Enthusiasts brave the elements for taste of Norfolk whisky
Adam Gretton Hundreds of whisky enthusiasts braved the sleet, snow, and subzero temperatures yesterday to get their hands on the first harvest of English-made whisky in 120 years.
Hundreds of whisky enthusiasts braved the sleet, snow, and subzero temperatures yesterday to get their hands on the first harvest of English-made whisky in 120 years.
A long queue stretched around St George's Distillery and customers drove from all over the country to buy the first official whisky from the English Whisky Company in Norfolk.
And the firm's first 500 bottles of Chapter 6 single malt flew off the shelves within three hours, realising a long-standing dream for a local farming family brave enough to open the country's first whisky distillery since the closure of the last one in east London in 1890.
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Officials from the English Whisky Company at Roudham, near Thetford, were left stunned at the response. The distillery's car park was full hours before it opened its doors at 10am yesterday, as customers came from as far afield as the West Country and the Midlands.
James Nelstrop who founded the �1m distillery, shop, caf� and conference centre, with his son Andrew yesterday said:
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“It was a dream and the dream has come true.”
The company, which began production at the end of 2006, uses locally grown barley and water from the Breckland aquifer to make the spirit, which has so far received favourable press from industry experts and its competitors in Scotland. The 46pc-alcohol spirit has been stored in bourbon barrels from Kentucky for the last three years.
Mr Nelstrop said he was “staggered” by the demand for the first run of Chapter 6, which saw people queuing outside from 6am.
“When Jim Murray [author of the Whisky Bible] said he had tasted one of the best whiskies and a Scotsman said it was a serious addition to the malt whisky industry, I suppose I should have understood what was going on.
“It is unique and it is the only one in England. We cannot sell it all, as we want some to be 10 and 20 years old and we want some nice whisky for the Olympic games,” he said.
The distillery aims to produce 100,000 bottles year by 2012, but enthusiasts will have to wait until March before the next batch is ready.
David Fitt, distillery manager, said the last week had been “absurd” when the company, which employs four full-time staff, received four months worth of orders in the space of four hours.
“It fantastic for us, but impossible to deal with. We do not want it to be a flash in the pan. We want people to like it and to come back,” he said.
Dudley Brown, who travelled 200 miles from Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, to buy a bottle, said: “I have been waiting for this moment for three years. If they play it right they will make a fortune. It is a very nice whisky.”
Gloria Pedley, from Northamptonshire, who arrived at the distillery at 9am to buy a bottle as a Christmas present for her husband, Roger, added: “We have been a couple of times before and my husband is a whisky collector as well as a whisky drinker. This will be saved and we will come back in March for the next lot.”