Distillery makes mark in Japan

IT could be seen as an exercise in carrying coals to Newcastle or selling ice to Eskimos.But a Norfolk distillery is celebrating after making its mark on a global scale by exporting its spirit 6,000 miles away to one of the hubs of whisky production.

IT could be seen as an exercise in carrying coals to Newcastle or selling ice to Eskimos.

But a Norfolk distillery is celebrating after making its mark on a global scale by exporting its spirit 6,000 miles away to one of the hubs of whisky production.

The owner of St George's Distillery, near Thetford, spoke of his delight after the company's latest product became a hit in Japan - a country that makes more single malt whisky than Scotland.

Andrew Nelstrop, managing director of England's only whisky distillery, said he had been exporting bottles of their 18-month-old whisky spirit “by the pallet load” to quench the Japanese thirst for the 40pc strong alcoholic beverage.


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Mr Nelstrop, who formed the business with his father three years ago, said he was shipping more than 400 bottles a month of the 18-month spirit to Japan to compete with the popular Scotch malts. The trade boost comes six months before St George's Distillery's first official whisky comes online.

“We have been quietly selling the 18-month-old whisky spirit for some time, but we are now exporting it by the pallet load. Japan makes more single malt whisky than Scotland. They love their whisky,” he said.

“France have only just taken it on, but they are also big whisky drinkers and it looks like we have finally broken into the European and world market.”

The �1m distillery, shop, caf� and conference centre opened its doors to the public in the summer of 2007 following a visit from Prince Charles and is expected to have received about 80,000 visitors by the time it celebrates its two year anniversary.

Mr Nelstrop said that initial tastings of their whisky spirit, which has been made with locally grown barley, had been well received by the industry and he aimed to sell about 100,000 bottles a year by the time of the London Olympics in 2012. The company is also looking to market its products in other EU countries and India.

“People say they love it. It has been well received by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and at various trade shows. There is no question that the whisky is good. As it gets older, the whisky gets more colour and the flavours merge more. We are looking forward to November 23, 2009 when it officially becomes whisky,” he said.

Demand for top-end single malts and cheaper blended whiskies have never been higher in Asia, where sales in China have increased by 80pc over the last five years.

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