English whisky startup takes on best of Scotland

Tue Apr 13, 2010 12:31pm EDT
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By John Joseph

LONDON (Reuters) - The centuries-old rivalry between England and Scotland has been fought out on the fields of battle and sport, but in the production of whisky the Scots have always claimed bragging rights -- until, that is, the English Whisky Company (EWC) showed up.

Four years ago, farmer James Nelstrop realized a life-long ambition when he set up a distillery in Norfolk in eastern England and his family are starting to reap the rewards of four years of hard work, a 2.5 million pounds investment and a lot of patience.

In December, St George's Distillery -- the first and only registered whisky distilling company in England -- released its first three-year-old single malt -- Chapter 6.

In June, the EWC will start distributing 4,000 bottles of a peated three-year-old malt -- Chapter 9 -- that has critics drooling. Chapter 8, which was for sale pre-release has already sold out on pre-order.

"The EWC's peated whisky is way up there and is of an exceptionally high quality," Jim Murray, international whisky critic and author of the "Whisky Bible" told Reuters. "A number of Scottish distilleries just don't achieve that.

"Partly, that is because EWC is a small company and they ensure what they are producing is of high quality and every cask counts. They are on the path to gold."

Small is beautiful for the EWC, which employs just four full-time staff as well as 10 part-time workers. There are 10,000 people working in the Scottish whisky industry.

"We can't compete on price, so we do everything to absolute levels of perfection and you can't do that if you are producing millions of gallons of whisky," said James Nelstrop's son Andrew, EWC's managing director.   Continued...