England boasts a proud distilling tradition, which is thought to predominantly focus on gin. Whisky, meanwhile, is associated with Scotland and Ireland. However, in the past decade or so, a few brave souls have decided that England should be known for distilling whisky as well.
Now, England boasts its own selection of artisan whiskies that are distilled across the country. Each bottle has its own character and speaks to the terroir that distinguishes English whisky from its more established cousins. The best English whisky for you will always depend on your palate and budget. We’ve gathered some of our favourites – there’s something to suit everybody’s taste and wallet.
Best English whiskies to buy in 2021
Cotswolds single malt (46% ABV)
The Cotswolds Distillery opened its doors in 2014 and was founded by Dan Szor. Born in New York, Zsor worked in finance in London before packing it all in to enjoy a quiet life in the Cotswolds. Eventually, he decided to combine bucolic bliss with his love of spirits and the rest, as they say, is whisky.
All the barley used in the firm’s whisky production is grown in the Cotswolds and each bottle bears the name of the farm that provided the key ingredient. The barley is then taken to Warminster, Britain’s oldest working maltings. The experts there employ a traditional process of floor-malting, turning the grain by hand over several days. The Cotswolds single malt is matured in ex-bourbon and STR ex-red wine casks. STR refers to the process of shaving, toasting and re-charring the cask. The result is a whisky slick with honey and orchard fruits on the nose, all wrapped up in marzipan. The palate is smooth yet full-bodied, with bright orange and baking spices.
- Available from Amazon, £37.94
Forest Whisky Blend Number 11 (47% ABV)
The Forest distillery in Macclesfield Forest has established itself as one of the most consistent operations in the country. Originally bursting onto the scene with Forest gin (the only gin to have been awarded two separate double-gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirit Awards), the firm is now onto its eleventh whisky blend.
Made in incredibly small batches, this bottle is a blend of 100 per cent malt whiskies, all of which are at least eight years old. The blend is finished in a 50-year old oloroso cask that imparts a fruity profile. The same cask will have been used to mature the three previous blends, meaning the oak comes further to the fore than the sherry. The nose is gentle and dominated by vanilla, buttercream and a hint of apple. The palate follows through with vanilla, dollops of honey and candied orange lingering in the background before giving way to a gentle caramel. Keep the gorgeous hand-painted ceramic bottle and reuse as a chic candlestick holder.
- Available from the Forest Distillery, £59.50
The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.4 (52% ABV)
The Lakes distillery is in Cumbria in the heart of one of the country’s most-adored national parks. At the centre of the operation is whisky maker Dhavall Gandhi, a man who is hands-on in the entire process, from the cooperage to bottling.
Low and slow is the name of the game here: the mashing process is drawn out in order to maximise fruity flavours in the finished product. The same goal is achieved with an extra-long fermentation process – lasting up to 96 hours, the distillery’s fermentation stage is twice as long as industry standard.
The Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.4 is an incredibly nuanced whisky – owing to the complex and carefully considered maturation process – drawing on oloroso, Pedro Ximenez and red wine casks crafted from Spanish, French and American oak. The result is a whisky with a nose of dried dark fruits and hints of cinnamon-laced marzipan. The palate is flooded with smooth honey that gushes over dried dark berries, roasted nuts and ground nutmeg. A triumph of a whisky.
The English triple-distilled (46% ABV)
The English Whisky Co operates out of St George’s distillery. In 2006, the firm became the first registered whisky distillery in England in over a century. Founded by James Nelstrop, the site started with former Laphroaig distiller Iain Henderson overseeing the operation. Now, production is handled by former Greene King brewer David Fitt.
It’s safe to say that Henderson trained his successor well. The English Whisky Co’s triple-distilled expression has been a real hit, winning the ‘English Single Malt 12 Years and Under’ category at the World Whiskies Awards and scoring an impressive 96 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.
It’s easy to understand the hype – this is one easy sipping whisky. An ultra-light, ultra-smooth experience, this bottle is packed with gentle summer fruits on the nose. The palate is a cloud of butter and custard, like Victoria sponge cake with a lemon cream filling. Honey leads into a finish dominated by stretched-out toffee.
Gulliver’s 47 (47% ABV)
Founded in 1747, Gulliver’s enjoyed great success in its early years, with Samuel Gulliver travelling the continent and bringing home the finest wines and spirits. Unfortunately, Samuel Gulliver later gambled most of the business away until it closed in 1957. In 2018, Stuart Gulliver relaunched the family business and the current range is made at St George’s Distillery.
Gulliver’s 47 is matured in bourbon casks from the Jim Beam distillery. The nose is warm and punchy – stewed ginger and cinnamon are clouded with a thin peat smoke. The palate introduces orchard fruits and vanilla, whisked away on a cloud of rich peat.
Filey Bay moscatel cask finish (46% ABV)
The Spirit of Yorkshire’s whisky owes a lot to the late, great Dr Jim Swan. The industry legend mentored the young distillery when it fired up its stills in 2016. Now, the team are producing fine whiskies with minute attention to detail using locally grown barley and bottling on site.
The Filey Bay moscatel cask finish expression is first matured in ex-bourbon casks before being transferred to barrels that previously held moscatel for 10 years. The use of an ex-moscatel cask imparts a more floral flavour profile in comparison to the fruitier alternatives of oloroso and Pedro Ximenez. The nose is full of tropical fruit and smattered with pepper; the palate runs away with decadent notes of heavily candied orange and burnt brown sugar, and dry apple and nutmeg join ahead of an oaky finish.
The best drinks, taste tested
This review was last updated in June 2021. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at goodfoodwebsite@.