St George’s Distillery is one of only 15 distilleries in England, compared to Scotland where there are over 115. Established in Roudham, Norfolk, in 2006, it is owned by the English Whisky Company.
They produce both peated and unpeated high-quality single malt whisky. The distillery was established by James Nelstrop, a Lincolnshire farmer of some repute who is an expert in producing grain and needed a new challenge. The St George’s Distillery is extremely well placed as the best barley is grown in Norfolk (who export a lot to Scotland as well). In addition, the Breckland water is superb and available by direct borehole from the deep Breckland aquifer.
We visited the Distillery on my birthday earlier this month, on our way home from our caravan site in Hembsy.
The distillery is set in lovely grounds that also includes The Kitchen, a full-service Restaurant and Coffee House, and a magnificent shop that stocks a fantastic range of whiskies from around the world.
If you have a question about whisky then this is the place to come. The copper still (designed and manufactured by Forsyths in Scotland) is an 1,800-litre set up and has produced 3,000 casks of whisky since 2006, which are now maturing. The finest single malt whisky is always oak cask matured. At St George’s, these are casks are supplied direct from America, having first been used for the maturation of bourbon. Some of the whisky is also matured in sherry casks, and various other wine casks.
The tour of the distillery is one of the best I have been on. The tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and able to answer everyone’s questions. We were led through the entire process; malting, peating, mashing the grist, fermenting the wort, distilling the low wines, taking the heart cut of the distillation and then finally maturation.
The cask storage area was something to behold with a rich aroma that you find nowhere else. It is interesting to note that the ‘Angel’s Share’ (the amount of whisky lost per year during maturation) is 5% in St George’s but only 2-3% in the cooler climes of Scotland. Of course, this is why whisky is so expensive, as a ten-year maturation will see a loss of 50% of the cask. But the process is essential to produce a fine quality single malt whisky. Another essential part of the process though is the Whisky Maker.
In the production of any single malt there is a character that must be consistent. Each whisky has its characteristics and this must come through in each batch. In St George’s, the Whisky Maker is David Fitt and he was trained by the talented Chief Distiller of Laphroaig, Iain Henderson. When a batch of named single malt is to be made, several casks need to be selected. These are then married together along with the correct quantity of water under the direction of the Whisky Maker and his expert nose. Several whiskies need to be married together to make a single malt (never blended as that is an inferior process) to maintain character and quality prior to bottling. Several whiskies from a single distillery can become a single malt.
The St George’s Distillery has won several awards for its whisky, including the prestigious European Whisky of the Year award in 2015 and 2017 for ‘The English’ Chapter 14.
I thoroughly enjoyed the tour. The distillery has a great restaurant and can even host corporate events. There is also a lovely river walk that you can take to burn off some calories before eating!
The whisky I sampled was superb. My favourite was ‘The English’ Chapter 14. It is smooth with vanilla, demerara sugary rum hints and something a bit fruity in there too.
The Kitchen Restaurant and Coffee House is open daily 9am to 5pm. It’s a lovely venue for a special occasion, or a well-deserved treat.
They serve a fantastic ‘St George’s’ breakfast, or lighter options if you’d prefer. For lunch there’s a range of sandwiches, toasties, salads and jacket potatoes. Or if you are particularly hungry there’s the ‘main’s board’ of pizzas, burgers, lasagne, fish and chips.
The Ploughman’s Lunch and the Afternoon Tea looked particularly good – as did some of the desserts and cakes! They serve roast dinners on Sundays. Oh, and the coffee was good too ?