The Norfolk distillery that resumed whisky making in England is launching the country's oldest single malt.

The English Whisky Company is selling a 15-year release, which it said was "like a coming of age" for the south Norfolk firm.

Although the distillery opened in 2005, this is its oldest publicly available single malt.

"We've been going for 17 years, but of course while we might have a drop of 17-year-old whisky it's not enough to sell," said owner Andrew Nelstrop.

Thetford & Brandon Times: Andrew Nelstrop set up the distillery with his father James NelstropAndrew Nelstrop set up the distillery with his father James Nelstrop (Image: IAN WARD)

"You tend to run a few years behind your actual oldest whisky.

"This one is a very special one and it's been something I've been saving for a long time.

"We've had specialists casks commissioned for us going back a decade or more to mature whisky in and the resulting single malt whisky is really fantastic.

"And the other thing is there are only 500 of these bottles, so it's really rare.

"It’s rare, tasty and it shows what the distillery has achieved over the last decade or so which is really lovely."

Thetford & Brandon Times: The distillery is releasing a 15-year-old single maltThe distillery is releasing a 15-year-old single malt (Image: The English Distillery)

When the English Whisky Company - which is rebranding to The English Distillery - launched in the mid-2000s it was the first in the country since the last distillery shut 105 years ago.

The idea for the business came from Mr Nelstrop's father James, who had been wanting to open a whisky distillery ever since he was a teenager and heard a throwaway comment from his grandfather - a farmer - saying 'it’s a shame this barley has to go all the way to Scotland to be turned into something useful'.

Thetford & Brandon Times: Opening a whisky distillery had been a lifelong dream for James NelstropOpening a whisky distillery had been a lifelong dream for James Nelstrop (Image: (C)Archant Photographic 2010)

James Nelstrop, who already owned land in Roundham, near Thetford, chose this as the location for the site.

"It was my father's lifelong dream, he had always talked about opening a whisky distillery - a lot longer than I've been around - and he would bring it up year after year," said Mr Nelstrop.

"On his 60th birthday he brought it up again and I think everybody finally said 'why don't you just build one?'. So he did."

Thetford & Brandon Times: Tours can be taken around the distilleryTours can be taken around the distillery (Image: The English Distillery)

The family had been farming for generations, but also owned a building company, which allowed Mr Nelstrop and his father to build the distillery quickly.

"From the very first moments of saying 'lets do this', planning was given within four months," he continued.

"We started building the distillery days later.

"We set off to make world class whisky and that's what we've done.

"We don't make gin or vodka or anything else.

"We just do what we set out to do and I think that's been quite important because it means we have very specialist equipment for making single malt whisky."

The essential ingredients needed to make whisky are barley, yeast and water.

Helping the local economy, 90pc of the barley the distillery uses is from local farms, the water is from a stream under the site and the yeast is also sourced close to its location.

Thetford & Brandon Times: Barley for the whisky comes from local farmsBarley for the whisky comes from local farms (Image: The English Distillery)

It also employs 16 people, many from the nearby village.

Since launching, the English Whisky Company has started a trend for English whisky and there are now more than 45 distilleries across the country.

It remains the oldest in England and its bottles are sold across the country, as well as in 30 overseas markets.

"We sell roughly 60,000 to 70,000 bottles a year around the world," the whisky distiller added.

"It's not a lot compared to other types of distilleries but one of the problems about a whisky distillery is that you can only sell what you made 10 years ago.

"So if you operate a gin distillery and you get an order from a supermarket for 100,000 bottles, you can turn your distils on and make another 100,000 bottles.

"If someone tries that with us, we have to look in our warehouses and say 'we didn't make that much 10 years ago so the answer is no'."

Thetford & Brandon Times: Whisky tasting at the distilleryWhisky tasting at the distillery (Image: The English Distillery)

The long process in making whisky means that the firm has to think far into the future when planning its growth.

"It is really one of the longest business plans in history," said Mr Nelstrop.

"When we started we had a spreadsheet that goes forward to 2056, which shows what casks go into our sheds and what casks come out.

"It’s a long, long game doing whisky."