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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

St George's Distillery, Norfolk, England

English whisky sounds like an oxymoron. How can whisky be English? Well apparently there is no reason why not, it just can't be scotch whisky, and here we go with some more Scotch and Irish whisky industry myth busting.  Apparently a good distillery doesn't require a special, preferably magical, spring of gentle soft water, a hundred years of tradition and a master distiller who has worked on the site since he was 6 years old and was born in a cottage in the distillery grounds.   Apparently you can just build a distillery and make good whisky.  Who knew (other than the folks at Penderyn)?  You can also build a nice gift shop and a small cafĂ© to go with it and attract a healthy trade in tourists.

A different spin on the distillery tour, in that rather than a standard  tour guide (usual attire at the large Scottish tours include tartan skirt, blue jumper, a branded rain jacket or fleece and name tag) after a short video (I have seen better) the distiller comes and talks to you about the distillery and the process and then leads you around the small site.  I really enjoyed this interaction with the person who actually makes the whisky.  This particular distiller had been working in the brewing industry prior to coming to St Georges just a few years previously.  He was not born in a cottage on the site.  He also discussed St Georges water source, a hard water at 360 ppm Calcium, which is very different to the soft water espoused in Scotland.  Even Glenmorangie who famously use "hard water" in Scotland only has 160 ppm Calcium.  The process, other than aforementioned water hardness, is exactly the same as the major distilleries in Scotland with pot still double distillation at its core (unlike Penderyn) and as far as I could tell it would meet all criteria for being single malt scotch whisky if the whole operation was transplanted north of the border.  The other difference is they claim due to warmer climate in Norfolk, the whisky matures quicker so even the young expressions were comparable to the 10 to 12 years single malts from Scotland.

At the end of tour we tasted both the peated and non-peated expressions and I bought a bottle of Chapter 9, the peated one, and if you want you can read my review (3 out of 4stars).  I liked them both.  English whisky can be good.   I also a bought a coffee mug with the words "I would be rather be drinking English whisky" but that has since gone missing from my office!

I later realised that I had now visited a distillery in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (Jameson) and only a trip to Bushmills in Northern Ireland would be required to complete a distillery visit in every country in the British Isles.

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Glenturret, Crieff, Scotland

Glenturret, Crieff, Scotland

I accept no-one is coming here because of their love of the Glenturret single malts.  They simply don't capture anyone's imagination or fire passions in the way Laphroig, Ardbeg, Macallan, Glenlivet and others can do.  This is the home of a whisky themed tourist attraction, The Famous Grouse Experience, based on the fact that Glenturret is one of the malts used in that blended scotch.  It also claims to be the oldest distillery in Scotland but that honor is claimed by several others.

It is a fine little distillery with well run tours that end with an interactive (and very expensive looking) video component at the end (which didn't work the first time we were there) and a nice and very well stocked whisky bar, a restaurant and an expansive Famous Grouse shop.  They also have a statue of their famous cat, Towser, who held the Guinness World Record for mouse killing.   

The tasting at the end of the standard tour includes a choice between the Famous Grouse blend or Glenturret 10 year old, and in the bar they sell a flight of three single malt samples that are components of the Famous Grouse... The Macallan, Highland Park and of course Glenturret.  In addition they do a Warehouse #9 tour, which ends in the aforementioned warehouse tasting room and involves sampling all of the Famous Grouse blended malts from 10 year old to the 30 year old.  If you are doing this one, bring a designated driver.

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