The world of whisky is rich, heady and multiform – reflecting literal ages of tradition, craft and innovation in its complex, moreish flavour profiles. Scotland is inarguably the seat of whisky-distilling tradition, having perfected distillation and maturation processes over centuries of experimentation and iteration. Today though, whisky-making is a global enterprise, from deep Kentucky bourbons to clean Japanese innovations.


Historically, England’s part in global whisky tradition was small. A handful of Victorian distilleries represented the majority of England’s whisky influence, and the last of them – Lea Valley Distillery in Essex – was shuttered at the start of the 20th century. A new era of English distilling, though, began near-exactly 100 years later, with the English Whisky Co instituting a new registered whisky distillery.

A young whisky landscape can be an unsteady but also fertile one, unshackled by long-standing conventions and expectations. Today, the number of active English whisky distilleries nears 50, illustrating a promising and vibrant whisky future. Choosing from this crowded field isn’t the easiest, so we’ve picked a handful of our favourite drams, running the gamut from subtle to strong, smoky to sweet, and everywhere in between.

Best English whiskies at a glance

  • Best sherry-cask whisky: The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No. 7, £82.95
  • Best small-batch whisky: Wharf Distillery Equinox, £85
  • Best Yorkshire whisky: Filey Bay IPA Finish Batch #2, £51.94
  • Best rye whisky: Oxford Rye The Dissertation, £97.50
  • Best for after a cold night: Cotswolds Single Malt Peated Cask, £75
  • Best English peat whisky: Wire Works Caduro, £60
  • Best ex-Bourbon cask whisky: Bimber Ex-Bourbon Oak Casks Batch No. 4, £68.95
  • Best for late evenings: The English Sherry Cask, £64.99
  • Best artisan blend: Forest Whisky Blend Number 26, £59.50
  • Best bang for buck: The Cheshire Single Malt Second Release, £52.95
  • Best modern whisky expression: London Rye Whisky, £44.95
  • Best for clean, zingy cocktails: Masthouse Column Malt Whisky, £30.67

Best English whiskies to buy in 2024

The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No. 7 (52% ABV)

Available from The Whisky Exchange (£82.95)

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A bottle of The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No. 7 (52% ABV)

Best sherry-cask whisky

Star rating: 5/5

The Lakes Distillery proudly wears process on its sleeve. Based by the northern reaches of Bassenthwaite Lake in the Lake District, The Lakes is an in-depth and ongoing exploration of expression, creativity and even play in whisky production. The Whiskymaker’s Reserve series is The Lakes’ forward-facing exploration of sherry cask maturation and blending, a very public journey towards a signature style in a relatively young artform; this is No. 7, the final bottle in the series.

The Whiskymaker’s Reserve No. 7 cuts a luscious form in-glass, with a deep hue stolen from the stained wood of the sherry casks; the colour betrays the refined sweetness found on the nose, backed by booze-soaked berry fruits and demerara sugar. Three cask types are used in the maturation process: Pedro Ximenez, oloroso and red wine. The PX casks are undoubtedly the culprit for those fruity notes, with oloroso providing tight, boozy brightness and red wine lending stiff cocoa notes. Sitting with the No. 7 reveals more chocolate notes, and developed sweetness that makes this a moreish dram.

Available from:
The Whisky Exchange (£82.95)

Wharf Distillery Equinox (43.4% ABV)

Available from Digital Distiller (£84.99), Wharf Distillery (£85),

A bottle of Wharf Distillery Equinox (43.4% ABV)

Best small-batch whisky

Star rating: 5/5

The Wharf Distillery is one of the smallest in our round-up, producing rare and small runs of their own expressions on a biannual basis, named for the time of year bottling tends to occur. This is Equinox, an ex-port-cask-matured affair, and a flavour bomb to boot. The ex-port cask was resized by Speyside Cooperage to increase its capacity – and, crucially, its surface area, giving the new make more opportunity to engage with the rich infused-wood flavours.

The result is a 3.5-year-old whisky that tastes well above its age. This is telegraphed immediately in the rich colour, which catches the eye for a near-imperceptible sanguine tint – then again on the nose, which brings big, fortified notes of raisins, brown sugar and dark wood. The body is initially subtle and chocolatey, taking time to unfurl before widening out to notes of cherries, hazelnut, milk chocolate and brandy. The finish is all coffee and butterscotch, carried by a wine-like vapour that keeps it from dryness. This expression is proof positive that some of English whisky’s more thrilling work is happening behind small doors.

Available from:

Filey Bay IPA Finish Batch #2 (46% ABV)

Available from Master of Malt (£51.94), The Whisky Exchange (£59.95), Hard to Find Whisky (£64.95)

A bottle of Filey Bay IPA Finish Batch #2 (46% ABV)

Best Yorkshire whisky

Star rating: 4.5/5

Filey Bay whisky hails from the aptly named Spirit of Yorkshire distillery, nestled in the coastal North Yorkshire village of Hunmanby. The distillery is both a family-run venture and part of a family-business ecosystem – its parent being the family farm from which all its barley malt is sourced, and its older sister being acclaimed independent brewery Wold Top.

The Filey Bay IPA Finish is a beautiful demonstration of this ecosystem in action. All Filey Bay whiskies are ‘field-to-glass’ for the local and in-house sourcing of their water and barley. The IPA Finish is of the same stock as their flagship single malt, but benefits from the Wold Top Scarborough Fair casks in which it ultimately dwells. The result is a phenomenal melding of flavour profiles: baked-pear sweetness and oak on the nose, biscuity malt and rhubarb-custard on the palate, and a bold, bright vanilla finish. This is seriously approachable, and comes with a flavour lineage that anyone can follow.

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Oxford Rye The Dissertation (47.3% ABV)

Available from The Oxford Artisan Distillery (£97.50)

A bottle of Oxford Rye The Dissertation (47.3% ABV)

Best rye whisky

Star rating: 4.5/5

While many variables influence the making of a good whisky, it remains true that there are only three core ingredients you can experiment with. The Oxford Artisan Distillery is carving out an unassailable niche for itself through its engagement with one ingredient: grain. The grains used in Oxford whiskies are ancient heritage grains, discovered and re-engineered by farming partner John Letts with biodiversity, regeneration and sustainability in mind.

The Dissertation is Oxford’s twelfth batch of rye whisky, and effectively a blend of two rye expressions: one a full-rye, ramandolo-cask-aged endeavour, the other rye-heavy and aged in American oak. The former lends a spring-season floral scent to the nose, with sweet-wine brightness and a tighter lemon-pepper bite from the rye. The latter provides tremendous body on the palate, with a woody pastry hit that mellows out to vanilla beneath zingy citrus shavings and cracked black pepper. There’s a welcome touch of fire to the Dissertation, and further forays reveal the unique caramel nature of these idiosyncratic grains.

Available from:
The Oxford Artisan Distillery (£97.50)

Cotswolds Single Malt Peated Cask (59.6% ABV)

Available from Spirits Kiosk (£57.95), Amazon (£60), Master of Malt (£62.95), The Cotswolds Distillery (£75)

A bottle of Cotswolds Single Malt Peated Cask (59.6% ABV)

Best for after a cold night

Star rating: 4.5/5

Three guesses where the Cotswold Distillery’s whiskies are distilled. The winner gets to taste a bright and remarkably characterful whisky from the most outstanding Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the south. The Cotswolds Distillery is a definition of what makes English whisky special, with its unique and personal synthesis of tradition and modernity – this bottle, the Single Malt Peated Cask, being a prime example.

The Peated Cask is a powerful entry in the distillery’s Cask Expressions Collection, having been matured fully in ex-peated quarter casks, and bottled at cask strength. Where peat whiskies are so due to the treatment of the malt, this one inherits its smokiness from the cask instead – a simple but effective twist, which brings a completely different flavour profile to the bottle. Green fruit takes precedence over smoked heather on the nose, and a hint of recently burned firewood can be found at the back; the flavour starts green, and ages through sun-dried raisins and kindling into fired crème brûlée over time.

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Wire Works Caduro (46.8% ABV)

Available from Master of Malt (£59.45), The Wee Dram (£60)

A bottle of Wire Works Caduro (46.8% ABV)

Best English peat whisky

Star rating: 4.5/5

Wire Works is the whisky produce of White Peak Distillery, a Derbyshire outfit situated just north of the meeting point of rivers Derwent and Amber. The whisky takes its name from the former purpose of the industrial facility which White Peak inherited; it also benefits from some repurposed wire-manufacturing infrastructure, in particular the old cooling system which draws water from the Derwent itself.

The Wire Works Caduro is absolutely a product of industriousness itself, being a peated single malt matured in a combination of ex-bourbon casks and White Peak’s own 'STR' (shaved, toasted and re-charred – a pioneering process used by a number of distilleries to bring older, storied barrels back to new and exciting life) wine barriques. The bourbon vanilla-oak is pleasingly present on the nose, alongside grape skin and a hint of singed heather; the palate is much peatier, with strong, smoky warmth carrying all the way through. Honey and spice give way to peppery tannins, and a semi-sweet finish sets you up for the next dram.

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Bimber Ex-Bourbon Oak Casks Batch No. 4 (51.2% ABV)

Available from Royal Mile Whiskies (£68.95)

A bottle of Bimber Ex-Bourbon Oak Casks Batch No. 4 (51.2% ABV)

Best ex-Bourbon cask whisky

Star rating: 4.5/5

The Bimber Distillery in West London takes its name taken from the Polish word for ‘moonshine’ – though this is a slightly self-deprecating approach to what is demonstrably a quality product. Bimber’s whiskies are the product of slavish adherence to tradition and transparency, with a single Hampshire farm providing the barley for every expression, and their own cooperage providing the oak washbacks in which resulting malts are fermented.

This is Batch No. 4 of Bimber’s Ex-Bourbon Oak single malt. The oak in question takes the form of first-fill American Oak bourbon casks, the oldest in Bimber’s stores – and which impart incredibly dense caramel on the nose. The caramel shrouds the whisky’s fruitier notes, and sits behind fresh honeysuckle. The initial hit on the tongue is rich and sweet, caramel apples and cinder toffee with hints of sweet smoke; the palate eventually finds fresh fruit too, from kiwi and kumquat to candied orange peel.

Available from:
Royal Mile Whiskies (£68.95)

The English Sherry Cask (46% ABV)

Available from The Spirit Specialist (£64.99), Hard to Find Whisky (£66.95)

A bottle of the English Sherry Cask (46% ABV)

Best for late evenings

Star rating: 4.5/5

The English Distillery holds some major historical import for English whisky, being the first registered English whisky distillery in over a century. Since its first bottle in 2009, The English Distillery has not rested on these laurels, instead constantly iterating to chart its path over new ground. The result is a stacked roster of expressions, from Virgin Oak to Double Cask and beyond – among which you’ll find the Sherry Cask Matured, a new core whisky which recently won the daunting title of World’s Best Single Malt Whisky at the World Whiskies Awards.

The nose is headily sweet and tart, reflecting aged fruit loaf and robust marzipan – a liquid lebkuchen in the making. The whisky is, at the start, surprisingly slick. A buttery mouthfeel transfers early notes of cacao-nibs and fig; over time, warming embers permeate the mouth, clearing the palate and leaving space for a sweet, fresh-fruit finish.

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Forest Whisky Blend Number 26 (47% ABV)

Available from Forest Distillery (£59.50), Harvey Nichols (£65)

Forest Whisky Blend Number 26 (47% ABV)

Best artisan blend

Star rating: 4/5

Forest Whisky hails from the verdant locales of Macclesfield Forest in rural Cheshire; the distillery was founded by husband-and-wife team Lindsay and Karl Bond in 2014, and began in the Bonds’ kitchen, where they distilled gin using botanicals picked locally by their daughter. Today, they’re ensconced in the cellars of the Cat & Fiddle, a Macclesfield pub they crowdfunded to save from dereliction (and which currently holds the niche title of highest-altitude distillery in Britain).

This is their Forest Whisky Blend Number 26, which prominently features the small-batch produce of their Macclesfield pub cellar – wild-yeast-fermented, and blended with selected whiskies and rested together on new oak. The nose is bright, buttery and lemony, evoking burnt-sugar pastry; the palate is soft, and rich in nut-buttery sweetness. There’s a green-wood character that emerges as the flavour develops, and a pleasing smoky tinge to the finish (augmented by hints of lemon-nettle and mint). Highly drinkable, and fittingly influenced by foraged flavours.

Available from:

The Cheshire Single Malt Second Release (46% ABV)

Available from Master of Malt (£52.90), The Whisky Exchange (£52.95), Hard to Find Whisky (£52.95)

A bottle of Cheshire Single Malt Second Release (46% ABV)

Best bang for buck

Star rating: 4/5

Here, another Cheshire-born distilling enterprise in the form of Weetwood Brewery and Distillery. Weetwood began brewing beer in the early 1990s, and introduced whisky-making to its repertoire some 26 years later. The result is The Cheshire, a young but strong strand of whisky expressions, unfurling new understandings about the whisky-making process with each bottling.

This is the Second Release, a whisky which benefits from a dual-cask maturing process; the new make spirit is matured in STR American oak casks and finished in European oak barrels (implying ex-sherry). There’s a velvety nose to it, stippled with butterscotch and apricot. There’s also a floral freshness here, making for a bright overall feel. The palate is, in contrast, spicy; a strong initial kick dissolves into sweet oak, baked apples and dates. The finish mirrors the nose, with an oaky sweetness and a rounded, complex baked-fruit finish.

Available from:

London Rye Whisky (47% ABV)

Available from Master of Malt (£44.95), Amathus Drinks (£58.90)

A bottle of London Rye Whisky (47% ABV)

Best modern whisky expression

Star rating: 4/5

‘Booze with bottle’ – so says The East London Liquor Company of their wide roster of uncompromising beverages. Just as their irreverent branding features letters pinched from local graffiti, so too is their whisky infused with a uniquely brash E-postcode philosophy. Traditional techniques meet modern sensibilities and gay abandon, as thrillingly exemplified by the London Rye Whisky.

The Spring ’23 batch comes helpfully emblazoned with a pie-chart denoting its cask composition. An intriguing addition here is a saison cask from London craft brewery Brew By Numbers – the potential source for a bold hit of yogurt-like funk atop the Rye’s nose. Elsewhere in the nose there are hints of toffee and tequila, and a fresh nuttiness to bind it together. The flavour develops from a sweet, woody first impression to spicy dark chocolate and back down again. The finish is surprisingly long and complex, folding bitter charred cask elements into fresh oak and wild yeast.

Available from:

Amathus Drinks (£58.90)

Master of Malt (£44.95)

Masthouse Column Malt Whisky (46% ABV)

Available from Master of Malt (£30.67), The Whisky Exchange (£39.95), Hard to Find Whisky (£41.95)

A bottle of Masthouse Column Malt Whisky (46% ABV)

Best for clean, zingy cocktails

Star rating: 3.5/5

Masthouse whisky is so named for the dockyard surrounds of its Kent distillery Copper Rivet – one of few larger-scale distilleries in the UK (including Spirit of Yorkshire) that prides itself on field-to-glass production. The Masthouse whiskies bear the title ‘single estate’, here referencing the distillery’s close work with local Kent farmers. One of the fruits of this collaboration is the Column Malt Whisky – a bright, clear and somewhat brash distillate, taking cues from the continuous distillation processes of American and Japanese enterprises alike.

Column stills are widely considered to produce lighter, subtler whiskies than pot stills, and the Column Malt reflects this lightness – particularly in its straw-bright natural colour – but is no less full of flavour for it. Rather, boozy agave notes on the nose translate to creamy-sweet flavour and a zesty, effervescent finish. This is a clear, distinct and easily legible flavour profile, which reflects the clarity of Copper Rivet’s transparently local operation.

Available from:

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This review was last updated in May 2024. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at

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