St George's Distillery Norfolk

When the distillery was completed in 2006, it was the first new English distillery in over 100 years. It was the culmination of 45 years of dreaming, according to the founder James Nelstrop. The company is now run by his son Andrew, who incidentally was the main contractor in the building's construction.

Situated in the Norfolk town of East Harling it sources quality barley from surrounding farms, which historically would have been exported to Scotland's distilleries and we all know how much the English like to beat the Scots! Water for production is supplied from an aquifer that runs directly beneath the distillery, so as you can see, East Harling was the ideal place to build a distillery.

Iain Henderson, the former Laphroaig distillery manager was brought in to oversee the first production, but a year later they hired former brewer David Fitt who was the head distiller until 2022, currently that position is filled by Chris Waters.

The first release from the distillery came just two years after production started, obviously at this time it wasn’t technically whisky but the distillery decided to start releasing what they called their chapters, so Chapter 1 was actually 13 month old unpetted spirit and Chapter 2 was 14 month old peated spirit. This was a unique and fascinating thing to do as the consumer could chart the evolution of the spirit as it aged. The chapter releases were stopped in 2016, when the distillery rebranded the range to call it simply, "The English".

As the distillery was not under the dictate of the Scotch Whisky Association it could experiment to its hearts content. I remember visiting the distillery back in 2013 and talking to David Fitt about his early experiments and the how his first attempt at mashing a 100% rye mash ended up with a washback full of glue. He was also keen for me to try what he was calling his ‘mixed grain spirit’ which had been produced from malted barley, rye, wheat and chocolate malt. As it was fresh out of the cask it was probably in the region of 65% abv and it was seriously intense. In fact, I finished my tasting notes with the line – “This could be England’s answer to the George T Stagg!” I have no idea if this was ever released but the distillery has since released the Farmers Single Grain, Malt & Rye and Parched which included torrified oats.

So, although the distillery may not be the only working distillery in England it is definitely the oldest and definitely worth taking a look at.
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