KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 3

3 12 2017

English whisky!!!  One of the very few improvement suggestions that I’ve had for Whisky Advent Calendars of years past was a slightly heavier global focus, now that world powers like Japan and Taiwan and India are starting to flex their muscles in the whisky arena with impressive results.  I did not previously include England in this category of nations knocking on Scotland’s door, nor did I even know that English whisky was a thing, but The English Whisky Company is here to make it one.  Just established in the latter part of 2006, featuring the new and sparkly St. George’s Distillery in Norfolk, England (which has as many bells and whistles and bistros and gift shops as any Napa winery), the English Whisky Co. produced England’s first single malt whisky in over a century a few years later and remains one of only a handful of active distilleries in the whole country.  Part of the impetus behind the founding of the venture was that Norfolk is a world premier region for barley (who knew those existed) whose crops were often shipped over to Scotland for use in scotch production; since whisky is basically malted barley, yeast and water and Norfolk had all of these things, they ultimately just decided to keep their barley and distill it at home.

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The most troublesome part of English whisky’s entry onto the global scene is that it wrecks the heretofore super-handy how-to-spell-“whisk(e)y” heuristic that I’ve repeated many times on this site:  if the country making the spirit has an E in it (e.g. Ireland), spell its product “whiskey” with an E, but if it doesn’t have an E in it (e.g. Scotland, Japan), spell it “whisky” without the E.  Well, thanks England:  this English Single Malt Whisky puts a big kibosh on that mnemonic.  The funniest thing about this is that they spell the name of this particular peated bottling “Smokey”, with an E, likely just to rub it in.

The Smokey is infiltrated with 45 ppm of peat phenols, which is tangible but not insane on the scale of peated whiskies.  It is pale and watery-looking and has all of the grimy industrial aromas that often attend when burned peat moss embeds itself into liquid:  old rags, mechanic’s shop, turpentine, baseball gloves, floating over wild grasses and canned pear.  The surprisingly viscous texture, round and warm, envelops you in smoothness, making the whisky come across much larger than its 43% abv.  It tastes sweet, to the point where I’m seriously mulling over the use of Splenda as a tasting note, attacking in confection with vanilla bean and icing sugar and cinnamon before the billows of smoke and diesel and moss roll in.  Welcome (back) to the single malt whiskey world, England — it’s good to have you.

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