Page last updated at 13:18 GMT, Thursday, 10 December 2009

English whisky bottled for first time in a century

James Nelstrop
James Nelstrop said the drink was the product of a family "dream"

The first single malt made in England for about a century has attracted the interest of UK whisky enthusiasts.

St George's Distillery, a family-run Norfolk company, is behind the drink.

Managing Director James Nelstrop said production of the whisky, which is being sold for £35 a bottle, was the culmination of a "45-year-old dream".

The distillery was built in Roudham, south Norfolk, in 2006, and now, after three years maturing its first batch, it has produced whisky.

Mr Nelstrop, who is a farmer, explained that he had fulfilled an ambition handed down to him from a previous generation.

"My father was a barley farmer who always said it should be something we should do," he said.

"Barley has historically been sent from here to Scotland to make whisky, this was a 45-year-old dream and we've done it."

The single malt is not chill-filtered or coloured, so is paler in colour than other forms of whisky.

Some 2,000 decanter-style bottles have already been ordered by collectors.

Drinkers give their verdicts on English whisky

The image of St George slaying a dragon on the label highlights the drink's English credentials.

And Mr Nelstrop believes the drink's English heritage provides an alternative to Scotch whisky.

He told the BBC's Mike Cartwright: "There is fabulous Scotch out there and there is also some that is very average.

"I'm afraid there are people who think if it is not made in Scotland then it is not worth buying or drinking and that is absolute rot.

"This year we expect to sell in the region of 2,500 bottles, next year around 45,000.

"All the evidence is that we will beat our targets this year and next on the basis we're already sending material to Canada, Japan, France and Germany."

In order for their £3.5m investment to be a success, the company will need to sell around 100,000 bottles a year.

'World whisky family'

The Scotch Whisky Association confirmed it was the first time English whisky had been produced for a century.

It said there were distilleries in London, Liverpool and Bristol in the late 19th Century.

A Scotch Whisky Association spokesman said: "It is testament to the global success of Scotch that other countries are also looking to make whisky and we welcome our Norfolk friends to the world whisky family.

"With record investment in Scotch Whisky at the moment, there is real optimism across the sector about growing opportunities. New distilleries are being opened, old distilleries expanded, and silent stills brought back into production."

Despite the breakthrough, England still has a long way to go before catching up with Scotland.

The spokesman said there are 109 distilleries in Scotland, one in Northern Ireland and one in Wales.

Five new distilleries have opened in Scotland since 2005 and another seven are currently planned.

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