English Whiskey Company to launch oldest single malt

06:00 2 October 2022

08h56 October 2, 2022

The Norfolk distillery which took over the manufacture of whiskey in England launches the oldest single malt in the country.

The English Whiskey Company sells a 15-year-old version, which it says was “like coming of age” for the South Norfolk company.

Although the distillery opened in 2005, this is its oldest single malt available to the public.

“We’ve been around for 17 years, but of course even if we can have a drop of 17-year-old whiskey, it’s not enough to sell,” owner Andrew Nelstrop said.

André Nelstrop
André Nelstrop

Andrew Nelstrop founded the distillery with his father James Nelstrop
– Credit: Ian Ward

“You tend to be a few years behind your oldest whisky.

“This one is very special and it’s something I’ve been keeping for a long time.

“We have commissioned specialist casks that date back a decade or more to mature the whiskey and the resulting single malt whiskey is truly fantastic.

“And the other thing is that there are only 500 of these bottles, so it’s really rare.

“It’s rare, flavorful and shows what the distillery has achieved over the last decade, which is really lovely.”

15 year old single malt
15 year old single malt

The distillery releases a 15-year-old single malt
– Credit: The English Distillery

When the English Whiskey Company – which is renamed The English Distillery – was launched in the mid-2000s, it was the first in the country since the last distillery closed 105 years ago.

The idea for the business came from Mr Nelstrop’s father, James, who had wanted to open a whiskey distillery since he was a teenager and heard a throwaway comment from his grandfather – a farmer – saying ‘it’ It’s a shame that this barley has to go all the way to Scotland to be turned into something useful”.

Chairman, James Nelstrop, of the English Whiskey Company, celebrating his 65th birthday with the sale
Chairman, James Nelstrop, of the English Whiskey Company, celebrating his 65th birthday with the sale

Opening a whiskey distillery was James Nelstrop’s dream
– Credit: Denise Bradley

James Nelstrop, who already owned land at Roundham, near Thetford, chose it as the location for the site.

“It was my father’s lifelong dream, he had always talked about opening a whiskey distillery – much longer than I’ve been around – and he talked about it year after year,” Mr Nelstrop said.

“On his 60th birthday he talked about it again and I think everyone finally said ‘why don’t you build one? “. So he did.”

English Distillery Whiskey Tours
English Distillery Whiskey Tours

Tours can be arranged around the distillery
– Credit: The English Distillery

The family had been farmers for generations, but also owned a construction business, which allowed Mr. Nelstrop and his father to quickly build the distillery.

“From the first moments we said ‘let’s do this,’ the planning was given within four months,” he continued.

“We started building the distillery a few days later.

“We set out to make world-class whiskey and that’s what we did.

“We don’t make gin or vodka or anything else.

“We’re just doing what we set out to do and I think that’s been very important because it means we have very specialized equipment for making single malt whisky.”

The essential ingredients needed to make whiskey are barley, yeast and water.

To help the local economy, 90% of the barley used by the distillery is sourced from local farms, the water is sourced from a stream below the site and the yeast is also sourced from its location.

barley for whiskey
barley for whiskey

The barley for the whiskey comes from local farms
– Credit: The English Distillery

It also employs 16 people, many of them from the neighboring village.

Since its launch, the English Whiskey Company has set a trend for English whiskey and there are now over 45 distilleries across the country.

It remains the oldest in England and its bottles are sold throughout the country, as well as in 30 overseas markets.

“We sell around 60,000 to 70,000 bottles a year worldwide,” the whiskey distiller added.

“It’s not a lot compared to other types of distilleries but one of the problems with a whiskey distillery is that you can only sell what you made 10 years ago.

“So if you’re running a gin distillery and you get an order from a supermarket for 100,000 bottles, you can fire up your distillates and make another 100,000 bottles.

“If someone tries this with us, we have to look in our warehouses and say ‘we weren’t doing that much 10 years ago, so the answer is no’.”

Whiskey tasting
Whiskey tasting

Whiskey tasting at the distillery
– Credit: The English Distillery

The long whiskey-making process means the company has to think far into the future when planning for growth.

“It really is one of the longest business plans in history,” Mr. Nelstrop said.

“When we started, we had a spreadsheet going all the way back to 2056 that shows which drums are going into our hangars and which drums are coming out.

“It’s a long, long game of making whiskey.”

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