Name a country that produces whisky. Scotland, of course, should be at the top of your list. That is, unless you’re American, in which case you’d probably say America — awash with all that bourbon and rye. If you’re Irish, you’d probably say Ireland — and all that triple-distilled stuff. You may say Japan if you’re Japanese, where whisky making is more science than art. The Taiwanese may say Taiwan, Canadians Canada and Indians India. And yet — most Englishmen would still say Scotland.
It’s understandable. Scotland is a safe bet for good whisky. With over 130 malt and grain distilleries operating in the country today, Scotland has the greatest concentration of whisky producers in the entire world. But England has learned a thing or two from its northern neighbours — and single malts have moved south in recent years. Here, we’ve rounded up the best bottles produced in England…
For a familiar dram, The Lakes Single Malt Whiskymaker's Reserve No.3
Where’s it from: Clue’s in the name. As picturesque and panoramic as any distillery in the Highlands, the Cockermouth-based Lakes Distillery sits on the shores of Bassenthwaite in the Lake District.
What does it taste like: The Lakes Distillery has truly established its house style with this latest expression. A woody, figgy whisky, expect sweetly mellow notes and a warming, incense-infused finish.
Why should I give it a chance: Because it’s really in the swing of things now. After experimenting with sherry casks and finding a voice for its spirit, this is the most complex and confident bottle yet from the distillery.
The Lakes Single Malt Whiskymaker's Reserve No.3
For big smoke, The Cotswolds Distillery Peated Cask Single Malt
Where’s it from: Again, it says it right there on the bottle. Sitting pretty on the edge of the rolling Cotswolds — in Shipston-on-Stour, to be exact — the sandstone distillery that produces this whisky is as quaint as you’d expect.
What does it taste like: Smoke — but balanced smoke. Created using 100% locally sourced, floor-malted barley, the juicy flavour of the whisky is only flavoured during its peaty maturation period; not overpowered.
Why should I give it a chance: Because it won Best World Whisky at this year’s International Whisky Competition. Plus, that handsome green bottle will look incredibly smart on your home bar…
The Cotswolds Distillery Peated Cask Single Malt
For an ideal introduction, The English Whisky Co. Original Single Malt
Where’s it from: Founded by the Nelstrop family in 2006, The English Whisky Company is England’s oldest dedicated whisky distillery. You’ll find them out in East Anglia, just north-east of Thetford.
What does it taste like: Accessibility. Aged in sweet bourbon casks, this is an easy-drinking single malt. It’s not peaty, not punchy; it’s like the vanilla ice cream of whiskies. Coincidentally, that’s the prevailing flavour — vanilla, with notes of nuts and tropical fruit.
Why should I give it a chance: Because, while it may be a good introductory bottle, it’ll also open up once you begin to appreciate its nuances. A malty note here, a hint of salt in the finish there — it’s a subtle spirit, and one to explore.
The English Whisky Company Original
For a flavour field day, Gulliver’s 47 10 Year Old
Where’s it from: Another East Anglian dram, Samuel Gulliver and Co distills its whisky from Concerto two-row local-grown barley at Norfolk’s St George’s Distillery.
What does it taste like: On the palate, there’s oak char and wood smoke. But the deepest flavours — those of jammy red fruits, honeyed baking spices and candied ginger — are the main attraction.
Why should I give it a chance: For that very reason. This is a whisky of unplumbed depths. There are tens of flavours waiting to be identified — and, thanks to the 10 years ageing, they all work together in crisp harmony.
Gulliver's 47 10 Year Old
For an experimental bottle, Filey Bay Moscatel Finish
Where’s it from: The wild northern coast. Just south of Scarborough, the team at the Spirit of Yorkshire distillery has been growing barley on its Hunmanby-based family farm since 2016.
What does it taste like: The brand’s first ‘finished’ release, the Moscatel sherry barrels in which this single malt was aged bless it with floral aromas of jasmine and honeysuckle — as well as some sharper, citric grapefruit notes.
Why should I give it a chance: Because, while sherries like Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso are well known in single malt whisky maturation, Moscatel is considerably rarer. This is a true experimental release — and one that has paid off handsomely.
Filey Bay Moscatel Finish
For something completely different, Adnams Triple Malt Whisky
Where’s it from: Back to East Anglia! Adnams is by far the most established brand on this list — it of the ales, in case you didn’t recognise the name. Nestled in Southwold, the Copper House sub-brand produces whisky, gin and vodka.
What does it taste like: Triple the malt, triple the flavour. That’s not essentially true, but it certainly tastes like the case. Expect a torrent of notes, from chocolate, oak and coconut to honey, lemon and spice.
Why should I give it a chance: It’s another very striking bottle, for one. But more than that is the innovation in every sip. Mango here, banana there — it’s so tropical it could almost be a rum. Just think of the cocktail possibilities…
Adnams Triple Malt Whisky
More of a rum man? Here are the best bottles to channel your inner Hemingway…
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