Have you tried the best whisky in Europe - made in Norfolk?
- Credit: Archant
Richard Bainbridge waxes lyrical about an East Anglian brand that's gaining European acclaim.
For the past three years The English Whisky Company from Norfolk has been named Best European Whisky in the Jim Murray Whisky Bible. And they've now won it for the fourth year in a row, with their product The Norfolk Parched.
This has never been achieved by any other whisky maker before.
When you look at the world of whisky, you've got the Scottish and the Irish. They've got the water and the history and it's almost bred into them to enjoy whisky and to make it. The Japanese have started to make great whisky too. And obviously you've got the big brands of bourbon like Jack Daniels and Jim Beam in America.
One thing I love is that loads of the whisky we drink is made with Norfolk barley, which is incredible to think when we walk around our fields here and in Suffolk. The majority of it gets transported straight up to Scotland and I know companies that are sending barley to Japan and America.
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The brainchild of the English Whisky Company was James Nelstrop. In 2005, because he was a farmer and was sending barley all over the place it became one of his lifetime dreams to produce his own whisky essentially in his back garden. He started to distil and realised the water quality he had in Roudham was amazing and pure and ideal for making fantastic whisky.
When he first started out he had Chapter One whisky, then Chapter Two and Chapter Three and he thought he'd continue all these different chapters. It was a great idea but it wasn't marketed well. Even now English wine, although it's fantastic, is on the verge of laughable by some people and I think back in 2005 people weren't prepared to take English whisky seriously. But James pursued it because it was his dream, even if he was just making a few bottles for him and his mates.
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He got his chief distiller David Fitt on board who'd worked for Greene King in the beer industry, and over the last 10 years he's moved the business forward and honed it using the best local barley.
A bit like gin, English whisky is going to become a 'thing' and what bowled me over with The English Whisky Company is that they've got a true East Anglian heart. It's a family business, now run by Andrew and his wife.
They've got three new whiskies (including the award-winning Norfolk Parched) called the Norfolk Range, with Malt and Rye and The Farmer. I have to be honest, I'm not the most enthusiastic person when it comes to whisky and my knowledge wasn't there until I got talking to Andrew, but this new Norfolk Range is so subtle and almost rich and luxurious. There's no harshness. One of the reasons I don't usually drink whisky is it gives be heartburn but I can drink theirs no problem and I love that you can really taste these amazing distinct flavours.
Recently they've made me their brand ambassador. Because I'm now a Norfolk Food and Drink patron I'm really happy to do that. I like the fact their business is the true essence of what Norfolk and Suffolk produce is – families working together. The more we've move forward it's the relationships I find are part of the key to success. The food and drink industry is built on relationships. When Andrew came to me and said 'would you work with our whisky' it was a no-brainer for me. If we all get behind this great Norfolk company we can really landmark ourselves as a county for whisky!