Whiskey rivalry brewing between Brits and Scots

The centuries-old rivalry between
England and Scotland has been fought out on the fields of battle and sport, but
in the production of whisky the Scots have always claimed bragging rights —
until, that is, the English Whisky Company (EWC) showed up.

Four years ago, farmer James
Nelstrop realised a life-long ambition when he set up a distillery in Norfolk
in eastern England and his family are starting to reap the rewards of four
years of hard work, a 2.5 million pounds investment and a lot of patience.

In December, St George’s Distillery
— the first and only registered whisky distilling company in England —
released its first three-year-old single malt — Chapter 6.

In June, the EWC will start
distributing 4,000 bottles of a peated three-year-old malt — Chapter 9 — that
has critics drooling. Chapter 8, which was for sale pre-release, has already
sold out on pre-order.

“The EWC’s peated whisky is
way up there and is of an exceptionally high quality,” Jim Murray, international
whisky critic and author of the “Whisky Bible” said.

 “A number of Scottish distilleries just
don’t achieve that.”

Small is beautiful for the EWC,
which employs just four full-time staff as well as 10 part-time workers. There
are 10,000 people working in the Scottish whisky industry.”We can’t
compete on price, so we do everything to absolute levels of perfection and you
can’t do that if you are producing millions of gallons of whisky,” said
James Nelstrop’s son Andrew, EWC’s managing director.

Targeting a niche market of whisky
connoisseurs, the EWC expects to shift up to 50,000 bottles this year after
signing a distribution deal with Gordon & Macphail, having sold 5,000
bottles in 2009.