Is English Whisky Worth Trying? A Comprehensive Guide
In recent years, the English whisky scene has been gaining momentum, with the emergence of new distilleries across the country. While Scotland and Ireland may be renowned for their whisky-producing pedigree, there's no denying that English whisky is making waves on the global stage. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the world of English whisky, its unique characteristics, and whether it's worth adding to your collection.
What Sets English Whisky Apart?
English whisky shares some similarities with its Scottish and Irish counterparts, but it also embraces its own distinctive style. Artisan distilleries in England are eager to carve out their own identity, resulting in a diverse range of flavour profiles. Whether you prefer a whisky that leans towards sweetness with notes of vanilla, oats, raisins, peach, and apricot, or one that offers a savoury experience with hints of bread and herbs, English whisky has something to offer every palate. Additionally, expect to find whiskies that exhibit spiciness through cooking spices, pepper, gingerbread, and citrus peel, as well as those with a smoky character derived from oak, peat, and leather.
The Tasting Process
To determine the best English whiskies to try, a panel of whisky experts and enthusiasts conducted blind tastings. Each whisky was sampled neat to appreciate its core flavours, and a small amount of water was added to enhance the aromatics. With this rigorous testing process in mind, let's dive into the top English whiskies of 2023.
1. Cotswolds Distillery Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky
The Cotswolds Distillery has established itself as a prominent player in the world of English whisky since its inception in 2014. Their Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky stands out as a shining example of their commitment to excellence. This whisky is matured in casks seasoned with Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherries, imparting a range of rich flavours. With tasting notes of chocolate, raisins, burnt orange, and sweet ginger, this expression offers a delightful sherried experience. The Cotswolds Distillery Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky is a must-try for those seeking a high-quality English whisky with a touch of sophistication.
2. Dartmoor Distillery Bourbon Cask
While many English distilleries gain attention through extensive marketing campaigns, Dartmoor Distillery has quietly been crafting exceptional whiskies. Their Bourbon Cask expression is a hidden gem worth exploring. Matured in ex-Bourbon casks, this whisky exhibits sweet vanilla and oak flavours, complemented by light touches of fruit. Its youthful vibrance and light palate, coupled with notes of prune-like fruit and a drying oak finish, make it a distinctive and enjoyable choice. Dartmoor Distillery Bourbon Cask proves that even the lesser-known distilleries have the potential to produce outstanding whiskies.
Where to buy: Purchase Dartmoor Distillery Bourbon Cask
3. Oxford Whisky, Heritage Grains
The rising popularity of rye whisky has reached English shores, and Oxford Artisan Distillery is leading the charge with their Oxford Rye Whisky. This expression stands out due to its use of heritage grains, including rye, wheat, oats, and even thistle seeds. The resulting spirit is complex and full of character, with punchy spice, tangy fruits, and toasty nuts. The Oxford Rye Whisky offers a unique twist on rye, making it a standout choice for those seeking something different. Enjoy it neat to appreciate its full range of flavours.
Where to buy: Purchase Oxford Rye Whisky, Heritage Grains
4. Spirit of Yorkshire, Filey Bay Moscatel Finish
In 2019, Yorkshire entered the whisky scene with the release of Spirit of Yorkshire's Filey Bay single malt. Alongside their flagship expression, the distillery has been experimenting with various cask finishes, including the Moscatel Finish. This whisky showcases the influence of Spanish sweet wine, resulting in a unique and delightful flavour profile. Tasting notes of peach, orange, and sweet spice dominate, creating a whisky that is perfect as an after-dinner sipper or a unique aperitif. Spirit of Yorkshire, Filey Bay Moscatel Finish is an English whisky that stands out from the crowd.
Where to buy: Purchase Spirit of Yorkshire, Filey Bay Moscatel Finish
5. The English Smokey Single Malt
The English Whisky Co, based in Norfolk, has been producing whisky since 2009, making them one of the pioneers of the English whisky revival. Their Smokey Single Malt offers a peaty experience with a twist. With a peat level of 45ppm, this whisky delivers smoky and spicy flavours without overpowering the other elements. Notes of ginger, vanilla, and spicy oak come together, building up to a long, lingering finish. The English Smokey Single Malt is a testament to the quality and craftsmanship of English whisky, and is sure to please peat enthusiasts.
Where to buy: Purchase The English Smokey Single Malt
6. White Peak Wire Works Small Batch Single Malt
Nestled in the Derbyshire Peak District, White Peak distillery draws inspiration from its surroundings and its industrial heritage. Their Wire Works Small Batch Single Malt whisky pays homage to the former wire works on the distillery site. With a clear house style, this whisky offers initial fruitiness reminiscent of sweet desserts, such as banoffee pie and cherry tarts. A hint of smoke on the aroma and a dry, gently lingering smoky aftertaste add complexity to the whisky. White Peak Wire Works Small Batch Single Malt is a testament to the creativity and craftsmanship of English distilleries.
Where to buy: Purchase White Peak Wire Works Small Batch Single Malt
7. Bimber Apogee XII
Based in London, Bimber Distillery has gained a reputation for producing exceptional whiskies, capturing the attention of whisky enthusiasts worldwide. While their single malt releases may be highly sought after, their blended whisky, Bimber Apogee XII, offers an accessible entry point into their range. This blend combines malt whiskies sourced from Scotland, each with a minimum age of 12 years. Finished in casks that previously held Bimber's own single malt, this whisky offers fruity and spice-forward flavours, with hints of ginger, pepper, and tingly herbs. Bimber Apogee XII showcases the blending skills of English distilleries and is worth exploring for both whisky enthusiasts and novices alike.
Where to buy: Purchase Bimber Apogee XII
English whisky has proven itself as a worthy contender in the world of whisky. With its distinct flavour profiles and the innovative spirit of English distillers, there's no doubt that these whiskies are worth trying. From the sherried elegance of Cotswolds Distillery to the smoky allure of The English Smokey Single Malt, each whisky offers a unique experience that showcases the diversity and quality of English whisky production. So why not venture beyond the traditional Scottish and Irish whiskies and explore the exciting world of English whisky?
Note: Before making a purchase, please check availability and legal drinking age restrictions in your country.