England's only single malt whisky is put on the shelves
By Jim Cassidy
English whisky is being made again just outside of Thetford
Distillers of England's first single malt whisky produced in the past 100 years are aiming for world recognition.
St George's Distillery at Roudham, near Thetford, is the fulfilment of a family dream for managing director Andrew Nelstrop and his family.
"We are so proud to get to this point," said Andrew.
Up to now they have sold an "almost whisky" clear spirit in Europe and the Far East. Now they are looking to build on these contacts with the real thing.
"An enormous number of distilleries over time have started and got investors but never quite got round to making whisky," he said.
"Our family has been farming in England for centuries so we take a long term view of plans. We are well aware we are in the whisky business for the long haul."
France is now its biggest market for ther distillery's "almost whisky" and you can even find this 18-month-old product behind the bar in the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
There are also plans to extend the whisky range to include softer versions of the spirit and a peaty flavoured product.
Head distiller David Fitt used to produce beer for Greene King but is now passionate about making whisky.
Drinkers give their verdicts on English whisky
He said, apart from a "bit of banter", the new whisky has been welcomed by Scotland's big producers but his job is not about trying to compete with the big boys.
There are plenty of countries, including India, Sweden and Japan, now producing whisky so his job is to make sure St George's is recognised for its quality.
"Other countries don't sell very much in the UK because I think people look at it and think, 'Oh it's Indian whisky, it's not going to be very good.' But until you've tasted it you don't know," he said.
The English whisky will not be chill-filtered or coloured, so will be paler in colour.
Starting a distillery from scratch is a long-term investment because, by law, product cannot be sold as single malt whisky for at least three years.
Andrew Nelstrop's family takes its perspective from farming and he said planting woodland offers a good lesson.
It will not be fully appreciated generations after planting so long-term investment does not frighten them.
"In 2005, there was a lull in farming and our building company had a break, so it was time to have a go," he said.
Journalists from mainland China, Russia, Sweden, Germany and Scotland gathered for a tasting of the newly released single malt whisky were able to taste five different stages of the spirit.
The consensus was that the taste was distinctive, delicious, and creamy.
The distillery is now working on a 'peated' version of the single malt.
Collectors and enthusiasts have already snapped up the first 2,000 decanter-style bottles.
Now the work starts to bottle and label the next batch of spirit that has matured for three years in oak casks in the distillery's bonded warehouse.
It will be ready on 16 December 2009, just in time for Christmas.
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