonderfully worded prose on Whisky that I’ve been looking for. Just thanks. Learned about you from Aquavitae on The Ald YouTube. Look forward to reading many more reviews.

    1. Adam Wells says:

      Thanks Alastair! There are plenty of reviews for you to chew your way through – an a new one every day. Enjoy!

      (Though it’s Mark and JJ’s site – I’m just a tame hack!)



  2. Cobwatch says:

    Sometimes we just have to disagree…on this very site DYC 10yo malt is rated 6/10. That is fair. The English Original rating here is silly…it is better than the DYC in every way. I drink both regularly. I have a glass of each side by side as i am writing…no contest. The English Original is a level ahead. But whisky does that, one man’s poison is another man’s pleasure…
    Jason rated the DYC 10, and it is Adam here…no coordination across the site?

    1. Adam Wells says:

      Hi Cobwatch, sorry for the late reply.

      No one writing for this site is obliged to write their reviews and award their scores in line with other Malt contributors. Indeed that’s true of every website across every drinks discipline I’ve ever come across. We even do joint reviews on Malt from time to time, in which our scores for a particular whisky often differ, sometimes considerably. One man’s meat, as you say.

      However, if you look at our individual bodies of work I think you’ll find consistencies which should offer more context for any individual score. For example (generalising slightly) Mark tends to particularly enjoy wine/sherry matured whiskies, whilst Jason is an outspoken fan of whiskies matured in ex-bourbon casks. I probably like American whisky more than Jason does, and I dare say I like certain Japanese whiskies a smidge less than Taylor. Armed with that knowledge, built up over dozens of reviews, readers should be able to ascertain my preferences and proclivities, and square where their own preferences would likely sit by comparison.

      I can’t say that I’ve tried the DYC 10 year old, though if memory serves I’ve had the NAS and was underwhelmed. Having tried the English Original several times before and since this review I stand by my score in the context of the whiskies I’ve reviewed on this site and the several thousand I’ve made my way through in general.

      As to making my reviews line up with Jason’s, that would defeat the entire purpose of having different reviewers. I’m not about to concern myself with what he thinks of a different whisky, any more than he’d concern himself with my opinions when awarding a score.

      I hope that answers what I think is your question!

      Best wishes

      Adam W.

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